Skip to Content

Back to the Future

2940 Chain Bridge Road, Washington, DC

My parents’ house was quite “green” — so green, in fact, that it was a case study in House Beautiful’s “Climate Control Project” and featured in the April 1951 issue. Designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith FAIA, it had radiant heat and a porch overhang to keep out summer sun and admit winter sun. All the rooms had louvered windows at the bottom on one side and at the top on the opposite side to encourage cross ventilation. An air space between the ceilings and roof, a large hall fan to exhaust hot air, and sprinklers that cooled the roof when it got too hot kept us in reasonable comfort during the DC summers.

From every room, you could look out through glorious plate glass into woods (not an easy feat on a 0.7-acre lot). The house was on one floor, which was very useful as my mother aged. Like other Modern houses of the period, its bedrooms were compact, its closets even more so — not a bit elaborate but splendid.

The house is still there, on its fourth owner since us. I go back every now and then. Each successive owner has made changes. The third one joined our three bedrooms into one; the current owners have added an additional story and an outside swimming pool, an excellent use for a difficult yard. The house still has its plate glass, openness, view, and beauty. With its idiosyncratic style, it has always been slow to sell but always adored by its owners. The current ones are no exception.