• 2016, DECEMBER 1

    Experienced Residential Architects Deliver On Details

    Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a pioneer of modernist architecture, is often associated with the adages, “less is more” and “God is in the details”, concisely expressing that purposeful design elements transform good buildings into extraordinary ones. When remodeling or designing a new home, seamlessly blending form and function with attention to detail creates a lasting impression.

    Interior Design Elements

    Simple elements, like columns, baseboards, moldings, trims, hand railings and banisters, can have a dramatic impact on the design of your home.

    Columns are a great way to separate rooms without using walls to achieve an open floor plan. They can be used as load-bearing elements or just visual additions. Similarly, pilasters may be used to separate rooms that share common walls or to add vertical separation between two areas of a home. Pilasters can be used decoratively around fireplaces or in lieu of normal casings, to create a grand entrance for any formal room or doorway. Both columns and pilasters can enrich the ambience of your home.

    Baseboards are a defining feature serving as a visual link that travels into every room in your home. As part of a remodeling project, replacing or enhancing baseboards can go a long way. If baseboards have stature, a room becomes regal; when they’re skimpy, that same space can look unfinished. Modern homes have a minimalist approach to baseboards. An experienced residential architect ensures a home’s baseboards are in harmony with its overarching design.

    Door and window trims add a completely different look to your home with very little work. Adding details to windows and doors brings a certain elegance to any home and often creates a first and last impression.

    Other fine details, such as moldings, give rooms a sense of depth. They can be used on ceilings to mimic architectural details in a room, run along hallways or stacked in layers to create the illusion of length and height.

    Ceiling Architectural Design Detail


    Thoughtful lighting design can transform a house into a home allowing the personality of the owner to shine through. Without good lighting, no other design elements have an impact. Experienced home designers create spaces that maximize natural light year-round using a combination of floor-to-ceiling windows, clerestory windows, above-counter windows, corner windows, skylights and glass doors.

    Other fine elements, such as lighting fixtures that are distinct and look like works of art, can add emphasis and creativity to ordinary rooms.

    Lighting coves are a great way to indirectly create a warm space. With this detail, light can shine up if the ceiling is vaulted, or down if there’s a painting or other feature on a wall to highlight. These are great places to add lighting while at the same time, creating an architectural detail within your home.

    Contemporary Great Room Design


    While the focus on interior details is often thought of when considering a home remodeling or new design project, the exterior of a home is just as important. The facade of every home needs balance and symmetry in order to appear properly designed and pleasing to the eye. A professional architect manages the complicated process of balancing detailed color choices, materials, shapes, and lines with functionality and durability.

    Most modern exterior detailing is free from heavy ornamentation of classical building design and replaced with simple linear forms. Rooflines may have distinct cantilevers or large overhangs. Unique features such as seemingly flat rooflines constructed with materials from the exterior can blend harmoniously with nature around your home.

    Windows serve as the eyes into a home; they should not only reflect the character of your house but also need to be durable and functional. Modern homes often incorporate large expanses of floor-to-ceiling windows, while traditional homes tend to look best with symmetrically placed, white-paned, rectangular windows. Other factors to consider include: UV ratings, privacy, proper ventilation, ease of cleaning and views beyond.

    home remodeling northern virginia

    Thinking Ahead

    According to renowned designer Frank Lloyd Wright, “The architect must be a prophet… a prophet in the true sense of the term…if he can’t see at least ten years ahead don’t call him an architect.” Wright designed buildings in harmony with their environment and according to his vision of what the future would be, not what the world was. He saw the need for homes to be more fluid, more open, more livable, and less restrained.

    A professional architect continually improves upon his/her craft, understands current trends, is attentive to detailed distinctions, and designs with an eye for the future.

    If you’re considering a home remodeling project, contact us today (703-255-9861) and we’ll help turn your dreams into reality!

    Live the Difference with an Experienced Residential Architect

  • 2016, NOVEMBER 14

    Determining a Budget and Timeline for Your Home Remodeling Project

    Susan Pierce, co-owner and primary residential architect for Commonwealth Home Design, discusses the firm’s process for establishing a home remodeling timeline and budget and managing expectations throughout all phases of the project.

