Capitol Improvements: Remodeling A Washington, D.C., Townhome

In Washington, D.C., an architect takes on the greening of a townhome.

| September/October 2003

  • This bedroom is lit with compact fluorescent light bulbs, one of the Schneiders’ efforts to reduce energy consumption. Low-VOC paints add color.
    Photo By Dan Redmond
  • Serene blue low-VOC paint keeps the mood and spirit of the nursery comforting. The location of this home affords many conveniences for the entire family—including a school nearby for Rick and Julie’s twins.
    Photo By Dan Redmond
  • The large area rug in the master bedroom is made from carpet samples that Rick has collected over the years. The classic wooden folding chair was salvaged and refurbished.
    Photo By Dan Redmond
  • The back porch was enclosed and turned into a comfortable sunroom.
    Photo By Dan Redmond
  • The painted brick of the fireplace echoes the painted brick on the home’s exterior. Lightening the color of the townhouse minimizes the “heat island” effect often plaguing urban areas.
    Photo By Dan Redmond
  • Rick Harlan Schneider, a LEED- accredited architect, believes in sustainability and resource conservation. His firm, Inscape Studio, successfully renovated and decorated his Washington, D.C., home according to these principles.
    Photo By Dan Redmond
  • Rick and Julie Schneider salvaged and recycled furnishings as well as building materials. Julie found this chair on the street.
    Photo By Dan Redmond

When architect Rick Harlan Schneider and his wife, Julie, set out to find their first home in Washington, D.C., they had several criteria in mind. “We wanted to find an older house that we could renovate, in an urban environment, with lots of transportation options,” says Rick. “It’s often more sustainable to renovate an existing structure, rather than build new. If we’re going to save our planet, we have to save our cities first. Living in urban areas is a very efficient lifestyle; it makes good use of what we have already developed.”

They selected a townhome built in 1929 in Glover Park, a tree-lined enclave not far from Georgetown. Rick’s company, Inscape Studio, an architecture and sustainable design firm, is in nearby Dupont Circle, easily accessible by bike, bus, or foot. Julie’s environmental policy consulting business often takes her to Dupont Circle as well. “We love that we can both get to work so easily,” he says. “Just a ten-minute bike ride, and I’m there.” Other neighborhood amenities such as shopping and schools for their twin daughters are close by as well.

Once they had settled into their house, the couple set about turning it into a home. Rick, a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-accredited designer, used the U.S. Green Building Council’s national standards for energy use, materials, and water use as guidelines. “If this is the kind of work I’m going to do,” he says, “the place to start is at home.”

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