Across Arlington, modest Cape Cods and Colonials are routinely demolished to make way for super-sized Craftsman-style houses.
But there are exceptions to this market trend. On a property adjoining one of the Arlington McMansions, Daniela and Chris Sicuranza, both 40, chose to expand and renovate, rather than replace, their 1955 brick ranch house.
“We didn’t want to tear down and start over,” said Daniela Sicuranza, a freelance TV news producer. “The house was solid and in great condition. We just felt it needed some tweaks to suit our needs.”
Their biggest change was to build a 745-square-foot rear addition, large enough for a dining room, a master bedroom and a screened porch on the main level.
“For us, it was just the right amount of space we needed,” said Chris Sicuranza, a risk and compliance consultant for consumer banks.
The three new spaces are contained within a cedar-clad, rectangular structure that makes a bold statement in the back yard but can’t be seen from the street. “It’s our little secret,” he said.
Drawn to clean lines and simple shapes, the homeowners insisted on a modern design for the addition. “When we were exploring inspiration,” Daniela Sicuranza said, “the homes we liked the most were all in California. We hoped to bring a little of that feeling to our home.”
Rather than looking like an add-on, the porch is treated as a room well blended into the new wing of the house. Screened openings are sized to match the large windows of the adjacent dining room. Cedar siding and an overhanging roof line extend from the protected outdoor space to the rest of the addition.
“Maximizing outdoor space and preserving landscape was key, so integrating the screened porch into the addition served to reduce its footprint,” said Arlington architect Jon Hensley, who led the design and renovation.
The Sicuranzas hired Hensley after learning about his residential work from a home-and-garden tour sponsored by their local elementary school. General contractor AllenBuilt of Bethesda constructed Hensley’s design.
“We had a lot of ideas at the beginning of the project,” Hensley said. “We looked at adding to the front and back of the house, and going up. The biggest challenge was matching the ideas with the budget.”
The Sicuranzas were as particular in choosing the original ranch home to buy as adding onto it. “It took us three years to find the right house,” Chris Sicuranza said.
He and his wife purchased the Arlington home in 2009 for $725,000 based on its cul-de-sac location, remodeled kitchen and proximity to public schools.
“The lot is huge and private in the back, so that was the icing on the cake,” Daniela Sicuranza said.
After moving into the home, the couple became parents to two daughters, Gabriela and Lucia, now 7 and 5, respectively. In 2015, they decided to add the essential spaces missing from the home and renovate the interiors to improve family life. They declined to say how much they spent on the remodeling project.
The original dining room had disappeared when the previous homeowners incorporated it into their kitchen renovation. “We really needed a place to have meals with the kids and family,” Chris Sicuranza said. “Our only place to have dinner was at the kitchen island. For Thanksgiving, we rented long plastic tables and put them in the living room. It wasn’t ideal.”
To create more bedroom space, the homeowners looked at adding an upper story, but the staircase to reach this level would have taken up too much space in the small living room next to the kitchen. “Once that attic was taken out of the picture, we went back to the first scheme for a simple rear addition,” said project designer Heidi Sun.
The resulting wing centers on a dining room off the kitchen. After a wide opening was created to connect the two spaces, the Sicuranzas added a tile backsplash and a built-in desk in the kitchen.
The dining room features hand-blown glass pendant lights and a niche for displaying family photos. French doors on one side open to the screened porch to increase the flow between the two spaces.
At the opposite end of the house, the existing master bedroom lacked an adjoining bathroom and closets large enough to store clothes and belongings.
By building a new bedroom as part of the addition, the Sicuranzas gained more space and his-and-hers walk-in closets. The original master bedroom was turned into a master bathroom, a linen closet and a hallway leading to the new bedroom.
Closets in the girls’ bedrooms were remodeled to take advantage of changes in the master suite and maximize space. The hall bathroom was refreshed with new fixtures and finishes and a solar tube inserted into the ceiling to provide daylight.
Of all the spaces in the home, the new screened porch next to the dining room has come to be the most used. More than a bug-free perch to admire the back yard, the multifunctional retreat serves as a recreation space, a play room, a second living room, an entertaining area and a place to enjoy meals and conversation.
“We are out here all the time,” Daniela Sicuranza said. “When it’s cold, we’ll come out and wrap ourselves in blankets.”
An audio system and a wall-mounted TV turn the porch into a media room. A modular sofa and seating from CB2 allow the furniture to be reconfigured according to the room’s use. A large fan mounted on the nine-foot ceiling circulates the air to cool the room in warm weather.
“It’s my favorite space in the house,” Gabriela said. “We like to eat dinner and lunch here and listen to music.”
Inside the porch, the walls are clad in stained cedar like the exterior of the addition, and floors are made of durable ipe. The ceiling is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Black Bean Soup to match the dark brown exterior trim, garage door and frames of the new windows throughout the house. Fiberglass screening is super-fine to provide more transparency than metal mesh.
Visible through the screens is an old, preserved silver maple tree anchoring one side of a flagstone patio and a grassy hillside once planted with ivy that provides a play area.
The entire yard is being refreshed according to a design by Arlington landscape architect Scott Brinitzer. The new patio accessed from the porch is rectangular, “to work with the addition, not upstage it,” Brinitzer said.
The modern look of the addition extends to the original house, as well. Old window shutters were removed, and a new front door added to simplify the facade. A row of crepe myrtle trees shields the front of the house from the street, and boxwoods anchor the area near the foundation.
Along the side of house, diseased and dying hemlock trees were removed and replaced with cryptomeria trees. The evergreens play an essential role in the landscape design, screening the view of the McMansion next door.