When you’re a quadruplet, feeling compelled to find your own identity can go along with the turf. Such is the case for four townhomes nestled along Hart Road in Kentlands. House numbers 119 to 125 have long held a standout reputation for the repetition of their elevations where a bay window projects from each home’s front façade. But there was nothing remarkable about the shades of the homes’ shutters or front doors until the idea to add a burst of color with some fresh paint entered the scene.
Ty Hardaway and his family have lived at 121 Hart Road for 16 years. “The mews side of our townhomes had always been variations of the same pale yellow,” Hardaway said. “We wanted to change things up for years, but it wasn’t until new neighbor Mike Weich (#125) asked if we had considered a colorscape that the momentum gathered.”
Taking on such a task was right in the Weich family’s wheelhouse. Mike is a project manager with new urbanist planners and architects Duany, Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ) and his wife, Ruthzaly, is an architect and town planner formerly with DPZ. She now wears many hats as a consultant through her business BLDG Studio, chair of the Kentlands Community Foundation, planning commissioner for the City of Gaithersburg; and mother to three young children.
In a preliminary group email Mike wrote, “We have spent a lot of time thinking, testing color combinations, and researching precedents and have landed on a color palette, which we feel will give us a truly unique and pleasant presence on Hart.” He requested feedback and added that the colors selected were based on “what historically is found on traditional architecture and also works with the color of the brick.”
With a nod to the four seasons, Mike said the customized colors represent red for fall, green for summer, blue for winter and yellow for spring. “If they needed names, I would tie them back to the historic foundation, which would be Brick Red; Firehouse Green for the historic color of doors in Old Farm; Inspiration Blue for the lakes; and Daffodil Yellow.
He noted that the colors on the mews side of the townhomes are a “muted reflection of the full color on the front.”
Hardaway said the mews side became “something really special and revitalized the mews. It is friendlier, warmer, and in some ways happier. The colors really pop from so many angles.”
Over the Hardaway’s front door is a stained glass transom they commissioned to incorporate the quartet of new colors. After the Weichs presented their research “folks just organically selected what felt best for them. … It just kind of fell into place. Nobody needed to be persuaded,” said Hardaway.
Naming the quads, often lovingly called “The Four Sisters” by the homeowners, became a testament to keeping things “short and sweet,” mused Hardaway, “like a roll of SweeTARTS!” Thus, the initial monikers of “Rainbow Row” and “The Rainbow Sisters of Hart Road” morphed into “Sweet-Harts.”
The townhomes were painted in September and October 2016. Hardaway said that from “conception to the willingness to execute was quick. Mike and Ruthzaly completed an HOA application for all of us for approval, and Mike and I presented the idea to neighbors for Visual Change Application signatures. Everyone I spoke with loved the idea. I think the Kentlands Historical Trust thought it was a fresh and unique application of color to the traditional neighborhood design.”
Ruthzaly observed, “We picked true colors and thought it would be a nice visual change to cheer up the street and I think that it did. Everyone seems to love it. Most people pause and about 70 percent of pedestrians take a picture.”
Hardaway noted, “One neighbor on the backside mentions how much he loves the color; that every time he comes home, he smiles. I also notice the architect-led tours walk by and the participants, town planning students mostly, really take notice. Friends and family really think that it’s a beautiful touch and note that it shows that we are really partners with our neighbors.”
What might the future bring to Hart Road’s color palette? “We’ve had some neighbors indicate that they thought it would be cool to incorporate three more colors and complete this side of the block front and back. We’ll see if that happens, but it would really be something,” said Hardaway.