White walls and pale oak plank
;oors let nature take center stage in
this new 16-by-22-foot family room.
Automated ;oor-to-ceiling recessed
roller shades control the light and
provide privacy at night. French
doors lead to an ipe wood deck with
stainless steel cable railings.
JANE AND JEFF BULMAN didn’t really
want to move. They loved the Woodhaven
neighborhood in Bethesda where they had
lived for 30 years, raised two children and
put down roots. But the two-story colonial
house plan wasn’t working for them anymore.
The couple, now in their 70s, wanted the
ease of a ;rst-;oor master suite and wide-open entertaining spaces to accommodate
their growing family, which now includes
in-laws and grandchildren. “The dining room
was so small that we had to put an extra
table in the living room,” Jeff says. “Passing
food was a logistical nightmare.” The
Bulmans started looking for a new place, but
couldn’t ;nd anything that was move-in ready.
“We ;gured we’d be better off renovating our
house,” Jeff says.
They wanted an open plan, high ceilings,
natural light, a connection to the outdoors
and a clean, uncluttered style to re;ect their
modern aesthetic. “We were always more
eclectic than our house,” Jeff says. It was up
to architect Robert Black, the owner of Robert
Black 5 Design in Silver Spring, to give the
1961 brick house a new lease on life. “It was
great that they were so willing to experiment
with a modern addition on a traditional
home,” Black says.
Black expanded the dining room by 6
feet and opened it up to the living room, and
designed a 1,400-square-foot rear addition
that maximized the lot’s buildable footprint.
The ceiling of the new family room rises
to a dramatic 14-foot vault, and walls of
windows ;ood the space with light and views
of the backyard. “We wanted it to feel like
nature was coming in,” Jane says. The solid
portion of the side wall was reserved for the
entertainment center. Rather than mount the
;at-screen television on a plain white surface,
interior designer Craig Embrey, the owner of
Chevy Chase-based Joseph Craig Embrey
Designs, recessed it into a custom walnut
veneer panel that adds warmth and character
to the contemporary room.
The master suite, which includes a walk-in
closet and an 8-by-26-foot spalike bathroom,
occupies the rest of the addition. Since the
couple plans to stay in this home for many
years, Black designed the bathroom with a
curbless walk-in shower, 34-inch-high vanities,
slip-resistant porcelain ;oor tiles, and blocking
in the walls for grab bars in the future, if
Life in the Bulmans’ recon;gured home is
convenient and comfortable, and there’s no need
to negotiate stairs daily. They spend all of their
time on the ;rst ;oor now, and say it feels like
a big, airy apartment. “When our grandchildren
visit for sleepovers they use the second-;oor
bedrooms,” Jane says. The enlarged dining room
is the site of some lively Friday night dinners.
“We have a tradition of tossing the challah,” Jeff
says, “and now our grandchildren can ‘go long.’
It’s a sight to see.” n