Home & Design

Gracious Living

An elegant yet family-friendly retreat takes shape following a fruitful collaboration by a talented team of professionals

The shingle-style exterior is "porch-oriented" with a large entrance portico.Building a high-end custom home on speculation always comes with a certain element of risk. Will the finished home have the right style, layout, and amenities for the right buyer? The project that builder/developer Matt Holahan undertook on a fantastic parcel of land in Bethesda certainly had a fairy tale ending—thanks to the vision and design skill of the team he and the eventual homeowners assembled along the way.

It all began about three years ago when Holahan purchased a decrepit rambler, obviously a tear-down, on an overgrown lot along a wooded rollercoaster of a road in Bethesda where nearby homes sell in the millions. Holahan contacted architect Mark Giarraputo of Bethesda’s Studio Z and began planning a one-of-a-kind home.

It was winter 2003 when Giarraputo visited the site with Holahan and the possibilities became clear. Not only was the one-plus-acre lot exceptionally wide for this inside-the-Beltway site, but it was also surrounded on two sides by a golf course—providing an expansive view in the winter with a deep woodsy barrier for privacy as the deciduous trees spread their leaves in the warmer months.

As Holahan expressed a preference for an Arts and Crafts, shingle-style home with a Nantucket influence, Giarraputo and his colleague, Sean Mullin, set to work on the plans. The broad lot, almost 130 feet wide, made it possible to instill an expansive “estate” appearance on this home of three levels, totaling almost 11,000 square feet. They chose to break up the mass and make it “porch-oriented,” with a portico in the center and numerous porches to the left and right rather than one long porch. There is a “consistent band going around the whole perimeter of the house,” notes Giarraputo. A turret is balanced by a large window treatment in the stairwell, further emphasizing the estate feeling.

Marvelous views dictated the orientation of casual living spaces to the back of the house, with rows of windows and French doors. “From the beginning, we wanted to have a bit of fun with the back and not adhere, so strictly, to a particular style,” explains Giarraputo. As he designed, he hoped there would be a pool in the backyard.

Exterior elements were repeated inside, first noticeable in the large foyer. Here, tapered columns with brackets repeat those on the front porch as the shingle style moves from exterior to interior.

In building this home, Holahan, Giarraputo, and Mullin anticipated the lifestyle of an imaginary family. Amazingly, they came very close to the needs of the family that eventually bought the house in 2005. Although the house was almost complete when they purchased it, the homeowners requested only a few minor changes to make it their own. First, a vestibule in the master bedroom suite was appropriated to enlarge the wife’s closet. And one of the five bedrooms was joined to their daughter’s room to create a bedroom-sitting room suite.

When they settled on the house, the owners contacted interior designer Sharon Kleinman, who recalls seeing the property for the first time. “I was happy with it from the beginning. I was pleased with all the moldings and appointments, which you don’t always see in a new house. Sometimes, they mix different styles and it doesn’t work.”

The designer, who sometimes finds it necessary to remove extraneous, interior architectural embellishments, immediately began selecting window and wall treatments, fabrics, furnishings, and accessories to create rooms of gracious livability for her clients. The wife was involved in each and every selection; the two of them scouted and scoured The Washington Design Center, shops and antique stores throughout the area in a quest for the perfect chair, painting or vase.

On one of the shopping trips, they found furnishings for the foyer and living room at Ebanista, a showroom that was just settling in at The Washington Design Center. Kleinman spied a chest for the foyer; and then, sofas and a coffee table for the living room. An adaptation of a mid-17th-century Knole sofa from England, originally designed to be positioned away from a wall, proved to be a delightful choice to emphasize the Old World ambiance Kleinman was infusing into the home. Barley twist legs on the coffee table reinforced the theme.

On a trip to Gonzales/Paris-Kensington Antiques to look for lighting, Kleinman’s client spotted two late-19th-century Italian carved walnut chairs. “I just have to have those,” she said. They now grace the living room in front of the mantel.

