An Airy Refuge

An Airy Refuge
Two decades ago, Alan and Sherry Ansher purchased a new home right next to the Avenel golf course in Potomac, Maryland, never imagining the proximity would pose a problem. “We do not play golf but we really enjoy the view of the course,” says Sherry Ansher, a biochemist who works at the National Cancer Institute.

Soon after moving in, she and her physician husband discovered the dangers of being so close to the 14th hole. Golf balls driven by less skilled players routinely hit their house, breaking skylights and windows. That led the Anshers to remodel their back porch so they wouldn’t have to worry about the hazards of the missed shots. “Since we needed to redo it, I thought, ‘Why not put in a screened porch,’” Sherry Ansher says.

To create the new structure, the homeowners hired Anthony Wilder Design Build of Bethesda—and soon their plans grew. Wilder convinced the couple that the family room off the kitchen could be expanded into a commodious place to enjoy nature in all its seasons. “The challenge was to open the room to the view while protecting the windows from golf balls,” he says.

Wilder and architect Marian Mitchell began the project by razing the room’s rear wall with its fireplace and glass doors. They replaced the masonry chimney with two pillars framing a glass-fronted gas fireplace to expose views of the outdoors from inside both the family room and kitchen.

At the perimeter of the 28-foot-wide space, an angled wall of floor-to-ceiling windows provides an impressive panorama of the golf course. Mesh screens on the exterior face of the glass can be automatically raised and lowered to protect the surface from flying balls.

“We use the room for weekend breakfasts, when we grill or when we have company,” says Ansher.

“It is not as formal as the dining room and not as informal as the kitchen.” In one corner, a bar with maple cabinets and a granite countertop allows easy access to drinks and glasses.

More recently, the couple tapped Wilder and his team to add a new master bathroom on the second floor. “We wanted to see the golf course like we did downstairs,” says Ansher.

For Wilder and his team, this addition proved to be a tougher assignment than the family room. “We practically had to do brain surgery with the space because the first-floor porch wasn’t built to support a second story,” he explains. The solution was to beef up the structure by inserting new steel posts into the existing porch columns and extending them below the deck to be anchored into the ground.

Next to the addition, the existing master bath was turned into a spacious walk-in closet and a series of smaller spaces—a toilet room, a linen closet and a pantry with a coffeemaker and a wine cooler.

“I designed the closet to be luxurious because there are no doors closing it off and I didn’t want you to see a million shoe boxes as you walked by,” says Potomac interior designer Joanne Goldberg, who has helped the couple to furnish the home with a mix of contemporary pieces. Goldberg concealed clutter behind etched glass doors and a center island incorporating a clothes hamper.

Extending alongside the closet, a hallway now connects the master bedroom to the new bathroom at the rear. Daylight streams into the corridor from the addition and illuminates the closet through clerestory windows.

Far more than a place to bathe and brush teeth, the new bathroom is a spacious, airy refuge from workday stresses. A glass-enclosed shower and a whirlpool tub are big enough for two, while a pair of dark-stained wooden vanities supplies separate sinks and storage space for both husband and wife.

Large, light-colored tiles lining the floors and walls, and cream-colored marble countertops on the vanities reinforce the feeling of a spa. Stripes composed of oval tiles wash the shower and bathtub walls in patterns recalling water droplets.

Stretching along the 21-foot-wide space are tall windows opening the entire room to the landscape. “The small panes near the floors were supposed to be on top,” explains Wilder, “but the clients were upset they might ruin the view so we left them at the bottom.”

While many homeowners might have been tempted to install curtains for privacy, the Anshers prefer the windows to remain unadorned. Blinds integrated into the panes can be raised to shield the room from onlookers. “We stood outside to adjust the heights of the shades so no one can see in,” says Sherry Ansher.

During the project, Wilder’s team often met with the couple on a flat section of roof next to the addition to discuss the progress of the construction. “We would stand there and look out to the beautiful view,” recalls Ansher. “That led to the idea of a deck, so we put one in.”

A narrow door next to the shower opens to the aerie, now furnished with a pair of chaises. At sunset, Ansher says, “It’s a great place to relax and have a glass of wine before we go out.” And watch the last golfer leave the course.

Washington DC-based Deborah K. Dietsch is author of Live/Work: Working at Home, Living at Work.

ARCHITECT: Marian Mitchell, AIA; Designer: Anthony Wilder; PROJECT MANAGER: Rob Farie, Jr.; Lead Carpenter: Tom Notto, Anthony Wilder Design Build, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland.