Heather DiSabella’s clients—an active family of five with two cats and a St. Bernard—weren’t afraid of a renovation project, having previously transformed a farmhouse that they lived in full time. Craving a return to city life, the family secured a property in an ideal location in Chevy Chase, Maryland, close to grocery stores, coffee shops, and their kids’ schools, knowing it would take some work to make their house a home.
“They loved the bones of this big, old house,” DiSabella says, noting that the property was built in 1903 and hadn’t been renovated since the 1950s. “All the rooms were very segmented off and the floor plan had no flow from one space to the next,” she adds. “The kitchen was situated at the back of the house and completely closed off from the front of the house.”
The whole first floor is now open, inviting, and a place they can all comfortably gather together.
And the space itself had certainly seen better days. “The condition of the house was pretty dire,” DiSabella shares. “Everything was sort of tinged with years of dust and a lack of care. We also found asbestos in the basement that had to be encapsulated. Most of the existing fixtures were no longer operable.”
With her work cut out for her, DiSabella focused on making layout changes to the first floor of the home, given that the second and third floors—which housed the bedrooms—were already quite functional in terms of setup, and it quickly became apparent that some of the downstairs rooms wouldn’t be serving their original functions.
“We knew we were going to knock down the wall between the kitchen and the existing dining room from the start, but as our plans developed, we started to realize that we wanted to switch the living room and the dining room,” DiSabela says. “The clients have a big family and spend a lot of time cooking and wanted everyone to be able to congregate nearby when they were cooking and entertaining.”
A bonus? “This also gave them a nice big window to put their Christmas tree in December,” DiSabella adds.
DiSabella designed the entirety of the home to serve her clients’ needs as a busy family. Their preteen daughters claimed the two bedrooms on the third floor of the home, and a shared bathroom boasts plenty of vanity storage and a spacious tub. DiSabella also tackled part of the previously unfinished attic space, which now houses desks and beanbag chairs for the girls.
DiSabella’s clients “gravitated toward a mix of Old English and farmhouse style on the main level, with a more modern twist on the bedroom floors,” she shares. A home by Elizabeth Roberts served as the inspiration for the color palette in the kitchen.
Given that her clients brought most of the furniture pieces they had used in their previous home, DiSabella didn’t need to source many new pieces, but did select antique rugs from Etsy and a cushy West Elm sectional for the living room.
Though the home is now suited to a modern family’s lifestyle, DiSabella appreciates the traditional elements that shine through. “My favorite things in the house are the historical elements that we salvaged and restored,” she explains. “The big sliding doors between the living room and the dining room are just massive, and you can feel their history every time you slide them open and closed.”
The clients also kept the home’s original interior doors and brass hardware. “They worked with a local company to restore the finish of the existing hardware and make some of the knobs functional again,” DiSabella notes. “We also refinished the existing wood flooring which came to life with a new stain finish. The front entry stairs are also original—we simply painted them and repaired a few small details and they are absolutely stunning.”
DiSabella’s clients couldn’t be happier with their improved home. “They love the way the space flows now,” she says. “The whole first floor is open, inviting, and a place that they can all comfortably gather together.”