When the client bought his third Washington-area residence in 12 months—the first, a Dupont Circle townhouse, and the second, an apartment at 14th Street and Rhode Island, were sold within months of moving in—-he asked architect and interior designer Jerry Harpole to transform the 10-year-old standard McLean center hall Colonial into a distinctive home where he could entertain the capital’s political set. Harpole had handled the design of this retired AOL attorney’s Key West property and had begun the initial work on each of the two former DC residences. “The client presented me with a list of objectives he wanted to achieve with the McLean house,” recalls Harpole. “It was a kind of business plan for living.”
Chief among the owner’s goals was creating an interior that would meld elements of his traditional Midwestern upbringing with the most high-tech advances in home design. Harpole, who established his firm in 1983 and began incorporating interior design into his residential practice five years ago, possesses a subtle touch, quietly blending modern and traditional in a harmonious mix. “There’s an edge to my work,” says Harpole, “but it’s a livable edge that eliminates the hardness sometimes associated with contemporary design. Here, the idea was to create unexpected moments within a house that presents traditionally.”
The owner wanted the main floor in particular to be comfortable for formal entertaining and conducive to active conversation. Harpole gravitated to what he calls non-specific colors, those that have a mutable quality and change with the light throughout the day. The formal dining area, foyer and living room share a common neutral palette, encouraging flow between the different rooms. The wood floors were stained throughout with an ebony stain.
Harpole bypassed tradition in the living room, creating a pared-down environment. Four custom club chairs of his own design, arranged to encourage intimate conversation, lend a subtle Deco feel. An aluminum-leaf ceiling finish defines the space while adding an unexpected element. Small windows on either side of the fireplace were what Harpole calls “a designer’s dilemma.” He paneled the entire wall in African anigre, designing perforations for the windows that function as shutters and add a sense of calm to the room. The reddish orange tones of the wood provide warmth and echo the red onyx used to replace the wood mantel.
In the formal dining room, the client wanted guests to be comfortable spending time at the table. Harpole acquired an unusual round 19th-century English dining table in yew with segmented concentric leaves fitted to the parameter. He paired the table with new chairs found at Hollis & Knight, but modified them, adding arms to create more relaxed seating. A large photograph of rebuilding in Berlin after the fall occupies one wall.
“There’s an edge to my work,” says architect Jerry Harpole, “but it’s a livable edge that eliminates the hardness sometimes associated with contemporary design. Here, the idea was to create unexpected moments within a house that presents traditionally.”
In the family room, the fieldstone fireplace was sheathed in polished granite to create a reflective surface for the room. Here, as elsewhere in the house, the artwork sourced through Annie Gawlack of Washington’s G Fine Art enhances the spatial sense of the rooms while adding conversational value for guests. The large silvered lavender abstract painting by Jason Martin adds further luminosity to the room. An L-shaped sectional sofa in pale brown wool flannel features cutouts that give the seating unexpected openness and offer visual access to the space. Multi-colored pillows in a fabric with a raised stripe that recalls the simplicity of corduroy introduce casual warmth.
The original kitchen and its cabinets with raised-panel painted doors were torn out and replaced with maple cabinets with horizontal banding in stainless steel. Mosaic glass tile backsplashes and polished granite countertops complete the sleek look. Rather than create a breakfast area next to an island, Harpole designed an elongated island with a distressed concrete top that allows seating for six at the bar area. Stainless-steel cabinets below add storage space and echo the accents on the cabinetry. Two lantern chandeliers salvaged from an old church add a traditional touch to the room.
While studies are a standard room in most Virginia houses, the client wanted his to function as a digital library. An antique desk from Gore-Dean anchors the room and was re-designed to allow a computer screen to be concealed by and pop out of the top. The bookcases that line the walls on three sides were designed atypically to play up the horizontals with recessed vertical elements, and were painted red, another Virginia tradition. But Harpole added another twist on convention, asking artists from The Valley Craftsmen to complete a faux finish in red lacquer with a black glaze. The middle shelves were lit for art and books were stacked horizontally to accentuate the effect. The formal French Regency reproduction chairs are actually recliners. Two stools designed by Harpole provide extra seating when needed and can be stored under the desk. The window coverings in simulated metal mesh add another high-tech element.
