Modern Evolution

Architect Jordan Goldstein expands a Bethesda cottage into a light-filled, functional retreat using elements from commercial design

Though an old proverb says that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, the New Testament instructs, “Physician, heal thyself.” So what about an architect? How should he approach the invention of his own home?

That was the challenge facing Jordan Goldstein, an award-winning principal and design director for the DC offices of Gensler, the world’s largest architecture firm. “When you are your own client, you have to figure out a way to filter your wants and desires to satisfy your true needs. We had an amount of money that could only go so far,” he says. “When working with my clients, it’s a lot easier because decisions are made in a collective manner, with a collective vision. And it’s their funds. Here, it’s our vision, our funds.”

That vision came together by combining the best of the old and the new.

The idea was to expand a single-story cottage built in 1938 in Bethesda’s picturesque Sonoma neighborhood from 1,400 to 3,000 square feet so it would function as a family home for Jordan, his wife Laurie, precocious five-year-old Alexa, one-year-old Sari and an affectionate golden retriever. But at the same time, Goldstein sought to preserve the character of the original structure and modernize the residential space to reflect his progressive commercial design sensibilities.

When the Goldsteins purchased the property in 1998, they decided to renovate and enlarge the home in phases. “It had no porch and a mock Spanish tile roof,” Goldstein remembers. “But when we did the first addition, we wanted to be sensitive to the old look. We didn’t want you to feel like you were seeing a McMansion from the front. Our other priority at first was to get the house more efficient by updating the internal systems—like the plumbing and heating—and to attach a dining room on the first floor and a bedroom above that.”

In the second phase, completed late last year, they took advantage of a generous yard to append an entirely new back half to the house. Through the process, they visually bared the space to the south with floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows to gain as much natural light as possible, put in state-of-the-art interior lighting and broadened the flow and the new rooms according to Goldstein’s professional viewpoint.  “Many of the products I deal with for commercial environments are much more durable than some of the residential products I was seeing. So I used a lot of commercial products here, like the lighting and the carpet tiles. Also, in the construction, we discussed different ways of doing things with materials that you don’t necessarily use in the same way in a residential environment—such as the giant glass windows and their unique narrow framing.”

Goldstein’s expertise enabled them to focus on materials and workmanship. Laurie, a publicist for Marriott Corporation, explains, “We felt strongly that we wanted the best quality. So that’s why we were willing to compromise on doing the work in phases.”

It’s not surprising that the couple—both 35-year-old natives of Montgomery County, Maryland—share a similar outlook. They are childhood sweethearts who met in nursery school. Laurie’s maiden name is even the same as her married name. “We go way back,” she smiles. “His mom and my dad went to high school together.” Jordan and Laurie Goldstein attended the same junior high and high schools too. “Because it was Goldstein and Gold- stein, we were usually in the same homeroom,” Jordan recalls. “But we didn’t start dating until our sophomore year together at University of Maryland.” They married in 1997, shortly after Jordan joined Gensler straight out of graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania.

In this case, the layman spouse of an architect actually did have input into the design of the house. “I trusted him. But I definitely had a say too. We discussed everything,” she says. She was especially interested in the functionality of the kitchen.

“I wanted to pick out the appliances. And I really liked the open kitchen and family room combination; it has been a blessing. I get home from work after being gone all day and it allows me to be with my kids while I’m trying to make dinner and do other things,” she says.

The Goldsteins call it “the big room,” which includes an adjacent mudroom for laundry and pantry storage. The kitchen section is appointed with mottled granite counters in shades of ivory and malachite to match the muted shades of green in the glass tile backsplash. “I used that tile in a bathroom exhibit in a show house at The Washington Design Center and I just loved it,” Jordan reveals. The kitchen also features custom cherry cabinets with an espresso finish and stainless-steel hardware and appliances.

Most of the furniture throughout the house came from accessible retailers such as Pottery Barn and Theodore’s in Georgetown. But a few special pieces were designed by Goldstein himself.

When you first enter the house, the combination foyer/living room has the home’s original molding and fireplace. It also showcases two Goldstein prototypes in black and white: the one-armed, asymmetrical lounge chair that Goldstein designed for David Edward of Baltimore and an innovative reception bench with an integrated wood end table, which he designed for Tuohy Furniture, in the adjoining hallway. He also designed the dining room table. With a defined geometric look echoing lines and forms found throughout the residence, the ebonized maple and sycamore table is punctuated by a clean, stainless-steel inlay.

Representing the architect’s overall goal to merge indoors and out, a view of a verdant canopy of foliage through the windows gives the main bedroom a unique effect. “I always feel like we live in a tree house, especially upstairs,” Laurie Goldstein says. “We have so many trees and it’s so green around here. When we added the big skylights, we could see nature even more.”

Conceiving a “tree house” seems a long way from Jordan Goldstein’s day job: to design important commercial buildings, retail spaces and products for mass consumption. He is currently tackling a massive project, helping to develop a retail destination at the entrance to the new baseball stadium along the DC waterfront.

But conjuring up his family’s private haven required putting all that aside.

“I think the biggest thing for me was to free my mind. You have to lose all the baggage from previous projects. If you try to integrate things from other projects,” he says, “then your house becomes bandaged residue from all your past work. I had to decide that this is my house; my family and I have this canvas to paint on. I can’t go too crazy with all the great new materials, all these cool techniques. It would destroy functionality. So you must bring the essence of the ideas you use at work into the space.”

Sally Kline, a Washington-area arts and culture writer for 17 years, is a regular contributor to HOME &
DESIGN. Photographer Kenneth M. Wyner is based in Takoma Park, Maryland.




Goldstein designed the dining table made of ebonized maple,
sycamore and stainless steel.


The rear view of the home reveals its dramatic new addition.

The kitchen is appointed with mottled granite counters in
shades of ivory and malachite to match the muted shades
of green in the glass tile backsplash.


Architect Jordan Goldstein with his wife Laurie
and daughters Alexa and Sari.


Upstairs, the orangey-red accent walls of the bridge space
between the master loft and the girls’ rooms offer the home’s
one big shot of saturated color. Explaining his choice of a largely
neutral color palette throughout the home, Goldstein asserts,
“The family is the color.”


Goldstein detailed the second-floor bridge between the
master bedroom and his daughters’ rooms with glass,
steel, modern lighting and a punch of color.



In the second phase of the renovation, they took advantage
of a generous yard to append an entirely new back half to the
house, adding a generous kitchen and sitting area.


The sitting area features state-of-the-art lighting, video
and sound system.