Distinguished homes for sale in the D.C. region

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Hickory Ridge in Howard County | Hickory Ridge “is considered today one of the truly splendid homes built by the Maryland Ridgeleys,” Celia M. Holland wrote in her 1987 book “Old Homes and Families of Howard County, Maryland.” The 67-acre horse farm in Highland, Md., is listed at $9 million. (HomeVisit)

Yves Balcer and his family spent two years living in this 1954 house in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Northwest Washington before he came to the conclusion it needed to be updated. After discussing the project with several architects, he initially planned to tear it down and build an entirely new house. The economic downturn tabled those plans.

“When the renovation came, it was supposed to be a minor renovation,” he said. “And then one step led to another and it became essentially a total renovation but keeping the structure intact.”

Architect Robert Gurney cleverly integrated the bones of the previous home into the new design in a way that hints at the house’s previous life and keeps it in sympathy with the neighborhood. But behind the facade, Gurney turned the tired post-World War II spec house into a contemporary living space with clean lines, walls of glass and contrasting textures, marrying sleek aluminum with warm wood and rough stone. His design recently received an award of merit in interior architecture from the AIA DC chapter.

“When you are inside the house, it has all the feel of a modern home but it retains the warmth and the intimacy of a more traditional house,” Balcer said. “Everything is extremely simple, elegant and very, very subdued. That’s what I like; it’s very discreet.”

By adding floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights and glass doors, Gurney created tunnels of light that stream through the home from front to back, side to side and top to bottom. Even at night, moonlight cascades through the home.

An unusual dichotomy arises from the design in that for all the house’s openness, it protects and secludes its occupants.

“There’s quite a level of privacy, even though there are windows everywhere,” Balcer said.

The home is filled with dramatic spaces. The office is elevated and surrounded on three sides with glass, giving the feeling of floating above the trees. The soaring rosewood ceiling in the screen porch is anchored by the hefty fireplace. Light bounces off an aluminum screen in the living room.

“One thing I like, and generally most people are not big on, is [that] the master bedroom is not enormous,” Balcer said. “It is perfectly proportioned. It’s very, very intimate. Most modern houses, the master bedrooms seem totally out of proportion.”

The six-bedroom, six-bathroom house is listed at $4.99 million.

Listing agent: Ron Mangas Jr., TTR Sotheby’s International Realty

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