Gretchen & Brad's Slice of Light

House Tour

Name: Gretchen & Brad Hendricks
Location: McLean, Virginia
Size: 2,500 square feet
Years lived in: 11 years

We began remodeling our 1959-built house in northern Virginia at a 2001 pre-construction New Years' Party. In keeping with Hendricks family tradition (Brad’s parents did the same in the late 80’s) we designated a wall for friends and family to write and draw on during the party. The pictures and messages turned into a mural that told a story of our history and relationships. This was a great way to send off the old house and prepare to put our heart, soul and savings into our new dream.

We had lived in our home for over two years before starting the design process and were intimately familiar with what we liked — and what we wanted to change. When I first met the house, it seemed sad, like its true meaning had been stripped by previous owners who tried to "traditionalize" it with dark floors and Laura Ashley wall paper. You could tell that this house was desperately asking to be brought back to life with a modern-day touch.

It needed a more open floor plan: more connection between the living, dining and eating areas, a complete remodel of the kitchen and bathrooms, a solution to our narrow hallway to the bedroom corridor, and more storage space. We wanted crisp, clean lines with a minimal look &mdash lots of light! After many discussions with our architect, local Susan Notkins, we decided that instead of adding a lot of square footage to the house, we would take what we had and optimize and remodel the space to meet our living needs.

The next two years were spent on the design process. Eventually a theme and focal point emerged, which was dubbed "the slice of light" — a 45-foot-long skylight system intended to let in natural light that ran right down the spine of the house. From here, the design intentionally welcomed the light into as many rooms as possible. We planned cutout windows above each bedroom door and a four-foot bump out (with operable windows) between the master and adjoining bedroom to add a custom walk-in closet. Construction finally began in June of 2002, and we moved out of the house and bunked down with my mother.

Our architect was fabulous. She knew we wanted to use atypical, cost-friendly materials and she allowed us to try things she had never done before, like put in a rubber kitchen floor and cover a wood door in metal sheeting to make it look like steel. I’m proud of the collaborative design and how everything came together.

About two weeks into the deconstruction phase, I find out I was pregnant. This was a pleasant surprise, but a twist in our plan and a bit hard to swallow, given we had just packed all our earthly possessions into a storage unit. We hoped to be back in our home for the arrival of our daughter in February, 2003, but construction was still far from complete. At this point, we moved to a long-term stay hotel and were preparing for the worst — bringing our newborn home to a hotel. On top of that, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in late January of '03, requiring immediate surgery and impending chemotherapy and radiation. Soon after, Zoe Hendricks arrived and sent me into labor into the wee hours during a large snow blizzard.

We finally returned home in April '03, ten months later, and were forced to camp out in the downstairs level because the upstairs wasn’t finished. For the next two months, I endured workers coming and going between caring for my infant daughter and my sick mother. Finally, on the weekend of July Fourth, we cleaned until our hands and backs ached, reclaimed our now mothball-smelling furniture from storage and moved on up. What we had seen on paper for so long was real.

As I reflect back on that insane year in my life, I realized that the real inspiration for my home design was an accumulation of the people and events in my life that added up to this perfect moment in time — and space in which we now live.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My/Our style: Our style is minimalist modern with an emphasis on using unusual materials in a cost-effective way.

Inspiration: The biggest inspiration for our design and décor is natural light and clean, geometric lines.

Favorite Element: The 42-foot WASCO commercial grade skylight that joins the peaks of our roof. It is our own slice of heaven. At certain times of the year we have a direct line of sight with the moon in the sky from our bed.

Biggest Challenge: Dealing with the contractor, i.e. ensuring deadlines were met and work was done according to specifications. We loathe change orders.

What Friends Say: Wow! People don’t expect to encounter such an open and bright space when they enter the house. It can almost be intimidating at first, but I have witnessed both children and adults alike enjoying the free-ness of the space.

Biggest Embarrassment: The fact that we have yet to finish the outside work including railings for our front stoop and landscaping. One day…

Proudest DIY: Materials selection and interior decorating. That was all us (which mostly means Gretchen).

Biggest Indulgence: We had two: a projection TV system for Brad and the Minotti Italian couch for Gretchen.

Best advice: Use an architect to help you plan out any major renovations; you never know what you might find once you start knocking down walls. Our architect was Susan Notkins. She allowed us to be very involved in the entire project, and incorporated all our design ideas into our new living space. I don’t know how we would have handled this process without her.

Resources of Note:

PAINT & COLORS
• Exterior brick: Benjamin Moore Steel Wool
• Exterior fireplace: Pratt & Lambert Deep Charcoal
• Living room fireplace: Pratt & Lambert Siberian Iris
• Family room fireplace: Benjamin Moore Dill Pickle
• All interior walls: WHITE, like they should be!

ENTRY
• Instead of spending a ton of money on a solid stainless steel door, we decided to cover a solid wood door with sheets of metal. It looks awesome, costs much less and you get the same effect.

KITCHEN
• We ordered all of our stainless steel appliances (KitchenAid except the stove which is a Thermador) from ADB Distributor in Lorton, Virginia. Big show warehouse and good prices.

LIVING ROOM
• We added a corner window that amazingly brings in more natural light and gives a slight exposure to the front of the house, so we can see when guests arrive.

DINING ROOM
• An angled buffet is not only a design element but useful when entertaining.

BEDROOM
• The addition of a less-than-four-foot bump out added a walk-in closet to the master bedroom and much needed square footage to another bedroom.

BATHROOM
• Must-haves in the master bath included two sinks and two medicine cabinets. For the hall bath, a spectacular Duravit sink was a splurge. As for the downstairs bath, I worked with the architect to design our own sink, using the same counter-top material as used in the kitchen but in a different color. The goal was generous decking — which is hard to find — to make the space in a small bath more useful.

Thanks, Gretchen & Brad!

Images: Lindsey Roberts

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