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Retro Renovation: Hollin Hills Remodel Preserves 1950s Character

Home is on community's spring home tour, coming up in April

“I am a remodeling nut,” admits Rick Ward, a retired Alexandria businessman. And, as the owner of 2215 Martha’s Road in Hollin Hills, Rick indulged that passion with an 18-month renovation that brought his 1957 home into the 21st century while retaining its original personality. 

Rick and his wife, Ann, bought their first Hollin Hills home (on which Rick also did renovations) in 1990. The Hollin Hills community, designed by architect Charles Goodman, features mid-century modern homes with window walls that bring the outside in, a design that appeals to the couple. After they purchased the Martha’s Road house in 2006, they began a three-phase renovation adding modern amenities while keeping the original footprint and design sensibilities of the tri-level, 3,800 square-foot custom home.

Phase One was basic: Rewire the entire house. Phase Two required creative juices, as the couple, with Hollin Hills neighbor and architect Roger Miller, created a family room, guest bedroom, full bath, and laundry room from the unfinished, walkout lower level. On the second floor, the Wards reconfigured their bedrooms and baths, but kept parquet wood floors and some of the bath tiling intact.

The couple also updated their 1950s kitchen and relocated the adjacent laundry area. “The kitchen was standard Betty Crocker,” Ann says. “It had a tiny dishwasher, an electric cook top, and metal cabinets. Many of the appliances didn’t work.”

The re-do was not simple. “Our dilemma was whether to renovate or preserve,” explains Rick. “We decided to renovate with an eye toward preserving the home’s character by keeping the footprint [layout] the same.” The couple converted the ovens and cook top to gas, installed upscale appliances, replaced the metal dropped ceiling with drywall, and raised the ceiling 4 inches.  But when it came to replacing the linoleum floor, the environmentally “green” flooring the Wards had chosen to maximize the original, radiant floor heating posed a problem.

“The flooring was supposed to be gray,” Rick notes. “But when it was installed, it was an institutional, vomit green. We called the manufacturer, and he said the flooring had to cure in natural light before turning gray. We immediately ripped it out and switched to porcelain tiles.”

The couple kept the casement kitchen windows, and preserved a walnut cabinet and Formica-topped counter that serve as a divider between the kitchen and dining area.  Walnut runs throughout the home, from built-in bookcases to stairs and moldings. “Walnut is a major architectural detail that Goodman put in to differentiate spaces and relate the sectors,” Rick says. To compliment the walnut, on the main level Rick painted walls different shades of lavender and periwinkle; he also kept the 1950s blue flagstone floors.

The couple dry-walled a glass wall that separated the dining area from a jalousie porch. That change helped better define the dining area and provide more wall space to display Rick’s extensive art collection. The porch was converted into a music/reading room with access to the home’s gardens and 1,200 square-foot patio.

That expansive patio, home to a pergola and outdoor fireplace—part of the third stage of renovation—caused some consternation for the Hollin Hills Design Review Board. “They were most concerned about scale, about the patio being so large that it might overwhelm the house,” Rick says. He invited Board members to the house to see how the patio would sit on his large, irregularly shaped yard and, after some compromises, gained the Board’s approval. Were they happy about it? Rick smiles. “Well, our house is on the Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour.”

That choice is not surprising. The Wards’ sun and shade gardens are punctuated by a variety of three-dimensional art and a hardscaped garden showcases large sculptures, many by artists Rick met from his artwork-moving business.

Rick looks forward to opening his home for the tour, to be held later this spring, on Saturday, April 28.

 “It’s a good way to benefit the community, to raise funds for parks and essentials,” he says. “And, it’s a good excuse to set deadlines for doing a little paint touch-up and maintenance." 

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