Environs

Mike and Andrew's Alexandria, VA ranch house


CLASSIFIED: CONTEMPORARY LIVING in Alexandria, with 3 BR, 2-1/2 BA. Large rooms, a finished basement rec room, and a yard make this ’50s-built ranch house an absolute must.

Over five years ago, during the Dupont House Tour, love struck Mike McGough and Andrew Clark. One year later, the pair decided to up their commitment to one another and buy a ranch house together in Alexandria. Now, the 46-year-old McGough, vice president of marketing for a trade association and the 43-year-old Clark, benefits manager for an association, can’t imagine life without each other… or their ’50s-style-influenced abode.

MIKE: We’ve lived here four years and we’ve been together five. We met on the Dupont Circle House Tour. We both like houses and architecture and design. A bunch of us were meeting at my condo in Dupont to go on the house tour. A friend of mine brought Andrew along so that’s how we met.


ANDREW: So to this day, our vacations always include at least one historical house tour.

This had been rental property for a few years so when we found it, it was all original except that they had just put in a new kitchen prior to making it a rental. There was beige carpet throughout, white walls, all in good condition. The landscaping was outdated, so we removed shrubs and cut down the holly trees. Inside we had the carpeting pulled up, refinished all the floors, which were original. We renovated the master bath — we had to gut it because it was in pretty bad shape. We put in all new windows. We just did cosmetic things, not structural. It’s a really solid house.


MIKE: It was owned by a little old lady for years and years before it became a rental. That’s one of the things that appealed to us was that it was original 1959 leaning toward mid-century with some nice built-ins. The outside looked like a typical ranch house, but when we walked in with the Realtor it was kind of forlorn looking, overgrown bushes, and it was empty, which made it even bigger. We were like, “Wow, this is really cool.”

ANDREW: There aren’t that many contemporaries in the city of Alexandria. We were surprised at how large it was inside — from the outside it doesn’t look as large.

MIKE: And they tell us ranches are coming back in. Guess we’re a little ahead of time now.

ANDREW: Mike had a traditional condo, and I had a contemporary town home, so we have different tastes.

MIKE: Very different.

ANDREW: [In the living room] I was little more contemporary, more colorful. The art is mine. I’ve been working on the collection, which has almost doubled since we’ve been here because I have more space — there are a few new pieces, but everything else I found in flea markets, yard sales, antique stores. You get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s harder now, I’ve noticed. I haven’t found any good buys for the last two years. But 10 years ago I was buying things for $20, $25, $30. It was a trick to blend it all together when we moved in. We didn’t go out and buy all new furniture — we made an effort to use what we had. We had some pieces of Mike’s furniture reupholstered, we put his couch in the den and bought this new couch. We only bought a handful of new pieces, everything else we already had. Eric Walters, a high school friend of mine in Baltimore, who has a design firm and does interior decorating, came down and helped us.


MIKE: He helped us with colors and the fireplace.

ANDREW: It’s aluminum leaf, with an antique wash.

MIKE: And he made all the curtains. He just sat down at the Singer and went at it. These pillows and bolsters on the sofa he made from a mink coat that I inherited from my grandmother. I don’t think people like it very much. But what do you do with an old mink coat?

For 13 years I’ve collected McCoy pottery — it’s ’30s, ’40s, ’50s vintage. It started in dime stores. They had some great designs and it’s become more and more popular over time. Martha Stewart did a story on it a number of years ago and the prices just shot up.


ANDREW: [In the dining room] We replaced the chandelier. We saw this one at Annapolis Lighting. It was designed to be in the entry hall and I said, ”Mike, let’s try that and see how it works.” And it was exactly what we were looking for — even though we didn’t know it at the time.

MIKE: [In the master bedroom] The bedroom set is actually an early ’70s funky disco set. I think it’s walnut. It looks older than it is. It looks more deco. Behind these curtains is another bomb shelter window. We like it to be dark when we sleep in here so we just made a whole wall of curtains. If we do want the light we can just open them up.


[In the basement] This is rattan furniture that we had covered. We decided to go with the ’50s look because it is a ’50s rec room. We are building a Hawaiian-themed collection and some other funky stuff.

ANDREW: It’s actually the warmest room in the winter and the coolest in the summer. At the Christmas party we had a bartender back there and that rattan piece makes a great wine bar.

MIKE: This is where we do fun stuff. This is where we hang out.


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