In the living room, a metal tapestry by John Garrett
dominates the wall opposite the sofa. Centered
over the fireplace is a circular clay piece by Mary
Roehm flanked by raku vessels by Gabrielle Koch. Collectors collect. Interior designer and art consultant extraordinaire Judy Weisman is frequently enmeshed in design work in which collections have expanded beyond available space. Her own home, a two-story Cape Cod in Chevy Chase, highlights her process as well as her philosophical viewpoint: Give art the respect and integrity it deserves and at the same time, create function and harmony without clutter.
For Weisman—and the majority of her clients—her collection is the primary focus, so she begins by installing the art. Ceramics, fiber and painting are all art, she explains, eschewing the typical boundaries delineating media hierarchy. “It is about the scale, the textural quality, the coloration and how the pieces relate to each other that interests me,” she says. Her cultivated eye searches for works with depth, more than what a cursory glance reveals. Many of her pieces will eventually wind up in museums.
In Weisman’s home, art dictates the color of the walls, the furnishings and everything to come. When she centered the large circular ceramic piece by Mary Roehm on a cream-hued wall over the living room fireplace, the resulting heavy black circle on a white wall was excessively dramatic. The contrast overwhelmed the neighboring raku pieces by Gabrielle Koch. “So here is this dominating piece fighting with his relatives—so to speak,” explains Weisman. By painting the walls a very soft green, the “deep, gritty look” of Roehm’s clay body begins speaking to those “relatives” linked by a similarity of hue that overcomes their contrast in texture. These modifications in wall color make “the eye settle well,” she says.
Other relatives have since joined the group; Gillian Lowndes’s horizontal works of wire, clay and found objects extend the assemblage beyond the fireplace. “From afar, the wall reads very placid; it looks like an installation of gray tones. But when you go up to it, you see it as a combination of ceramic forms, very edgy,” Weisman notes. “You want your eye to go on a journey.”
Although her home is not large and the ceilings are only eight feet high, she chooses large-scale works. Each makes a statement while revealing its depth over time.
From every seat in the living room, there is a dominant work, a focal point. A large, metal tapestry by John Garrett commands the wall opposite the sofa. The piece has a rhythm and a pattern, which “is why your eye isn’t unsettled when you look at it,” Weisman explains. A strong figurative Jean Pierre Larocque sculpture balances the tapestry opposite a captivating view into Weisman’s office.
Here, custom-designed studio furniture by Peter Pierobon dominates with the desk as the focal point. Weisman worked with the artist to furnish the space. Adding versatility, the high-back desk chair is a functional work of art on its own that Weisman uses as extra seating throughout her home. “Rotate,” she insists. “Feel free to move pieces from room to room, wherever they will work and function at the time.” It is her mantra to avoid clutter.
Among her newer pieces is the Jim Partridge black bench, a flexible piece that can be easily moved as needed. Now serving as a coffee table, it can also be placed in front of the fireplace for additional seating.
When Weisman moved into her home she lightened the random-width pegged floor. “In a sense, I wanted it to go away,” she says. She chose a sycamore dining table, “pretty much matching up the table with the light floor so it almost looks like it is floating in the space rather than making the eye stop to look at it.”
Yet, at times Weisman wants the eye to stop. The table comes alive with one of her many sets of handmade china and glassware stored in the family-room cabinets. “Usually, I set up my table days before I’ll have a dinner party because the table then becomes the art form—I love looking at it,” Weisman notes. For her, art is not just something to be displayed; it has to be lived with and used. “It comes alive; it is an important part of my everyday life,” she says.
Not every piece can be easily moved. In the dining room she placed the vessel by Philip Eglin on a pedestal with a turntable. Various colorful images decorate the piece. It is turned to suit the season, the table setting or just Weisman’s mood for the day. In the spring, as flowers begin to bloom in her garden, there is often a colorful vessel near a window blending the interior with the exterior for harmonious flow. A mother of three grown children and now a semi-empty nester—her dog Lucy maintains a prominent presence—Weisman is thinking of expanding her home with space for more art. She plans to grow the carefully curated collection that gives her so much pleasure and joy, one that she generously shares with friends and fellow appreciators, all of us among them.
Contributing editor Barbara Karth resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Lydia Cutter is a photographer in McLean, Virginia.
Interior Design: Judy Weisman, Judith Weisman Interiors, Chevy Chase, Maryland
Weisman collaborated with fiber artist JoAnne Russo in the
creation of the large vessel on the dining room cabinet. The
painting is by Sherry Zvares Sanabria and the candlesticks
are by Gary Magakis.
against a wall that was painted four times to achieve the
right color. The watercolor is by Wolf Kahn. The stack
tables and “Conoid” chair are the work of the late George
Fiber wall sculpture by Ritzi Jacobi and a large vessel by
Philip Eglin become the backdrop to the hand-thrown,
ceramic place settings by Ikuzi Teraki and Jeanne Bisson
of Romulus Craft. For Weisman, setting the table is an
extension of her art—both functional and livable.
Built-in cabinetry in the family room displays and stores a
substantial portion of Weisman’s collection. The Dail
Behennah Bowl with Black Center of scorched and
waxed willow reiterates the grid design of the coffee
table. The tall ceramic vase is by Kathy Erteman.