Inside Brandon & Jennifer Hufstetler’s Chevy Chase Remodel
For Jennifer and Brandon Hufstetler, buying their home in the heart of Chevy Chase was something of a whirlwind. They won the home in an auction, and Brandon didn’t even see it until after they’d purchased it. In today’s low-inventory real estate market, and especially in a high-demand area like Chevy Chase, homebuyers have very little margin for hesitation.
The Hufstetlers knew this from experience—they had previously been unsuccessful when bidding on another Chevy Chase home that was up for auction. So the couple, who moved to Lexington from the Dallas area, was determined not to let another home slip through their fingers. They had already decided to work with Emery and Denise Emmert with Encore Construction & Design, and when Jennifer, Emery and Denise walked into the home for the first time, it was love at first sight.
“We said, ‘This is it!’” said Jennifer. “One of the things we were looking for, and something to always keep in mind with a tear-down or a big remodel, is looking at the existing layout of the house to see if it will work for what you want. A lot of times, it really won’t work if you try to change the bones too much.”
They saw the house on a Tuesday, and the auction was scheduled to take place that Friday. “Meredith (Lane with Keller Williams Bluegrass Realty) was already our relator and her husband Blake Ferguson is a trained auctioneer, so it made it easy for us because he had that skill and knew how to bid,” said Jennifer. The three attended the auction, and discovered that the street was already lined with onlookers and bidders. Jennifer remembered that the bidding process went so quickly that it was difficult to tell who was winning. But thanks to Blake’s skills, they won the auction. “Somebody was definitely watching out for us that day,” said Brandon.
The following weekend, they began measuring and getting everything underway for the renovation. They took the 1952 home down to the studs and did a complete rebuild, which was completed in July 2017.
The major structural changes included moving the staircase from the center of the house to the left side, widening the staircase, replacing the electrical system, updating the plumbing, replacing the sump pump and sewer line, burying electrical lines to the home and installing a new roof. They also added smart home technology, a kitchen and bath to the basement area and plenty of closet space with soft-close cabinetry throughout. In addition to installing more than 130 recessed LED lights, Jennifer selected the light fixtures from the 2017 Lighting Market through Ferguson.
In fact, the only detail the family didn’t change in the 4,300 square foot home was the original fireplace in the basement. Its decorative brass faceplate and multicolored tile are a nod to the home’s 1950’s origins– but still look modern enough to blend in with the rest of the décor.
According to Jennifer and Brandon, their favorite part of the process was designing the floor plan and ensuring it included all of their “must haves” –which included an open concept, attached garage, lots of natural light, triple sliding glass doors off of the family room, and a breakfast nook. “Ultimately it was taking an idea in our heads, conceptualizing it on paper and turning that concept into reality,” said Brandon. “It was incredible to see our vision come together. Emery Emmert was a tremendous asset to us during this phase. He worked through several renditions of our ideas to make it possible for our lot while preserving ample yard space in the front and backyard.”
When asked about the most challenging aspect of the build and design process, Jennifer said, “Creating the overall feel of the home. We wanted a high-end custom home, to represent Chevy Chase and blend in with the neighborhood while including an expansive floor plan with tall ceilings, five bedrooms and all of our must-haves. Our home is quintessential Chevy Chase but with a huge element of surprise. That is the ‘feel’ we worked hard to create.”
Dwayne Anderson of house by JSD Designs had a large part in helping the Hufstetlers create that feeling. He started off by assisting Jennifer in selecting lamps that complimented the existing lighting, fixtures and hardware. Their relationship evolved from helping with lamps to planning and executing the entire décor scheme. “When you move, you often have to restart with your décor. Each home is so different and unique,” said Jennifer. “Dwayne utilized some of our current pieces but really brightened up every room in our home with new accessories, art, flowers, pillows and rugs.” Jennifer explained that her talent lies in selecting materials and finishes for the home, but when it comes to décor, she needs an expert. “That is where Dwayne has played a huge role in making our house feel like a home. He helped bring our décor to the next level, and he understands our need to be functional but also show off our style.”
