“With a rehab, you’re limited to what you have,” Khreshi said. “Sometimes structurally or layout-wise or elevation-wise, sometimes it doesn’t make sense. And in this scenario, because of the location — and it’s more an upscale neighborhood — we thought it’s a better fit to have everything starting from scratch. We have more flexibility.”
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The hilly lot is at the end of a cul-de-sac in a quiet neighborhood, tucked between two main thoroughfares — Chain Bridge Road and Georgetown Pike.
“We ran across a few properties but really nothing struck us as this one,” Khreshi said. “The moment it came on the market, we put in an offer, purchased it, and I saw the potential of the topography and the land and the location.”
Khreshi worked with architect Peter VanderPoel and designer Karen Bengel to create a modern house that borrows from Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy of incorporating the house in the landscape. The house has three distinct masses — garage, living and bedroom — and three levels, each one set at a different ground level.
“The house goes up with [the elevation of the land],” Khreshi said. “You cannot tell really from the street. From the back, you will see how it moves with the ground, how the masses of the house work together with the elevation, with the topography of the land.”
The layout of the structure is one aspect of the design. Another is the influence of Mondrian style, named for Piet Mondrian, a modern abstract artist who popularized paintings with colorful arrangements of squares and rectangles.
“We wanted something different,” he said. “That’s what we are on the hunt for. We needed the house to stand out from the rest [of the houses], yet belong to the neighborhood.”
Designed first by hand and then by computer, the asymmetrical window pattern is laid out in the Mondrian style, which is repeated in the asymmetrical design of the Hardie board (fiber-cement siding) on one side of the house. The opposite side and the middle section are a combination of brick and yakisugi carbonized-wood siding. The yakisugi siding is heat-treated in a way similar to an ancient Japanese technique, with the wood burned to give it a carbon layer that protects it from insects and decay.
Even though the house is new construction, that doesn’t mean everything in it is brand-new. As with previous projects, Khreshi tried to repurpose as much as he could. Two trees from the lot — a white oak and a maple — were milled to provide lumber for floors and counters. Some of the original house’s wood structure was salvaged and reused. Reclaimed wood from Baltimore and 100-year-old brick were also incorporated in the new building.
Helical stairs that extend from the lower level to the bedroom floor are lit by an ellipse-shaped skylight. Unlike a spiral staircase, which has a center column that the steps revolve around, these circular stairs have no middle support. Instead, the steps seem to float.
“With all the hard lines and straight lines, we wanted to break that,” Khreshi said. “This adds really a soft touch, that round staircase, and makes it more appealing.”
The ellipse is not the only skylight in the house. There are five on the loft level that open up to Juliet balconies overlooking the geometrically shaped swimming pool.
“These are very common in Europe because of the lack of space,” Khreshi said.
On the lower level, 16 55-inch flat-screen televisions form a video wall that can display one large image or several images at once.
“Every aspect of [building the house] was a challenge,” Khreshi said. “I’m a risk-taker. Nothing in the house was done before. Our [subcontractors], our workers, our labor, like this Mondrian thing, is not something they’ve done before. Everyone is trying to learn, ‘Okay, how are we going to do this the right way?’ So it is a challenge. . . . The only thing is . . . that it is time-consuming because you’re going through a learning process.”
The four-bedroom, eight-bathroom, 8,400-square-foot house is listed at $8.7 million.
Listing: 1120 Guilford Ct., McLean, Va.
Listing agent: Ahmad Khreshi, Home Perfection Contracting.
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