Can This Home Be Greened? Room To Breathe: Renovating a Brick Colonial Home

When the Flints outgrew their home, a green renovation featuring passive solar design gave them some much-needed space.

  • Kate and William Flint with their children.
    Jacob Sandman
  • BEFORE: A poorly made, 1950s-era addition was built onto the back of the original brick house.
    Alan Abrams
  • BEFORE: The crowded living room had little space for guests. (It's now a home office.)
    Alan Abrams
  • AFTER: The angled addition softened the severe, blocky shape of the existing house. The roof overhangs on the first and second floors provide shading that helps cool the home in summer.
    Ken Wyner
  • AFTER: Kate and William’s new, airy bedroom suite is now located in the addition.
    Ken Wyner
  • AFTER: The living room, kitchen and dining areas create an open, inviting space for entertaining. The dark, slate floor absorbs solar heat and radiates it through the space on winter nights.
    Ken Wyner
  • AFTER: The kitchen is furnished with water- and energy-saving appliances.
    Ken Wyner
  • AFTER: The basement gets natural light from new, extra-large window wells.
  • AFTER: The modern, triangular addition is positioned so that large banks of south-facing windows let in warm sunlight in winter and provide beautiful garden views.
    Ken Wyner

When William and Kate Flint bought their first home in 1990, they settled on a World War II–era brick Colonial with a small, wood addition in Silver Spring, Maryland. "The house was a cheap dump with real potential," Kate says. Initially the couple planned to do some basic renovations and sell the home within a few years. In the meantime, however, they fell in love with the neighborhood and decided to stay.

For years the Flints made the cramped house livable, if only marginally, by finishing and refinishing floors, and painting and repainting walls. By 2003, however, they were desperate to remodel and build an addition. Their two children were growing out of their bunk beds, and a leaky basement was causing moisture problems. Friends recommended Alan Abrams, CPBD (Certified Public Building Designer), of Abrams Design Build, a Washington, D.C., sustainable building firm, and their adventure began.

The Flints wanted their "new" house to be everything the old one wasn’t—without compromising the Colonial’s integrity. "We didn’t want to McMansion-ize the place and make it look as though we’d completely destroyed the original," William says. Eight houses on the block share identical building plans, so the couple had seen huge additions that had become out of scale with their lots.

Initially, the Flints weren’t seeking a green approach to their project—they just wanted something that looked good. Abrams introduced them to sustainable strategies, including building orientation and efficient use of energy and materials, which meant that even though the house is now almost double its former size, its utility bills have stayed the same.

1. Make Space for the Family

Problem: The Flints were no longer comfortable in their cramped space. The kids were getting too old to share a room, the kitchen was the size of a closet and the basement was unlivable.

7/14/2014 5:12:08 AM

William and Kate Flint made a good decision to settle up in Silver Spring, Maryland. My best friend lives there and I often visit him, the neighborhood is great and all of their neighbors are good people. When deciding to make a home remodeling, the Flints should search for, I saw on their website they have a lot of interesting offers and I am sure their kids would love the furniture.

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