Gardner Mohr Architects – Gilmer House

2011 AIA Potomac Valley Design Awards Merit Award Winner
Gardner Mohr Architects
Gilmer House
Built, Single Family Residential
Bethesda, Maryland

This project, consisting of a renovation and addition to a 1920’s era bungalow, required the stewardship of an existing resource from a state of disrepair to solidity and from wasteful to efficient. The transformation of the bungalow resulted in a “second life” for the home, blending traditional and modern character and technologies.

The existing house, situated on a limited site with many trees, was in need of major structural remediation. The roof was under-structured and leaking. The second floor structural elements were similarly significantly undersized, resulting not only in sagging structural elements, but also a cascade of subsequent incremental failures such as leaking window heads, rotted sheathing, and walls out-of-plumb.

The client sought to preserve and extend the original intimate character of the house, and to create a transition to an addition that would be modern yet harmonious with the original bungalow character. The overall strategy makes the most of the tight rear yard — a sequence of rooms from front to garden dining terrace is organized along a series of cross axes.

The front of the house alludes to of the previous bungalow character, and hints at the  modern transformation that is apparent on the garden side and in the landscape  design. The roof and second fl oor rooms were removed; the second fl oor structure reinforced or rebuilt; and a garden addition and an entirely new second fl oor were tucked under a new roof form.

Rooms on the garden side of the house connect to a new ledgestone wall-terraced landscape, via a veranda, screen porch, and a balcony. The screen porch and veranda extend the spaces into the garden. Boulders, stone monoliths, and gravel paths shape the ground into useable spaces on this tight site. The rooms on the garden have ten foot tall sliding doors, designed to be remniscent of shoji screens. The material palette, including reclaimed oak floors and casing, enhances the connection to the outdoors.

The kitchen is an integral part of the room on the garden, connecting to dining, veranda, and screen porch. A dining table is on wheels, allowing it to be tucked away or moved to the center of the room. Hidden cabinets underneath the stair have doors
that match the cabinets across the space: open-knot cherry, in this case glazed with translucent resin with an interlayer of pressed ferns. The stair materials include ebonized oak treads, orbital-sanded copperfaced risers and oak balusters with steel  channels at the edges. Upstairs, top fl oor rooms are tucked under the roof. Skylights illuminate the structural elements that form the rooms. Bathroom materials bring a sense of the out-of-doors into the room. with bathroom fixtures that share the daylit space. Carefully planned overhangs and skylights illuminate the spaces, yet shade rooms from direct sunlight.

Colors have an important role in the sequence from front to the more open, asian-inspired garden rooms–a rich paint color palette in the “original” bungalow yields to a natural material palette of wood, backpainted glass, and stone. Careful choices about shading, orientation, and daylighting guided the planning of the project from the outset. Sustainable, recycled, renewable, and reclaimed materials as well as  energy-efficient lighting and hvac systems are central to the second life of the house

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