  • 2016, JUNE 21

    Best Practices in Architectural Design for Home Remodeling Projects in 2016

    Residential architect and Commonwealth Home Design co-owner, Susan Pierce, discusses the importance of considerations like curb appeal, traffic flow, balance and symmetry, and functional design in home remodeling and new design projects.


  • 2016, JUNE 7

    Necessities for Modern Bathroom Design in 2016

    Light, bright and open bathroom designs have become commonplace in new home and renovation projects. Learn more about Spring 2016 bathroom design trends in this interview with Susan Pierce, owner and architect, at Commonwealth Home Design.

  • 2016, MAY 3

    Built to Last: Commonwealth Home Design Celebrates 30 Years!

    Built to Last Commonwealth Home Design

    There’s Nothing Stronger than the Foundation of Family.

    Owned and operated by husband/wife team Kelvin and Susan Pierce, Commonwealth Home Design LLC has sustained and grown for 30 years, nearly eight times longer than half the small businesses in the US (according to the Department of Labor).

    Upon graduating from Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Architecture & Urban Studies and an internship at a prestigious DC firm, Susan Caughey approached her then fiancé, Kelvin Pierce, an Aerospace Engineer, with a dream of starting her own construction business. After a conversation with a relative in the construction industry and some convincing on Susan’s part, the Pierce’s co-founded Commonwealth Home Design and married in 1986.

    Susan and Kelvin’s first major project was the result of a design competition. Explains Susan, “We started doing decks for friends and then a bathroom for a neighbor. A potential client in Alexandria was doing a significant addition and they held a design competition with a modest stipend between me and another architect. It was such an important challenge and we won it!” The project was photographed and that gave Commonwealth legitimacy as an emerging home remodeling firm in Northern Virginia.

    Since that time, Commonwealth Home Design has remodeled, redesigned and built hundreds of houses across Northern Virginia. The firm has won numerous awards, including Top Remodeler by Washingtonian Magazine, Contractor of the Year from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, and the Chrysalis Award presented to remodelers that reflect the professional excellence of the residential and commercial remodeling industry.

    The firm has perfected a delivery methodology that includes assigning one project manager to be on site, all day/every day managing subcontractors, monitoring the budget and ensuring expectations are met. This hands-on, client-focused approach streamlines communication and allows the firm to proactively manage setbacks and changes in project scope. Clients appreciate knowing they have one point of contact throughout the entire course of the project, from design through construction.

    Beyond their commitment to enduring client relationships, the lifelong Vienna residents have a vast history of service and giving back to the community. Susan and Kelvin are active members in the Vienna Business Association, hosting several events at their signature “red” home. Kelvin also has served in a leadership capacity, including President of the Rotary Club in Vienna.

    Ten years into their marriage, Kelvin and Susan traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia to complete the adoption of two newborn girls from the impoverished area. After witnessing first-hand the devastated economy of the Georgian people and the deteriorating orphanages, Kelvin formed The Divine Child Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to improve the physical environment and living conditions for orphaned children while supporting their health and providing educational enrichment opportunities.

    To date, Divine Child has completed several building renovation projects and continues to serve its mission to provide a safe, secure and stable environment for the children of Georgia. (DONATE TODAY)

    Within the past year, Susan founded the Northern Virginia Chapter of Day for Girls. Days for Girls is an international non-profit organization that helps women in third world countries gain access to quality sustainable feminine hygiene products allowing them to manage their monthly periods and stay in school. (GET INVOLVED)

    What’s kept this remarkable husband and wife team together for 30 years in business, marriage and service—constant challenges, a changing market landscape, the continual need to learn and grow, and a since desire to build a brighter future for families near and far.

    home remodeling northern virginia

    Pictures from Commonwealth Home Design’s 30 Year Anniversary Celebration

    Home Remodelers Northern Virginia   Home Remodelers Northern Virginia Celebrating 30 Years Home Remodelers Northern Virginia Celebrating 30 Years  Home Remodelers Northern Virginia Celebrating 30 Years Commonwealth Home Remodeling Celebrates 30 Years Northern Virginia Commonwealth Home Remodeling Celebrates 30 Years Northern Virginia 30 Year Anniversary Celebration Commonwealth Home Design Remodeling 30 Year Anniversary Celebration Commonwealth Home Design Remodeling 30 Year Anniversary Celebration Commonwealth Home Design Remodeling