As the architects were designing the house, they created a curved area where the future owners might place a piano. In lieu of a piano, Kleinman created a secondary seating area. “Everywhere you look in this house, you see the outdoors,” she notes. “So I thought it would be nice to have a stone table because it brings the outdoors in a bit.” Exquisite linen damask draperies frame the view to Walls were aged with an understated faux finish for depth and color using a melted wax technique. “I like everything to be subtle and not shout out,” Kleinman explains. Working with artisan Dieter Pluntke, the two decided upon a finish that was neither striated nor busy, one with each section completed individually to create a slightly uneven, aged look.

For the dining room, Kleinman selected grasscloth wallpaper—not the grasscloth of the ’50s, but one of fine, linen-like texture. The challenge to designing the room was the window treatment. The husband stressed that he didn’t want to watch cars going by while sitting at the dining table. Concerned that heavy, closed draperies could make the room too dark, Kleinman chose linen sheers for greater opacity than typical sheers. Wide bands on side panels add sophisticated detailing.

Eschewing a matched look in the dining room, Kleinman and her client selected a dining table from J. Lambeth and chairs from Kravet. The designer chose a Niermann Weeks buffet customized with a stain and trim that lend the contemporary piece a more traditional air. Then Kleinman accessorized the buffet with an unexpected element: a Chinese, Han Dynasty, earthenware horse from Joe Niermann’s private collection. It provides the edge that gives this room distinction. “I didn’t want this dining room to look like everyone else’s,” Kleinman says. The antique sconces and jardinière create a blend of old and new.

Throughout the home, Kleinman employed subtle variations of a neutral color palette. “I told Sharon I wanted everything beige,” noted the homeowner. “I didn’t want a green room, a red room, and a blue room. It was important to me that everything flowed because the house is so open.”

Kleinman incorporated color, “but not in-your-face color,” she explains. Furnishing the family room began with the rug, a stylized floral in rust and gold. Draperies are multi-toned, with two shades of green and rust and black to repeat the rust in the rug and echo the green in the linen velvet sofa. Kleinman’s judicious application of color facilitates the flow.

A pass-through opening to the adjacent kitchen was Holahan’s idea. He worked with kitchen designer Amy Collins of ProKitchens to create this most functional of spaces. The center island is the hub of activity. “In the mornings the kids are everywhere, making lunches on one side, writing notes on the other side—this is where it all happens,” the homeowner explains. “When I have casual parties, I set up a buffet here.”

The kitchen opens to a gathering room with a table for casual dining and a comfortable seating area for two in front of the fire. Chairs swivel for a conversation with the cook. And bookshelves, a Studio Z design reiterating the Craftsman style that defines the exterior, flank the fireplace. Tongue-and-groove panels on the ceiling emphasize the casual quality of the space.

Careful planning and a thoughtful design approach extend to the outdoors of this property. The hardscape and landscape design, under the direction of Andy Balderson of Donovan, Feola, Balderson & Associates, realized Giarraputo’s dream of a pool—and then some.

Originally, there was only one small terrace. Now, the terrace continues down a couple of steps and around the pool, also coming off the screen porch. Raised flower beds with stone walls add color and provide additional seating for large outdoor gatherings.

“Every single thing in this house had a lot of thought put into it,” says Kleinman, reflecting on the process from the design through the landscaping. As talented and knowledgeable professionals understood the concept of those who came before them and built on each others’ vision and workmanship, the story of creating a beautiful new home came to an end as the family began another chapter of life in their new home.

Contributing editor Barbara Karth resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Photographer Gwin Hunt is based in Annapolis.

