The Mushroom House: Before and After

Since I was a little girl, I’ve always marveled at what’s now become known as The Mushroom House. Tucked just off Western Avenue in Bethesda, it’s clearly visible from the big road, and since I traveled that way all the time as I shuttled between my parents’ houses, it became a familiar landmark.

This is basically how it looked back in the day:

“Before” photos from Zillow.com

Well, fast forward a few decades, and I’m now working with Compass Real Estate to produce listing descriptions for their agents. And wouldn’t you know it! Jill Schwartz, one of Compass’ top local producers, asked me to create a “special” listing for this very house, which just went live on Friday at an asking price of $1.6 million.

And that’s how I finally got to know this home’s  history as the 1973 creation of the late modernist architect Roy Mason.

The current owner, who purchased it from Mason’s original clients, has spent the last three years performing a near-total overhaul. All the details are in the listing, but I think these before and after pictures will tell much of the story.

Most “After” photographs are courtesy of Jill Schwartz. Others not marked “AFTER” are my own.

The owner, Brian Vaughn, took a bunch of trees down on the property and filled the boarded-up openings in front with cutouts from those trees. He also formally christened this house as The Shroom with this prominent sign right in front:

AFTER

Brian cleaned up the inside dramatically, and replaced all the doors with knotty pine, trimmed in birds-eye maple. He kept the funky front door though:

BEFORE

He refinished the original flooring in the foyer. Those mortar joints, apparently, are comprised of play sand and Elmer’s Glue (!!). Note the interior wood shutters on the sidelight window — closed below, and open above in the “before” picture.

AFTER

And this is what it leads to:

BEFORE: The windows are designed to follow the sun’s movement throughout the day.

Note the wall on the bottom left in the picture above: It was previously a closed-in storage area. Brian opened it all up to create a bar and loft area:

AFTER

This ladder goes up to the loft, which has another set up steps leading to a seating balcony that was there in the original design.

The kitchen is just off this foyer, and received the most intensive transformation. Brian ripped out all of this:

BEFORE

And put this in. The flooring is the same, just stained darker. And see that thing over the island above? It looks like a vent hood, but it’s only a light. Brian put the cooktop on the new island—with a proper vent above it.

AFTER

The stairs also got a makeover, with striped, hickory risers and teak-acacia treads that match the new flooring throughout much of the house.

BEFORE

 

AFTER

Upstairs, Brian dramatically improved the master bedroom and bath.

BEFORE

 

AFTER

Brian made the maple platform bed himself. And remember that stained-glass window over the old bed? He re-hung it on the sloping ceiling going down to the new basement (which includes the addition of a new bedroom and bath).

 

BEFORE

The revamped master bath area includes a large walk-in closet, also clad in custom wood trim.

AFTER

The house also has some crazy kids’ spaces. I mean, the entire house looks like it was a childrens-book illustration that’s come to life, you know? Brian inherited rooms with colorful murals that he kept intact, though like everywhere else, the window and door trim is much improved:

BEFORE

 

AFTER: Brian had an artist add his daughter’s name to the mix, and alter the illustrations a bit to add characters she liked better than what was there before.

 

There’s also a downstairs grotto, with a built-in, skylit cave that I think I would have trouble giving up to my kids. Brian preserved it here:

BEFORE

As he has done everywhere, the lighting is much more modern and improved, as it is in this space:

AFTER

Here’s where I could spend all day:

 

The rear yard also got a significant upgrade.

BEFORE

 

AFTER

 

What I find most charming about this house are all the little details that are literally baked into the unusual polyurethane skin, both inside and out.

 

 

I’m all over this intercom system, with the original labels still pasted on to one of the units:

 

 

 

As I mentioned earlier, the cross section of the tree trunk in this image was taken from trees Brian took down in the formerly overgrown back yard. There’s another one on the other side of front section — on either side of The Shroom sign. This tiny door used to lead up into the house but the access has since been closed off.

Jill Schwartz’s full listing shows many more pictures, and the description contains more details on the home’s history and how thoroughly its current owner has renovated it. Jill tells me she’s planning a number of events to promote the house, including childrens-book readings to show off its whimsical nature.

It’s certainly not a house for everyone, but a draw for all of us curiosity seekers for sure—especially those like me, who grew up craning to see that house as the car whooshed by on Western Avenue.

Comments

  1. Wow! Amazing transformation. The Kitchen looks beautiful and that gaming zone is also beautiful.

  2. Can’t wait to show this property – I saw it three years ago – and it was definitely in need of an update!

  3. I’ll definitely keep you all updated with the Open House Event is, hopefully you can all join. Thanks for the great write-up Jennifer.

  4. I love that the architect was so focused on the movement of the sun and how that impacts the house. So interesting! Thanks for the view into such an unusual home.

    • Jennifer Sergent says:

      I know, isn’t that crazy? It seems so dark and opaque from outside, but it’s so bright inside.

  5. Elena Eskandari says:

    I love the organic lines and color minimalism!

    • Jennifer Sergent says:

      Organic lines for sure! And you’re right — big bright colors wouldn’t feel at home here.

  6. FASCINATING!!! Isn’t it so interesting how people live? I just imagine Brian lovingly restoring (and upgrading and improving) the house. He kept the whimsical spirit — I hope the new owners will do the same! (And who will they be? Follow-up to come? 😉 ) Thank you for a great story!

    • Jennifer Sergent says:

      I’ll be SO interested to see who buys it! Brian told me he knows this might be a tough sell and has no problem staying — his teenage daughter has a new love for the house (initially she wasn’t so crazy about it == especially during the LONG reno process), and now she definitely wants to stay!

  7. Crazy, funky, coolness. I love that he preserved the murals and all the fun details. Nice find Jennifer!

  8. What a deliciously funky house! Such a fun read this morning.

    xo-
    Erika

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