Michel Rivest’s journey from Fairfax County to D.C. began to seem “too long” when he took a wrong turn and ended up in the Spring Valley neighborhood in northwest Washington. “I had no idea areas like that existed in the city,” Rivest said. “Mature trees, large grounds.”
After this discovery, Rivest and his wife, Louise Courtemanche, began looking for a home in Spring Valley, and in 2009, they settled on a hilltop house that reminded them of their home together in Westmount, Montreal. The 1935 home, located at 3615 NW 49th Street, was previously owned by William Harrop, a longtime U.S. diplomat and former ambassador to Israel and several African countries.
“It was like grandma’s house,” Rivest said. “It’s a very homely place that brought back a lot of memories.”
Rivest and Courtemanche hired Rob Morris of Morris-Day Designers in McLean, Virginia, to expand and renovate a home that is now on the market for $4.1 million.
They wanted to retain a Tudor-style exterior, and after a trip to Scotland and England, decided to design an ornate Arts and Crafts-style interior of the type made famous by the early 20th-century Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
The home’s renovation and expansion has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects as a finalist for the prestigious COTE Top Ten Design Award, Rivest said.
Details, including rose motifs in the custom-designed stained glass windows in the interior doors, brought the couple’s vision to life. The cathedral ceiling in the family room is reminiscent of a ceiling at the Glasgow School of Art.
Rivest, an electrical engineer who said he would have liked to become an architect if he had “artistic talent,” designed the lantern fixtures, which were then made by two artists. He said the lower level of the house has a slatted roof, intended to “convey the feel of an old pub,” and also has a nook, a space adjacent to a fireplace, typical of homes before the invention of central heating.
The renovation, which took two and a half years, also included expanding and redesigning a large entertainment space at the back of the house. The house now has a family room there, as well as two kitchens, one for daily use and one for use when entertaining guests.
Morris had suggested that walking through a house could be an aesthetic experience, like “taking a walk down the street,” Rivest said. “Every point in the house becomes a view. … Working with an architect opened my mind to how I look at things.
Two flights of stairs lead to the front door and foyer, which is flanked by dining and living rooms. The dining room has an exposed beam ceiling, and the living room has one side of a two-sided wood-burning fireplace. Also off the foyer is a library with a fireplace opposite the living room fireplace and French doors opening onto the patio.
At the back of the house, behind the powder room, is a family room with several skylights and a gas fireplace. Off the family room are two kitchens.
The master bedroom suite, on the second floor, has a walk-in closet and a bathroom with a marble bathtub and separate shower. The laundry room can be accessed from the master bedroom or hall. Two other bedrooms on this level share a bathroom. On the third floor, two bedrooms, one with a cedar walk-in closet, share a bathroom.
The lower level has a ‘pub room’ with a bar, built-in seating area and fireplace. The mudroom on this level connects to a two-car garage and an exercise room.
Much of the landscaping, including the stone wall, was in place when Rivest and Courtemanche purchased the property. The couple added plantings modeled on National Trust gardens in England. Their daughter’s wedding was held in the backyard.
Initially, Rivest wasn’t planning to play such an active role in the design process, but he said he doesn’t regret the outcome.
“As the house and design elements were moving, like the (stained glass) windows, people would stop to chat and tell us they loved it,” he said. “But it’s actually a lot of fun.”
3615 49th Street NW, Washington, DC
- Bedrooms/bathrooms: 5/5
- Approximate area per square meter: 5700
- big size: 0.41 acres
- Features: This 1935 Tudor-style house underwent an extensive renovation, completed in 2012, which included the addition of wallpaper and Arts and Crafts interior details inspired by travel in Scotland. It has a backyard, several fireplaces, and a two-car garage.
- Listing agent: Robert Hrynoicki, Adam Rackliffe, Christopher Leary and Micah Smith, HRL partners at Washington Fine Properties.