The Washington Post
Prominent architect designed Spring Valley home for himself
Architect Arthur B. Heaton designed many of Washington’s treasured commercial and residential buildings, including several on the National Register of Historic Places. This 1929 house in Spring Valley, however, is the one he built for himself.
“He designed this for his home when he could have designed anything,” said owner Pamela Denby. “Spring Valley wasn’t really built yet then. That kind of took off in the postwar era. He had his choice of plot, and you know, he designed it where he wanted it.”
During his decades-long career, Heaton designed luxury apartment buildings, public housing, theaters and university buildings. He was the first supervising architect for Washington National Cathedral, a position he held for 20 years. He also built houses for prominent Washingtonians, especially in Woodley Park, Wesley Heights, Chevy Chase and his own Spring Valley neighborhood in Northwest Washington. He resided there for more than a decade.
The house remains much as it was in 1929, a tribute to Heaton’s enduring style.
“The light is kind of like Monticello,” Denby said, referring to Thomas Jefferson’s celebrated Virginia home, “in that the architect seems to have designed it to follow you around where you are at that time of day.” In the morning, light floods the breakfast porch; by evening, the sun is setting outside the living room and sunroom.
Denby made structural changes as part of a $1.5 million renovation in 2004. One corner of the original house was removed to create a larger kitchen and family room. The lower level, previously storage space, was transformed to include full-height ceilings, windows and terracotta floor tiles reclaimed from a French farmhouse.
“During that process, the corner of the house was just held up by a support beam, and it was like a big Lego piece chunk was taken out with one bedroom suspended,” Denby said. “And then a bigger Lego piece was put back in its place.”
Throughout the renovation, Denby kept many American farmhouse details. In the addition, she “worked very carefully to replicate the architectural detail from the original home,” such as by reproducing the spindles in a staircase to the upper level for a railing to the lower level.
A stone path leads to the main entrance, which opens to a foyer. A sunroom and a living room are on the left. On the right, a hallway leads to a formal dining room with a fireplace. Beyond the dining room, there is a spacious gourmet kitchen with a Sub-zero refrigerator and wine cooler, Miele dishwashers, two ovens, a warming drawer and Calacatta Gold marble countertops. French doors open to a terrace with a pergola. This level also has an office and a guest bathroom.
Two sets of stairs connect the main level to the second floor (not including the lower level), which has a primary bedroom suite with a newly renovated bathroom. This floor has three more bedrooms, a laundry room and two additional bathrooms. The third floor has two bedrooms and a bathroom.
The lower level has a home theater system with a drop-down screen and surround sound. There’s also a bathroom and storage.
Previous residents installed a tennis court that is shared with a neighboring property. The front garden is one of the last gardens arranged by Michael Valentine Bartlett, a landscape architect who redesigned gardens at the French, Moroccan and Finnish embassies. The front yard is bordered by Mary Nell hollies and bamboo.
“You don’t really see anything but this beautiful wall of green out the front,” Denby said.
The property has a cobblestone driveway and a two-car garage, a rarity at the time of its construction.