The expansive master bedroom—a 24-foot square equal in size to the family room—features a tray ceiling and cove lighting. An eight-foot-tall upholstered bed anchors the room. Harpole custom designed end tables to house the audio/video controls for the flat screen TV and the security panel. An antique bamboo chair and lounge and aluminum Art Deco sconces add interest. The carpet in restful shades of green echoes the walls, but the pattern brings in the technical again, recalling a computer motherboard.
The master bath was gutted and a skylight added. A freestanding tub and the wall behind it designed to display art make a strong visual statement. Custom maple cabinetwork provides for ample concealed storage. The floor is French limestone. And a flat-screen TV concealed behind a one-way mirror is only visible when the TV is turned on.
The guest room provides all the conveniences of a hotel room. “The client wanted the guest quarters to really be comfortable,” says Harpole. “I thought about the amenities that we experience in a hotel and how those are not generally available to house guests. A guest wants easy access to their suitcase, storage for their clothes.” Harpole removed a closet to create an open space to lay out one’s suitcase and added an ironing board that pops out when needed. The décor focuses on creating an intimate, calming environment. “We’re in bedrooms predominantly at night so dark colors with warmth work especially well,” says Harpole, who chose a palette of browns for the room. The trim was faux wood grained, again by The Valley Craftsmen, to tie in with the shutters and other woods in the room. The tufted headboard and bumper give the room a plush feel. The wall behind the bed was draped, concealing windows the bed would not fit between. Reading lights come out from behind these drapes and provide symmetry.
“The owner wanted the house to generate active conversation,” says Harpole. “It’s a house that does that through a balanced blend of comfort and the unanticipated.”
Judith Bell is an art historian, features and fiction writer based in Washington, DC. Photographer Philip Schmidt is based in Holly Springs, North Carolina.
Anigre Paneling Design: Jerry Harpole. Paneling Fabrication & Installation: Amazing Grain Woodworking, Rockville, MD. Red Onyx Slab Mantelpiece & Hearth Design: Jerry Harpole. Mantel Fabrication & Installation: Laser Marble, Rockville, MD. Iron Firescreen: Steven Handelman Studios, Santa Barbara, CA. Aluminum Leaf Finish on Ceiling: The Valley Craftsmen, Baltimore, MD. Wall Sconces: August Georges, Washington, DC. Stainless Steel Rods & Drapery Fabrication: Drapery Contractors, Baltimore, MD. Carpet: Carpet Impressions, McLean, VA. Custom Club Chairs Design: Jerry Harpole. Club Chair Fabric: Robert Allen, Washington, DC. Pillow Fabric: Holly Hunt, Washington, DC. Pillow Fabricator: Carlos Interiors, Crofton, MD. Oil Painting: Howard Mehring through G Fine Art, Washington, DC. Wood Flooring: Classic Floors Designs, Washington, DC.
Dining Chairs: Hollis & Knight, Washington, DC. Custom Chair Modifications: Jerry Harpole. Fabric: Coraggio Textiles. Stainless Steel Rods & Drapery Fabrication: Drapery Contractors, Baltimore, MD. Carpet: Carpet Impressions, McLean, VA. Ceiling Decorative Painting: The Valley Craftsmen, Baltimore, MD. Built-in Anigre Cabinetry Design: Jerry Harpole. Paneling Fabrication & Installation: Amazing Grain Woodworking, Rockville, MD. Photograph of Berlin: By Frank Thiel,
G Fine Art, Washington, DC.