Architecture: Mark Giarraputo, AIA, and Sean Mullin, Studio Z Design Concepts, Bethesda, Maryland Builder: Matt Holahan, M. H. Holahan Development, LLC, Bethesda, Maryland Interior Design: Sharon Kleinman, Transitions, Bethesda, Maryland Landscape Architecture: Andy Balderson, Donovan, Feola, Balderson & Associates, Inc., Montgomery Village, Maryland Landscape Contractor: Dave Dunlevy, D & A Dunlevy Landscapers, Inc., Barnesville, Maryland.

The tapered columns with brackets in the open foyer repeat those on
the front porch.

Interior designer Sharon Kleinman honed in on Old World influences as
she helped her client furnish the home. A stone table in the living room's
secondary seating area brings the outdoors in.

Console: Ebanista, Washington, DC. Sconces: Gonzales/Paris-Kensington Antiques, Kensington, MD. Candlesticks: Ferrell’s Gifts, Potomac, MD.

Sofas & Coffee Table: Ebanista, Washington, DC. Fabrics: Hines, Schumacher, J. Lambeth, Washington, DC. Antique Chairs: Gonzales/Paris-Kensington Antiques, Kensington, MD. Antique Painting: Sparrows, Kensington, MD. Accessories: Huretz, Kensington, MD; Potomac Village Antiques, Potomac, MD. Benches & Clock: Hollis & Knight, Washington, DC. Stone Table: J. Lambeth, Washington, DC. Window Treatments: Fabricated by Gretchen Everett Designs, Washington, DC. Wall Treatment: Dieter Pluntke Decorating Inc., Alexandria, VA. Rug: Coe & Sons, Bethesda, MD.

Buffet, Mirror, Chandelier & Antique Horse: Niermann Weeks, Washington, DC. Table: Panache from J. Lambeth, Washington, DC. Sconces: Sparrows, Kensington, MD. Chairs: Kravet, Washington, DC. Fabrics: Old World Weavers, J. Lambeth, Hines, Niermann Weeks, all in Washington, DC. Wallpaper: Hines, Washington, DC. Accessories: Pugrant and J. Lambeth, both in Washington, DC; Sparrows, Kensington, MD.

Wallpaper: Niermann Weeks, Washington, DC. Mirror: Dennis & Lean from Holly Hunt, Washington, DC. Window Treatment: Gretchen Everett Designs, Washington DC. Accessories: Hollis & Knight and Kellogg Collection, both in Washington, DC; Gonzales/Paris-Kensington Antiques, Kensington, MD. Glazing on Trim: Dieter Pluntke Decorating Inc., Alexandria, VA.

Sofas: Dapha from Baker, Knapp & Tubbs, Washington, DC. Chairs & End Table: Nancy Corzine, Washington, DC. Console, Stool & Chairs: Hollis & Knight, Washington, DC. Rug: Rashonian, Bethesda, MD. Fabrics: Hines, Kravet, Nancy Corzine, Beacon Hill, all in Washington, DC. Window Treatments: Gretchen Everett Designs, Washington, DC. Art: Principal Gallery, Alexandria, VA. Accessories: Hollis & Knight and Gore Dean, both in Washington, DC; Ferrell’s Gift Shop, Potomac, MD.

Furniture and Fabric: Brown Jordan, Washington, DC. Accessories: American Plant and Crate & Barrel, both in Bethesda, MD; Behnke Nursery, Potomac, MD.

Kitchen Design: Amy Collins, ProKitchens, McLean, VA. Barstools: Ebanista, Washington, DC. Accessories: Flora’s Feathered Nest, Potomac, MD; British Pine Mine, Kensington, MD.

Two late-19th-century Italian carved walnut chairs flank the fireplace in
the living room.
Gold textured wallpaper epitomizes elegance in the powder room.

The family room, decorated in tones of rust, green and gold, opens to
a screen porch.

Comfortable furnishings from Brown Jordan and flagstone paving
lends a sense of luxury to the screen porch.

In the kitchen, the center island is the hub of activity.

A terrace close to the house leads down to the pool. Raised flower
beds with stone walls add color and provide additional seating for
al fresco gatherings.

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