Kristin Try embraces period charm and fresh style in a reimagined 1920s Alexandria bungalow
With its quaint cottages and Colonials, Alexandria’s historic Rosemont neighborhood exudes old-fashioned appeal. No wonder a couple with a young daughter elected to stay and renovate the 1928 Cape Cod they’d had for six years. They tapped architect Laura Campbell, designer Kristin Try and builder Harry Braswell to improve the existing spaces and add much-needed square footage. “They wanted to remake it into their dream house,” recounts Campbell. “They were ready for a complete makeover that would embrace the idea of ‘vintage meets new.’”
The house was saddled with a poorly functioning family room addition, a cramped kitchen and outdated bathrooms. The design team replaced the addition with a larger one encompassing a family room, home office, powder room and mudroom with access to the driveway. The existing spaces were reconfigured to accommodate a spacious new kitchen and dining room.
The owners—the husband, a CFO at a medical-supplies company, and wife, a retail buyer—are thrilled with their rejuvenated home. Says Try, “We were able to hold onto what made the house feel special to begin with.”
Describe your mandate for this project.
Kristin Try: To understand what the clients liked and make it come together. There were several ideas they wanted to incorporate, and they feared the interiors might feel disjointed.
What ideas inspired your clients?
They’re from Michigan and loved the concept of lakeside living. They also love blue and the wife is a fan of vintage things. We tried to merge all those elements into a cohesive look combining farmhouse and urban-bungalow styles.
How did you improve the existing house?
The front door opens into one end of the living room, where a hall closet beside the staircase made the entry area tight. We replaced the stair, which was steep and hazardous, and removed the closet to make the space feel airy and a little more formal. We enhanced the living room with paint and new window treatments, furniture and lighting. The dining room now spills out onto a deck for grilling.
Explain your color-palette choices.
I’m a color person, but white is definitely what brought this house to life. The wife has a number of vintage-wood pieces. The white showcases them but also tempers the rustic vibe by imparting clean lines and light. She has collections of vintage items like jars, and the white backdrop keeps them from feeling cluttered. We added the clients’ favorite blue hues in rugs, fabrics and accessories throughout.
What’s the story behind the floors?
The original oak floors were replaced with reclaimed barn wood. It is stunning and preserves the home’s vintage feel.
How did the kitchen change?
It’s been extended to include a separate storage area. The layout of the work space is more functional. We kept the look classic with white cabinetry and honed, leathered, black-granite countertops. The backsplash is Venatino marble, which has prominent bluish veins. I designed the range hood with white plaster and detailing made of the same reclaimed wood as the floor.
Why the separate space with the blue-painted island?
The wife requested a work and casual dining spot in an open area that connects the other rooms. It has an island and she’s on her computer there most of the day. The gingham window treatment sets the space apart.
What drove the window design in the family room?
The owners requested more wall space for art and furniture; using floor-to-ceiling vertical windows in the family room frees up wall space but still lets in light. From the start, I envisioned white, pleated-linen draperies that would do those windows justice. The windows are set in from the corners of the room to accommodate the drapes, and the frames are painted black for an industrial-farmhouse look.
Describe the upstairs renovation.
Originally, the master bedroom was too big. The redesign divides the addition between the daughter’s room and the master bedroom. Reclaimed beams from a Maryland barn gave the master bedroom a rustic feel, so I chose more streamlined pieces for it. The daughter’s room is painted pale pink with an adorable seating nook. The master bath is in the original part of the house, where a hall leads to two bedrooms and a bath.
How did the look of the master bath evolve?
The wife knew from the get-go that she wanted navy-blue ceramic tile in the shower, in a four-by-eight-inch format. She also wanted to use marble, so I helped her come up with a combination that worked. I designed the reclaimed-wood vanity with vintage flair to warm up the space.
Explain your furniture selections.
Much of it is new. The goal was to minimize the rustic feel of the wife’s vintage pieces, emphasizing clean lines and a slightly beachy vibe. We were lucky because we were able to customize a lot of furniture to fit.
How do you begin a project?
I focus first on lighting, flooring and paint colors. Lighting is key; people often overlook it and don’t budget for it, but I think if you spend money on lighting it will showcase a room much more beautifully.
What’s your lighting-selection process?
I base my choices on being in the space. I think about the scale and sight lines from one room to the next, making sure fixtures are complementary and don’t overpower one another. Sometimes they’re the star of the show, sometimes an accent.
Name a trend you’re tired of.
I get bored of white kitchens that don’t have any special creativity—though I can still make one work when it’s the best choice. I also get sick of houses that are completely neutral. I like colorful moments.
What’s your personal design aesthetic?
It’s a little artsy. I’m an abstract artist and my designs are a bit moody, with lots of color and texture—just like my paintings.
Renovation Architecture: Laura Campbell, AIA, Convene Architecture, Alexandria, Virginia. Interior Design: Kristin Try, Kristin Try Interiors, Alexandria, Virginia. Renovation Contractor: Harry Braswell, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia. Styling: Kristen Alcorta.