Anderson was able to partner with Rag Peddler (Located next door to house by JSD Designs) to get pillows to add a pop of color to their beds, and a cowhide rug for the front living room, a favorite of Brandon’s. In a coincidental twist, Brandon actually told Jennifer that they needed a cowhide rug for that room and she brushed it off. The next day, Anderson, unaware of the conversation they had the night before, said they need a cowhide rug and found one at Rag Peddler.
In one of their favorite rooms – the kitchen—gleaming white cabinets offset by commercial-grade stainless steel appliances and a nine-foot island, also includes useful touches like double sinks and a pot filler. Jennifer said that she and Denise Emmert of Encore Construction selected everything together. “One of the reasons I chose to work with Encore was that our vision was the same and we worked really well together. We had that instant trust and comfort.” Brandon added, “They’re also very good with the design aspect, and understanding the flow of the house without it feeling awkward.”
“The open floor plan makes it so easy and comfortable to entertain.”
The main level also features a large family room and four bedrooms – a guest room with an ensuite bath, the master and two bedrooms for their sons Hudson (4) and Nolan (13 months). As the parents of two young boys, the Hufstetlers knew from the very beginning that making the home as family-friendly as possible was a huge priority. As they were building their home, Jennifer brought her boys to what they referred to as their “construction site” on a daily basis. Baby Nolan was in tow and present at all meetings, and Hudson, who was 3 years old at the time, was a “big helper” along the way. “He was always prepared for these meetings with his plastic hammer and screw driver in hand!” said Jennifer.
Around the same time they won the auction and purchased the home, they were working through a significant speech delay with Hudson and were worried that another big change in his life may set him back further. For that reason, they didn’t tell Hudson that he would be living in the home until after they finished building it. “We wanted him to feel confident and secure. We didn’t know until the day we told him we were going to make the construction site our new home that the transition would get him so excited and increase his confidence,” she said.
Upon hearing that he’d be moving into the construction site, Hudson immediately packed his suitcase and wanted to have a picnic and sleep on the floor that night. As Jennifer remembers, “The first week in our new home, Hudson and Nolan thrived. They slept through the night from day one (which is huge for little ones: children their ages can take up to 3 months to adjust to a new home). Hudson loved riding his electric car around the neighborhood and meeting our neighbors. We were so thankful that our construction site felt like home without any adjustment time.”
Jennifer said she asked Hudson what kind of bed he wanted, and he chose a bunk bed, so she and Brandon surprised him with a tree house bunk bed from Pottery Barn Kids.
The kids’ rooms are connected with Jack-and-Jill baths, each with its own vanity.
The master bedroom, accented in blue, features an exterior door leading to the back patio.
Even though the master shares a wall with the boys’ rooms, the Hufstetlers installed extra insulation, resulting in a more peaceful household. If one child wakes up, the other won’t be able to hear, Jennifer explains.
The master bath is equipped with heated Carrera marble floors and a skylight for that extra burst of natural light. The vanity countertops are topped in a natural stone called “smoke” that is more durable than marble but less durable than granite. “I love it because it has the look of marble, but much more durable,” said Jennifer.
The first floor powder bath, with its deep eggplant walls (actually Benjamin Moore’s color of the year, Shadow), is one of Jennifer’s favorite rooms in the house. She said, “I love the raw edging of the countertop. It dresses it up.”
“...we knew we created the perfect space for our family.”
When asked what inspired the style of their home, Jennifer stressed the importance of having a beautiful space that was also family friendly. “We are a young family with two busy wild boys. Our style is transitional with a modern flair. We recently ordered the very last thing we need for this home -- a white slipcovered sofa for the downstairs living area so we can keep it washed on a regular basis!”
She gives a great deal of credit to Dwayne Anderson of house by JSD Designs. “He saw our vision. I’m not super formal, but I like nice things. This is a custom home with a lot of nice finishes, but it was very important for it to be comfortable at the same time.”
The family had searched years for a ranch home with an open floor plan but also with space for entertaining that didn’t jeopardize the “coziness” factor. “We eventually came to the realization that it only existed if we built it ourselves. So we did!” said Brandon. “The open floor plan makes it so easy and comfortable to entertain. Our first entertainment opportunity was in December for Hudson’s birthday party. We had a Lego Bricks 4 Kidz birthday party at our home and hosted about fifty people. It didn’t feel cramped in any way. It was after that party that we knew we created the perfect space for our family.”