Custom Sectional Sofa Design: Jerry Harpole. Fabric on Sofa: August Georges, Washington, DC. Fabricator: Texstyle, Hickory, NC. Oversized Round Bolster Fabric: Scalamandré, Washington, DC. Bolster & Throw Pillow Fabrication: Carlos Interiors, Crofton, MD. Acrylic on Steel Painting: Jason Martin, via G Fine Art, Washington, DC. “Wave” Maple Console: Dakota Jackson, Washington, DC. Multi-Colored Striped Wool Rug: Carpet Impressions, Washington, DC. Wood Frame & Upholstery Armchairs: Dessin Fournir via August Georges, Washington, DC. Classic Cloth Fabric: August Georges, Washington, DC. Tri-color Murano Glass Table & Lamp on Console: Itre, Inc. Custom Mahogany Coffee Table Design: Jerry Harpole. Fabrication: Tartt Millwork.
Maple & Stainless Steel Laminate Custom Cabinetry Design: Jerry Harpole. Cabinetry Fabrication & Installation: Amazing Grain, Rockville, MD. Wall Cabinets & Granite Countertops: Laser Marble, Rockville, MD. Colored Concrete Island Countertop: Stone Casting, Charleston, SC. Installer: Falcon Construction. Barstools: R. Jones through J. Lambeth, Washington, DC. Barstool Fabric: Vinyl by Scalamandré, Washington, DC. Mosaic Tile: Ann Sacks, Washington, DC. Natural Water Reed Roman Shades Fabrication: Drapery Contractors, Baltimore, MD. Old Church Chandeliers: Good Wood, Washington, DC.
Custom Built-in Shelves Design: Jerry Harpole. Shelf Fabrication: Amazing Grain Woodworking, Rockville, MD. Paint Finish: The Valley Craftsmen, Baltimore, MD. Simulated Mesh Metal Shades: Drapery Contractors , Baltimore, MD. Mid-19th-century Oak Desk With Inset Leather Writing Pad: Gore-Dean, Washington, DC. Leather Installer: Falcon Construction. Reproduction Reclining Armchairs: Holly Hunt, Washington, DC. Custom Wooden Stools on Casters Design: Jerry Harpole. Fabricator: Greg Wiercynski, Falcon Construction. Flannel Cushion Fabric: August Georges, Washington, DC. Cushion Fabrication: Carlos Interiors, Crofton, MD. Carpet: Carpet Impressions, McLean, VA. Paintings by Cindy Blair: Jerry Harpole’s Collection.
Custom Upholstered Headboard, Rails & Footboard Design: Jerry Harpole. Fabricator: Texstyle, Hickory, NC. Wood Rod & Drapery: Drapery Contractors, Baltimore, MD. Reading Lights: Hines, Washington, DC. Built-in Cabinetry Design: Jerry Harpole. Fabrication: Falcon Construction. Faux Wood Grain Finish: The Valley Craftsmen, Baltimore, MD. Carpet: Carpet Impressions, McLean, VA.
Lavatories, Faucets, Fittings, Wall Sconces, Limestone Flooring, Towels & Accessories: Waterworks, Washington, DC. Maple Woodwork Design: Jerry Harpole. Fabrication: Amazing Grain Woodworking, Rockville, MD. Photograph: Todd Hido through G Fine Art, Washington, DC. Limestone Countertops & Backsplashes: Waterworks, Washington, DC. Fabrication & Installation: A and M Marble & Granite, Rockville, MD.
Green Suede Upholstered Headboard & Frame: Mike’s, Los Angeles, CA. Reading Lights: Artemide. Custom End Table Design: Jerry Harpole. Fabricator: Ivan C. Dutterer, Hanover, PA. Chaise Longue, Armchair & Round Wood Table: Aston-Garrett. Chaise Pillows, Armchair Pillows, Chenille Throw, Green Vase: Material Possessions, Chicago, IL. Faux Fur “Dice” Pillows Design: Jerry Harpole. Fabric: J. Lambeth, Washington, DC. Fabricator: Carlos Interiors, Crofton, MD. Antique Green Rice Barrel: The Washington Design Center. Carpet: Carpet Impressions, Washington, DC.