    30 Year Anniversary Celebration Commonwealth Home Design Remodeling Divine Child Foundation Commonwealth Gives Back

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    Commonwealth Celebrates 30 Years Remodeling Homes



  • 2016, MARCH 29

    Creating a Home Remodeling Firm in Northern Virginia

    Commonwealth Home Design has served residents of Northern Virginia for 30 years. Hear what inspired architect Susan Pierce, co-founder and co-owner of Commonwealth, to create a design/build and home remodeling firm in Vienna, Virginia.

  • 2015, AUGUST 25

    Renovate or Relocate: A Common Homeowner Conundrum

    Almost all homeowners contemplate buying a new house or remodeling an existing home at some point in their lives. There’s no right or wrong choice but several potential life-changing considerations.

    Before jumping into a major home remodeling project or spending hours online searching for a new house, create a wish list outlining your needs and wants. Here are four primary considerations to include in your list:

    1. Location, Location, Location

    How much do you love your existing neighborhood? If you have a family or are thinking about starting one, how are the school systems. Would you be leaving behind neighborhood friends and playmates? What amenities are readily available that may not be easily accessible in a new town or city.

    Another incredibly important factor in Northern Virginia is a move’s impact on your commute. Will it be longer or shorter. Are you willing to spend more time in your car than enjoying your new home?

    If these factors make you want to stay, can you renovate within your current footprint? An experienced architect can help you determine if your existing home can expand to meet your needs while complying with local building codes. You may uncover areas for expansion you never realized were available. (See related: Four Ways to Gain More Space in Your Home.)

    Great Room After

    Great Room AFTER Renovation & Expansion

    Great Room Before

    Great Room BEFORE Renovation & Expansion

    2. Quality of Life

    Living through a renovation can be stressful but so can moving! Are you prepared to live through a few months of flying dust, the constant sound of power tools and a bevy of contractors walking through your home. (See related: The Remodeling Process Rollercoaster – What You Can Expect.)

    The idea of packing a lifetime’s worth of belongings may be reason enough to stay put. For some though, moving is an opportunity to purge and start anew.

    If you’re unable to line up closing dates, you may find yourself in a temporary housing situation. Can you deal with the stress of packing/unpacking and moving twice?

    Carefully consider the impact a home renovation or multiple moves may have on your quality of life before, during and after!

    3. Budget and Financing

    A new house means qualifying for a new mortgage and expenses beyond the purchase price of the home—i.e. real estate transaction fees, closing costs, moving expenses, new fixtures and furniture, etc.

    There are also numerous tax laws that affect the calculation of taxes upon the sale of one’s home and the repurchase of its replacement. Tax credits may be available, depending on when you buy the property. Seek professional advice to understand the tax implications of selling your home and buying a new one.

    A renovation can be financed through savings, home equity loans or lines or credit. Acquiring a home equity loan or line of credit depends on several factors: the equity in the home before the project, the cost of the remodel, and the expected market value once completed.

    Extensive renovations and expansions also may end up more costly than expected if your wish list changes throughout the course of the project. It’s important to plan for the unknown in any high value investment involving your home.

    4. Value

    Are you currently living in a booming neighborhood with rising home values. If so, you may want to stay put and invest in your house. A remodeling project should result in added value to your property. According to Remodeling Magazine, the most profitable renovations when putting a house on the market include kitchen remodels and room additions.

    Whether you choose to renovate or build new, it’s important to work with an experienced architect. Superior design not only increases the value of your home, but can also greatly improve your quality of life. Conversely, mediocre design may diminish resale value and lead to missed design opportunities and years of regret.

    Kitchen After Renovation and Removal of Fireplace

    Kitchen and Breakfast Area AFTER Renovation

    Kitchen and Fireplace Before Renovation

    Kitchen and Breakfast Area BEFORE Renovation

    Next Steps…

    Determining you need more space or a change of environment is easy. The quandary is how best to achieve it. Relocating and renovating each can be satisfying and effective if you weigh the options carefully. Seeking the assistance of an expert residential architect may result in upgrades and additional space you never dreamed available in your existing home.

