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Posted by on May 23, 2013 | 3 comments

Danielle and Casey’s Eco Modern Rowhouse, Part 1

Danielle and Casey’s Eco Modern Rowhouse, Part 1

While renovating their Del Ray rowhouse, a decade-long labor of love (and a fair amount of agony, they’d be the first to admit), Danielle and Casey embraced a modern and environmental design inside and out. The result is beautiful, eco-friendly, and just plain cool.


For Part 1, we’ll tour the green design elements on the exterior of Danielle and Casey’s home. Danielle explained to us how she and Casey “wanted as low a carbon footprint (and water runoff footprint) as possible.”

Danielle works for the Environmental Protection Agency and won the 2013 Ellen Pickering Environmental Excellence Award. She says “she felt very much the need to walk the walk on building sustainably.” Their design, she added, is “centered on the desire to be as energy and water efficient as we could afford to be.”

Let’s look at the front yard. When Danielle bought the house in 2001, the yard was, in the most generous terms, “a blank slate.” Doesn’t look like there’s a single shrub or plant.


It’s hard to believe a dismal hardscrabble landscape like that became a space this lush, vibrant, and green, largely the result of Casey’s design and handiwork.


Casey’s tried to add primarily drought-resistant and native plants and they brought the rocks back with them from their family home in West Virginia.


The mix of textures and layering leads all the way to the front stoop and is accentuated by rich dark wood chips.


For another jaw-dropping transformation, check out the 18 by 15 foot backyard behind her newly purchased brick row house without a single improvement made to the original construction — yet. Just worn down dirt, leaves, and a few weeds. A sad sight.

back of house-danielle-before


But Danielle and Casey saw the potential. Adding wood fencing along the sides and an addition on the back (more on that in part 2), they turned the backyard into an intimate and stylish eco patio. Halfway through the construction at this point, you can see the shed, set on a 5-foot concrete foundation, as well as the concrete (they call their “mini monolith”) that leads to the back door (and will soon house an outdoor refrigerator).


And here it is today.


They’ve laid in concrete paving stones and added trees for shade and privacy — a slow-growing white pine and a birch — as well as patio furniture and charming string lights.





Two tall shrubs and an adirondack chair cleverly block off the back alley.


What is the environmental feature here? This, you see, is not just an outdoor dining table. It is actually covering a cistern sunk into the ground that holds 300 gallons of runoff water.


Their water catchment system begins here at the downspout, where the water travels straight into the cistern.


And here on the top of the cistern, near the fence, Danielle shows us the hand pump. She attaches a hose to the spigot, pumps the handle, and the water comes up with a decent level of water pressure.


Danielle and Casey did even more by way of water retention. They installed an amazing green roof over their addition to help manage stormwater runoff, insulate their roof, and absorb carbon dioxide. They hired Capitol Greenroofs to install the scenic green roof that they access through sliding doors in one of the upstairs rooms. With a view of DC, it seems like the perfect spot for watching the July 4th fireworks.


I’ve always imagined a panorama of green rooftops in Del Ray. Installing a roof like Danielle and Casey’s though requires at least 4-inch deep planters and a roof that can handle between 25 to 60 pounds of weight per square foot.


They also installed a rain barrel and irrigation tubes to help water the mixture of low-maintenance sedums, ornamental grasses, and ground cover.





We have so much more to reveal about Danielle and Casey’s house. In part two of their rowhouse renovation, we’ll show the incredible before and after shots of the interior space. You’ll hardly believe how much they’ve done, much of it DIY, with a home that Danielle bought in 2001 in wretched condition. It wasn’t easy and there were many setbacks, but the house today is remarkable and unique, like no other rowhouse in Del Ray we’ve seen yet.


  1. Wow. I can’t wait to see the after photos. But with the sneak peeks it already looks wonderful!

  2. Wow! Could you two take over my blog? You’re much better at telling this story than I am. :) We’re so excited to see it through you’re eyes.

  3. Love the rain-barrel set up! Are you able to get most of the backyard with that?

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