Home & Design

Spare + Serene

Architect Mark McInturff transforms a 1961 Georgian-style home into a decidedly modern masterpiece

Spare + Serene MARCH/APRIL 2010

According to one of the homeowners, it all started in 1989 when her husband wanted a work shed. What ensued was a 20-year-long project during which architect Mark McInturff, FAIA, transformed their dark 1961 Georgian-style home into an open, light-filled modern masterpiece. While it did take two decades, in the fourth and final phase the client and his wife finally got their work shed—plus a few extras including a meditation room, greenhouse, poolhouse, media room and massage room.

During the 20-year span, the owners’ children grew from toddlers to young adults while their house deviated very little from the original, 3-D model McInturff created in the late ’80s. “What we got was shockingly similar in layout to what we actually planned,” McInturff says, reflecting on the project, which doubled the size of the 5,000-square-foot home set on two wooded acres in Potomac.

First, he and his team designed a new garage with a study space above it on the east side of the home; the former garage became a family room while a patio was enclosed to create a sunroom. Then they designed the pool house. “In 2006, we leapt to the other end of the building and did the master suite pavilion, almost a separate building,” says McInturff. “We left the center untouched—until 2008.”

Throughout the project, McInturff honed in on a “spareness in detailing” to reflect his client’s fascination with Asian design. Natural wood, limestone floors and slatted screens handcrafted from Douglas fir subtly delineate transitions from one room to another. “The screens give a layered effect where you see through them but they also define space, creating the ability to have a big space and a little space at the same time,” McInturff explains. “We were trying to get the whole house to speak in one voice. The wife has a strong interest, intellectual and otherwise, in Asia. So there’s a feeling that goes with that. A sense of mystery. Calmness. Serenity.”

For McInturff, the master suite, which encompasses three levels and took nearly two years to build, was the most challenging part of the four-phase project. From the home’s main foyer, a greenhouse leads to this pavilion housing a massage room, steam room and gym on the lower level; a bedroom and bathroom on the main level; and a serene meditation room on the top level. A centerpiece in the pavilion is the two-ton solid limestone bathtub that the homeowners found in London.

The design’s minimalist approach is expressed beautifully in the master bedroom, which has “a Swiss watch quality,” McInturff says. “Everything is visible. There is nowhere to hide mistakes. Every board had to be to the highest par.” The bed, side tables and backboard were designed to offset the 16-foot ceiling, and “bring the room down,” says McInturff, “creating a cozy, defined space in a room with quite a high ceiling.”

By 2008, the homeowners were ready to tackle the untouched middle section of the house. They wanted to blend the formal and informal spaces—including the living room, dining room, library, family room and kitchen—into a seamless and cohesive whole. McInturff and his team created a new foyer topped by a soaring skylight and removed the walls dividing the living spaces to create a sense of openness. Transitions between rooms are gracefully defined by wooden screens, which echo the motif established in the bedroom pavilion.

The homeowners turned to designer Guillaume de Decker of Roche Bobois to help them furnish the living room, library, family room and sunroom. de Decker proposed a comfortable yet elegant combination of low, unimposing pieces that would complement the modern architecture and create comfortable environments for entertaining.

In the family room, de Decker divided the space into “a TV zone and a zone turned to the outside where one could enjoy nature while having a cup of tea,” he says. “The harmony of colors ties the two sections together and makes them look like they belong with each other. The space is not overcrowded and still very inviting for larger crowds.”

It’s hard for McInturff to step away from this two-decade-long project and he leaves a part of himself in the home. “All the projects I do are modern or contemporary in spirit, but they are all very different because I work for different people and I feed off of what their lives are about,” he says. “A number of times I have worked with a client over many years and then the last thing you do is the final brush stroke.”

Freelance writer Cari Shane Parven, a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, is author of  Finding Friendship at Forty.

ARCHITECTURE: Mark McInturff, FAIA, McInturff Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. INTERIOR DESIGN: Guillaume de Decker, Roche Bobois, Washington, DC. RENOVATION CONTRACTOR: Ron Isinghood, Timber Ridge Builders. BEDROOM PAVILION, PROJECT ARCHITECT: David Mogensen, McInturff Architects.

*Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home design and building/remodeling features. Wonderful visuals of custom homes and eco-friendly resources are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design and remodeling projects to life.

You may also like:

Home Tech -- Gadgets Galore
The 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas unveiled a dizzying array of gizmos and gadgets exhibiting the latest in home technology
Bazaar--In Vogue
A spotlight on the industry's newest trends in furniture and accessories
Elements of Style
Designer David H. Mitchell masterfully combines art, antiques and modern pieces in media maven Gloria Dittus's Kalorama home
HOME&DESIGN, published bi-monthly by Homestyles Media Inc., is the premier magazine of architecture and fine interiors for the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia region.

The company also publishes an annual H&D Sourcebook of ideas and resources for homeowners and professionals alike. H&D Chesapeake Views is published bi-annually and showcases fine home design and luxury living in and around the Chesapeake Bay.

The H&D Portfolio of 100 Top Designers spotlights the superior work of selected architects, interior designers and landscape architects in major regions of the US.

Stay Connected with HOME & DESIGN Newsletter

Copyright © 2023 Home & Design. All rights reserved. | Back to top