Photo © Maxwell MacKenzie

Hampden Lane House

Robert M. Gurney

Bethesda, Maryland
October 2011

Architect Robert Gurney designs a simple light-filled cubiform house in Bethesda, Maryland.

By Ingrid Spencer

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Architect Robert Gurney and his client, a young entrepreneur with a large family, shocked the residents of the Edgemoor section of Bethesda, Maryland, with the house they created. It was not because of the design's Modernist roots, although the house is decidedly unlike the Colonial- and Craftsman-style ones nearby.

The surprise comes from its size. At just 2,200 square feet, the house is dwarfed by its stately, overscaled neighbors. “Most of the new houses in the neighborhood are being built to the maximum size allowed by the zoning,” says Gurney. “This was a different approach—with more outdoor space and a third less area for the house than what had been there.”

The client desired a totally efficient design for his 60-by-l50-foot property, which Gurney found in an understated cube. The elegance of the simple box startles in its lack of excess. Charcoal-gray ground-faced concrete block clads the wood-frame house, with rectangular and square windows of varying sizes punched out to capture views, control sunlight, and afford privacy to interior spaces.

Although small, the two-story house has a large basement and an 1,100-square-foot roof deck surfaced in ipé wood and edged by concrete-block parapet walls that afford glimpses of Bethesda's growing skyline. A steel staircase on the east elevation provides access to the deck from the second floor.

Gurney's client, whose office is two blocks away, often holds business meetings on the roof, or invites contacts from his financial services firm to dinner. Mostly, though, the house is for the family. “We're very informal,” he says.

Inside the house, spaces are bright and open, with walnut floors, white walls, and stainless steel countertops as the main finishes. The four children (with one on the way) spend most of their time outside or in the basement, which contains one bedroom, a playroom, a media room, and a laundry. Other than a small office area, the ground floor is devoted to public spaces, including an open kitchen, while bedrooms are on the second floor.

“Not one part of this house goes unused,” says Gurney. His client agrees, and adds, “It's a house of its time, and it's completely a reflection of me.”

Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, Architect
5110 ½ MacArthur Blvd, NW
Washington, DC 20016
(202) 237-0925 (ph)
(202) 237-0927 (fax)

October 2011
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