    An informed and educated decision can minimize your aggravation and ensure your family years of good living!

    Give us a call today at 703-255-9861 and let the experienced architects at Commonwealth Home Design help you to weigh your options.

    Live the Difference

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  • 2015, JUNE 9

    4 Ways to Gain More Space in Your Home

    Feeling like you’ve outgrown your current house? The experienced architects at Commonwealth Home Design can show you how to creatively and efficiently gain more space in your home.

    With housing prices back on the rise in Northern Virginia, you may want to consider a renovation or addition project before seeking a new home.

    Look up, look down, look around—you may find you have more room for rooms than you think!

    1. Tear Down

    Aging homes are often filled with tiny, unused rooms that cramp modern lifestyles. This can be addressed by removing interior walls and expanding important rooms like the kitchen or creating new family gathering spaces, like a great room. Before you remove any wall, you must determine if the wall is load-bearing. The experts at Commonwealth Home Design have nearly 30 years experience transforming cramped rooms into spacious, open floor plans.


    Great Falls, VA – An open, spacious floor plan with voluminous ceilings was created through a comprehensive interior gut and remodeling project. Walls and ceiling were removed and replaced with new wood beams and brackets. A new, expansive kitchen and great room were created.

    2. Build Up

    Attics can be transformed into a variety of spaces beyond your grandparent’s treasure trove. Home offices, in-law and au-pair suites, recreational rooms and even master bedrooms can be creatively situated in a redesigned attic. Reclaiming existing space under your roof also avoids many zoning and easement concerns common to the Northern Virginia area. There are several considerations when converting attics into new spaces, including building codes; support structures; electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems; and access. Commonwealth’s experienced, solutions-oriented architects can help determine if your attic is ready for a life-changing transformation.

    Attic master suite addition with sitting area, large bright; windows and sloped ceilings.

    Great Falls, VA – Attic conversion into a Cape Cod-style master suite with sitting area, large bright windows and sloped ceilings.

    3. Add On

    In many cases, you can gain more space from your existing home through an addition project. There are numerous ways to add onto a home. Adding onto and renovating the first floor may allow for an expansive new kitchen; and you know that everyone tends to gravitate towards the kitchen! A sunroom addition can function in many ways. It can be a light and airy, relaxation space with lots of glass and outdoor views, or a great place to mix, mingle and entertain. Second story additions are increasingly popular. Rather than using limited ground area and building a foundation, adding a second floor addition to a ranch house is a great and cost effective way to gain extra space. Master suites are common second story additions, providing more privacy and task-oriented spaces. Second floor laundry rooms are also popular in comprehensive addition projects. Many second story additions are designed above garages. Building over the garage is an efficient way to add space for everything from a master bedroom suite to an office or “bonus room”.

    Arlington, Virginia - Second story addition with new master suite and multiple bedrooms; bathrooms; and a two-story staircase.

    Arlington, Virginia – Second story addition with new master suite and multiple bedrooms; bathrooms; and a two-story staircase.

    4. Reconfigure

    Take a look around your home. How many rooms do you really use on a daily basis? Do you have unused sheds or small buildings on your lot? Your family may benefit greatly from a whole house reconfiguration. Unused sitting rooms, mudrooms, extra dining spaces, even under staircase storage areas and small outdoor buildings can be repurposed for today’s lifestyle and possessions. Additional storage can be found in the most creative of locations. Removing walls can increase the natural light into rooms by allowing light to flow through the center of the house from the sunny to the shady side. Sometimes a modest bump-out combined with an interior reconfiguration can work miracles. Older homes in Northern Virginia no longer meet the needs of modern families. But many people like you aren’t ready to pick up and move. Your love your neighborhood and value your investments!


    Great Falls, VA – Linear design with natural light; contemporary kitchen and family room reconfiguration.


    Let the design/build professionals at Commonwealth transform your aging house into a luxurious modern residence rivaling today’s new homes!

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