For CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, decorating is all about capturing her memories. “I put things around my house from places I’ve been or from a person I love,” she says on a tour of her Bethesda home.
Artfully arranged throughout her overhauled 1950s rambler are souvenirs collected on trips covering politicians as well as treasured family heirlooms. Nearly every eclectic item elicits a story from Crowley, who bought the house in 1993, six years after moving from NBC to CNN.
Pointing to the terracotta statues of soldiers in her dining and living rooms, she explains, “I saw the originals on a China trip I took with [President Ronald] Reagan. I bought the fake ones on a trip to China with [President Bill] Clinton.” On the living-room mantelpiece, a quirky red pitcher purchased in South Carolina during the 2000 presidential primary “was carried around for weeks.”
The ornate Asian screen next to the fireplace was passed down from her grandparents and an antique trunk came from her great-grandmother. Crowley’s brother Howard Alt, who is in the furniture business, directed her purchase of leather club chairs in the family room and a toile-upholstered settee in the living room.“There isn’t a place in my house where I can’t remember someone or somewhere,” says the reporter.
The divorced mother of sons Jonathan and Webster, Crowley waited to renovate until her kids had graduated from college and were on their own. Seven years ago, she enlarged her bedroom into a spacious master suite, remodeled the foyer and updated the dining room with a new roof, marble floors and bigger windows. The kitchen was expanded in 2008 “when Hillary Clinton was conceding.” (Crowley won a prestigious Gracie Allen Award this year for her coverage of Clinton’s bid for the White House.)
Renovations continue outdoors where a flat patch of grass in the backyard has been transformed into a luxuriant garden. In designing the narrow space, Tom Mannion of Tom Mannion Landscape Design in Arlington, Virginia, took his inspiration from Crowley’s reporting trips during the 2000 presidential election. “She spent a lot of time in Florida and she really liked the tropical gardens there,” recalls Mannion. “So we introduced lush foliage and summer annuals that have a tropical edge.”
Crowley’s fond memories of growing up in St. Louis also played a role. “I used to plant rose bushes with my father, so we planted one here,” she says. Extending across the garden, a 40-by-8-foot lap pool is designed “to look like an ornamental canal,” says Mannion. “It had to be beautiful year-round because the yard is so small and it’s visible from everywhere.” Instead of lining the basin with shiny tiles, he extended the pebble finish right up to the limestone coping to create the look of a mirror in nature.
Set within a retaining wall alongside the pool is a fountain inscribed with the yin-yang symbol to reflect Crowley’s interest in Asian design. Dahlias, sweet potato vines and elephant ears spill over the wall to soften the stonework with color and texture.
In the corner of the yard, Mannion took advantage of an existing slope to insert a raised terrace where Crowley retreats on her days off from work. A teak table and chairs on the flagstone patio between the house and pool provide a tranquil dining spot within earshot of the gurgling fountain.
This outdoor space is easily reached through sliding doors opening from the kitchen. To update the cooking space, Crowley called upon Hemingway Home Improvement’s Scott Churilla, a childhood friend of her son Jonathan, and Studio Z Design Concepts, both of Bethesda.
“We tried to give her a look that exemplifies her style, which mixes modern, Asian and collected pieces from around the world,” says Churilla.
Handsomely remodeled with dark-stained wood cabinets, granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances, the kitchen opens to the dining room where a wall of windows provides views of the garden and pool fountain.
Crowley says her favorite room is her corner bedroom where the walls are painted in what she calls “Dick Gephardt blue,” named for the former Missouri congressman and leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. “His office was so gorgeous and had this color on the wall so I copied it,” she recalls.
In the adjacent bathroom, the shower and soaking tub are decorated with purple mosaic tiles, some seemingly placed at random. “I don’t like stuff that’s too planned or neat,” says Crowley. “If it makes me happy, I put it there. What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s okay to be your own stylist.”
Washington, DC-based Deborah K. Dietsch is the author of Live/Work: Working at Home, Living at Work. Bob Narod is based in Herndon, Virginia.