Modern Bohemian

Architect Peter Hapstak and his wife, Jan, adorn their DC home with a colorful collection of paintings and glass


Ryan Hackett’s malachite-toned Chittey Bin #1 (2003),
a mixed-media fiberglass panel hangs in a passageway
in Hapstak’s home.
 

Home is where the art is for Peter F. Hapstak, AIA, a principal of Georgetown’s award-winning CORE Architecture + Design and a board member of the Washington Project for the ArtsCorcoran. But more than just a place for fine adornment, his home in Upper Northwest DC’s Kent neighborhood is where his personal and professional aesthetics have gradually fused. It’s becoming the full realization of a style he terms “eclectic bohemian modern.”

“I don’t think I need to have what I should have any more,” admits Hapstak, a designer of some of the area’s hippest hot spots (Mie-N-Yu, BlackSalt,  Jackie’s and Buck’s) with more on the way. He also collects art with his wife of 19 years, Jan. “My things now reflect what I truly love.” In other words, with his own passion sparked by the passion of the creative people he chooses to patronize, his art is his heart.

Hapstak prefers to discover and support emerging talent, especially identifying with their enthusiasm. But it all really begins with the collection’s fitting repository—a work of art in itself. Built-in 1976 by Washing- ton’s eminent pioneer of modern architecture, Hugh Newell Jacobsen, the angular, light-filled structure was originally commissioned as a studio and showcase for art. The original owners were painter Isa Dreier and her diplomat husband, John Dreier. He was the nephew of Katherine Dreier, an important patron of such avant-garde artists as Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray.

Informally referred to as a “monopoly” house for its simple block-like lines and shed roof, the 2,000-square-foot gallery/living space feels cozy despite ceilings as high as 20 feet. It nestles in a lushly wooded triangular lot on a quiet residential lane with the tops of tall sun-dappled trees visible from its high cut-out windows. The occasional deer wander by its strategically placed walls of glass.

The house is white, inside and out. “White provides a neutral starting point. And white represents the total presence of light, which is what my life’s about too,” reveals the 50-year-old Hapstak, a Hope- well, Virginia, native who co-founded his own boutique architectural practice in 1991 after a decade of working at larger DC firms. He and Jan have lived in the 30-year-old structure for six years. Next year, they plan to start a full renovation with a modest expansion.

Playing into Hapstak’s concept of “eclectic bohemian modern,” the house itself represents a sharp-edged “minimalist wrapper,” as he calls it, for the vibrant paintings and other objects within. A smattering of archetypal Knoll and other classic mid-century modern furniture and accessories throughout the dwelling punctuates a casual atmosphere where the book-filled library and office look comfortably lived-in and the attached living and dining rooms are humanized by the individuality of the art.

With the corridor to the kitchen off to the right, you enter the main public space to find pieces that pop with color and texture. Straight ahead lies the dining room; a series of four Alan Coopper abstracts (1999) painted in acrylic on canvas and named for each of the seasons hovers as a bright counterpoint to the Heywood Wakefield table, chairs, and hutch. The hutch contains, among other things, a grouping of ’50s-era chartreuse Russell Wright ceramics, one of a few collections on display. “Art is really only the most recent thing we’ve collected. I started in the late ’70s with vinyl and then CDs. I currently have about 7,000 CDs,” Hapstak says. The home’s most visually significant assortment, on the living room’s north wall, is the bright acid-etched Blenko glassware, which is divided into two sections arranged in gradients of warm and cool colors. With their organic shapes and contemporary palette, these pieces from the West Virginia stained glass company embody the trademark boho-modern dichotomy Hapstak hopes to achieve. On the opposite wall hangs a luminous waxed iris print of a “blip” of celluloid film by Colby Caldwell.

Despite the presence of several fashionably progressive abstract pictures, Hapstak’s taste is evolving toward more representational subject matter that still exemplifies his preference for what is pure and forward-looking. To that end, in the hallway that leads from the living room to the bedroom is Dave Busby’s striking No Vacancy (2001)—an oil-on-canvas of smoke coming off of a match painted on a simple field of black. Back in the dining room, one of Hapstak’s latest acquisitions also seems to typify this new direction. Marc Dennis’ eye-popping Valasquez’s Budgies (2005), a picture of two multihued birds on a perch, is accessible and yet still fresh and funky.

“I’ve learned what it means to have a collection,” Hapstak asserts. “It requires a level of sophistication. If you try to understand the painter, you can understand the intensity and then deeply connect to the work. ‘Cutting edge’ can be what you want it to be.”

Sally Kline, a Washington-area arts and culture writer for 15 years, is a regular contributor to Home & Design.

Photographer Lydia Cutter is based in Arlington, Virginia.
Architecture: Hugh Newell Jacobsen, FAIA, Washington, DC


Peter and Jan Hapstak relax outside their home, which was
designed in 1976 by renowned DC architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen.


Under a cut-out window in the living room hangs a luminous
waxed iris print of a “blip” of celluloid film by Colby Caldwell.


A smattering of archetypal Knoll and other classic mid-century
modern furniture and accessories complement the art and
the architecture.


A stencil drawing by Adam Fowler defines the foyer.


In the dining room, a series of four Alan Coopper abstracts
(1999) painted in acrylic on canvas and named for each of
the four seasons hovers as a bright counterpoint to the
Heywood Wakefield table and chairs.


Pieces by Paula Crawford and Marc Dennis further define
space.