Anthony Wilder designed a renovation of the existing
house and an addition. The finished house has a more
unified, inviting appearance with new oval windows on
either side of the entryway.What happens when a couple accustomed to life in the world’s grandest foreign embassies meets a local envoy with residential expertise? Though not a state affair, the result is a state-of-the-art whole-house remodel in Bethesda, Maryland’s Sumner neighborhood blending the practical needs and understated Old World tastes of the clients with the open, approachable inclinations of modern design.
Former Ambassador Stapleton “Stape” Roy and his wife Sandy were just retiring from a 45-year-long career representing the United States in Asia’s most important capitals, from Jakarta to Singapore to Beijing. Luckily, it didn’t take much diplomacy to establish relations with just the right party to update the look, improve the accessibility and nearly double the size of the neglected “official” residence back home that they had owned for 20 years.
“We hit it off immediately,” Sandy Roy says, remembering her genial first contact with an enthusiastic Anthony Wilder, principal of Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Inc. Prepared with a list of logistic requirements but no desire to micro-manage the aesthetics, she contacted Wilder after seeing the quality of work his company achieved on a neighbor’s house. “The place was pretty plain,” she says. “We needed someone like Anthony to beautify it.”
In retrospect, she’s thrilled with her choice, as well as the all-inclusive design/build concept. “They really exceeded our expectations and completed the project ahead of schedule last year,” Sandy observes. “And since there’s only one point of contact and they do everything, there’s a lot of accountability.”
Typically, Wilder personally creates the general design of a project—even encompassing the landscaping in this case—while his team of 36, including in-house architects, interior decorators and construction supervisors, execute it. Not only were the clients thrilled, but the project garnered Wilder’s firm a Contractor of the Year award in the category of whole house over $1 million.
The Roys sought ease of movement through their three-story abode. This meant improving the user-friendliness of the upper floor’s master bathroom and the central stairway as well as the addition of an elevator to the structure, which was more challenging architecturally. Furthermore, the Roys needed room to store Stape’s extensive professional library on the main and basement levels and to display the treasured art objects collected from a lifetime of travel and living abroad.
“We wanted to address all that while improving the lines of sight with focal points to keep you moving throughout the house, each room relating to the next,” Wilder notes. “We also wanted to reflect the unpretentious personal style of the Roys and to integrate the remnants of the old house with the new seamlessly. You want people to have to ask where you added on.”
A conventional Colonial originally built in 1970 on a lot considered large for the neighborhood at close to three-quarters of an acre, the existing house was nearly gutted before being stretched toward the back and to one side, increasing from 2,500 to approximately 4,900 square feet. The combination brick and siding façade was refreshed with painstakingly matched materials and the outdoor space was reworked as well. Taking advantage of the back yard’s expansive southern exposure with the liberal addition of volumes of glass, Wilder served two of his signature priorities, typical of contemporary design: to introduce as much natural light as possible and visually merge the indoors and outdoors. “From my observations and personal experience, everyone looks and feels healthier and more vital in natural light. And a room should always reflect good feelings and well-being,” Wilder explains.
The spacious kitchen/breakfast room is the centerpiece of this extreme makeover. Accessed either through the warm Mandarin-red dining room or by way of the family room—both of which directly link the home’s new heart to its freshly opened foyer—the space boasts a dramatically high, barrel-like ceiling with curved lines and sizeable skylights above.
Stape Roy, now managing director of the prestigious international consulting firm Kissinger Associates, came up with the idea for the expanded breakfast room. Meanwhile, Sandy knew she wanted a much larger white kitchen and a more practical configuration of appliances. “I especially love the small office I now have just off of the kitchen,” she says. A new two-sided fireplace forms a shared wall between the kitchen and the family room.
The family room connects to the formal living room, which contains some of the Roys’ most valued collectibles. Two raised paneled archways on either side, about three feet deep, provide a striking transition from the living room to the library, where a bay window nook was created especially for the grand piano. “The raised paneling detail is very labor intensive,” Wilder explains. “It harks back to a time of the best old craftsmanship of a hundred years ago or more.”
Wilder employed subtle traditional touches that appealed to the Roys, such as the oval leaded windows on the once-dark entry portico, while maintaining the integrity and appeal of modern design. “I love the feeling I have when I am designing a space straight from the heart as it relates to the people I am working with,” he says. “To infuse their spirit into the architecture is the ultimate expression of a kind of listening/designing. It brings life and longevity to the client’s appreciation of the project long after I have left.”
Sally Kline, a Washington-area arts and culture writer for 17 years, is a regular contributor to Home & Design. Photographer Paul Burk is based in Baltimore.
PROJECT DESIGN: Anthony Wilder. PROJECT ARCHITECT: Maria Fanjul. INTERIOR DESIGN: Kary Ewalt. PROJECT MANAGER: Robert Farrie, Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Inc., Cabin John, Maryland. LANDSCAPING: John Shorb Landscaping, Inc., Kensington, Maryland.
A series of paneled archways connects the main spaces
on the first floor. Pictured here is the view from the library
to the living room, the foyer and the dining room beyond.
The dining room opens to the new kitchen, which was
greatlyexpanded during the renovation.
The formal living room displays some of the most valued
collectibles the Roys amassed during a lifetime of travel
and living abroad. The paneled archway leading to the
library replaced regular square openings in the existing
The new design skillfully links interior spaces with the
landscape. The open and airy kitchen boasts a vaulted
ceiling, state-of-the-art appliances and unobstructed
views of the backyard.
The two-sided fireplace serves the kitchen as well as
the family room, which offers panoramic views of the
garden. The addition blends seamlessly onto the rear
of the home.
Unlike the original rear façade, the new design engages
with the surrounding landscape.
The new library boasts a bay window nook created
especially for the grand piano.