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The Best of Both Worlds

Sometimes restrictions inspire creative solutions. A 2,000-square-foot Cape Cod on the banks of the Potomac south of Mason Neck appeared at first to be a charming throwback to a more graceful era, but it was soon deemed too cramped and dated for Robert Montgomery and Carmina Albertos, two bankers about to be married.

For starters, the couple wanted at least four bedrooms (the Cape Cod had three), and the house conspicuously lacked a long list of now-essential modern amenities.

Above all, the pair had concluded that the whole point of living on a river is to avail oneself of a river view as much as possible. Local zoning held that any new residential construction (as in tear down the old house and start over) would have to be sited substantially farther back from the banks of the Potomac.

The upshot: The fabulous view from the first floor of the newly sited dream house would be no view at all.

So, given their requirements, was the Montgomery/Albertos dream house even feasible? Apparently so.

Early on, the couple had invited David Foster, president of Foster Home Improvement in Lorton, to help assess the home’s potentials. Considered something of a wizard at executing innovative structural solutions, Foster’s reputation for converting boxy interiors into modern living spaces preceded him. Coming on the heels of a prior bidder, one of Foster’s first discoveries was that an earlier remodeling proposal was unworkable at the core..

"The goal was to raise the ceiling in the living area from 8 to 9 feet and rework the second floor," said Foster. "But when we looked into structural considerations, we found that the joists between the floors had been ‘jerry-rigged’ at critical junctures."

Since enhancing the view was a primary goal, Foster developed a plan aimed at preserving the existing front façade and footprint — while substantially redesigning the interior and rear elevations.

To strengthen the indoor/outdoor visual continuum, the Foster design team specified a “microlam” girder system for the second-floor support. A light-weight, wood-based product with the tensile strength of steel, the microlam enabled the building unit to effectively utilize existing exterior walls for upper-level support — eliminating now unnecessary interior walls.

THE RESULT: Walking into the renovated living area, one is now greeted with a view to die for — so much so, in fact, that the couple soon decided to relocate the kitchen from the front to the rear of the house just to make the setting a more frequent part of the daily routine.

Converting a former first-floor bedroom to a riverside great room added still more flow to a dramatic setting. The original fireplace, retained but featuring a new mantel, provides a defining visual motif for the entire first floor. The old staircase was removed and replaced with a more contemporary open system. The reworked front level now includes a powder room and full bath.

A mere 500 square feet added to the second floor enabled the design group to substantially rework the upstairs. The large master bedroom suite features two large windows looking out over the Potomac, where the river can be viewed from the whirlpool tub. A second full bath, two sizable storage closets and a laundry room provide upgraded comfort and convenience.

Finish-work details were carefully chosen in several visits to Foster’s showroom and design center. Crown molding is featured throughout the living areas. The kitchen is fitted out in blue pearl granite and ceramic tile. The front façade boasts large, new dormers. Hunter-green shutters and red roof shingles convey a period look ideal for the setting.

For more information, call Foster's at 703-550-1371.