A heavy plate-bronze front door provides a commanding entrance to the residence.
The dining room is dominated by a French walnut dining table that matches the built-in sideboard.
The family room flows into the kitchen where the cabinetry has been refaced in teak.
The living room showcases an asymmetrical limestone-clad fireplace and a wall of windows framed in teak.
BEFORE: The front hallway prior to the renovation.
In the master bath, limestone sinks, plate-bronze countertops and stone flooring create an elegant, streamlined space.
The master bedroom boasts a bedstead and built-in night stands designed by David Jameson.
BEFORE: The dining room prior to the renovation.

Serene Sensibility

In the hands of architect David Jameson, a traditional Potomac home becomes a modern oasis of calm

Serene Sensibility NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010

Like many renovations, it started with something small. After 23 years, homeowners Cathy Simon and David Kuney had tired of their master bath, which sported an ’80s-era skylight that, as Simon puts it, “made the room feel like a sauna.” The couple contacted architect David Jameson, whose vision of a sleek, modern bath soon spilled over to encompass the adjoining closet, home office and master bedroom. As the detritus of years of day-to-day living melted away behind carefully planned storage built-ins and a new streamlined environment, the owners were smitten. “When I came upstairs,” Simon recalls, “my blood pressure went down.” The couple, both attorneys, decided they wanted to establish that sense of calm and serenity throughout their home. 


Five years later, the entire residence has been transformed into a spare, minimalist space full of subtle, deceptively simple, modern architectural elements that work together to form a cohesive whole. “The house is curated with just three or four materials,” Jameson says. He followed the design blueprint he established in the master suite, incorporating teak paneling on walls and ceilings, plate-bronze surfaces and expansive unfilled travertine fireplace surrounds into the rest of the house. 


Jameson’s repetition of materials brings unity to the home, which at nearly 6,000 square feet felt disjointed prior to the renovation. “The project was about taking an existing home and repositioning the way the rooms are experienced,” the architect explains.


The number of rooms hasn’t changed—in fact, the footprint for the house remains exactly the same—but their configuration and orientation has. Jameson opened up some walls and closed off others, creating what he calls “a front-to-back relationship with rooms flowing together,” so sight lines are open from one end of the house to the other. He replaced rows of traditional windows with “window walls”—separate windows banked together without trim that reach from the floor up to the headers near the ceiling. The window banks are framed in teak to make each one look like a single, solid structure. 


The finished spaces are a perfect complement to the couple’s modern art collection—large abstract canvases that draw the eye throughout the house. The front entry, with a massive plate-bronze door and ceiling, opens into a spacious hallway that is empty of everything but artwork; bearing walls that couldn’t be moved have been widened to resemble art installations. The teak paneling, which includes quarter-inch reveals between panels, figures prominently on the walls and ceiling and flanks the stairwell at the end of the room.


To the left of the entry, David Kuney’s study offers a panoramic view of the front yard. The same warm, honey-colored teak paneling conceals shelves and cabinets. Also to the left, the living room showcases the first of five fireplaces in the home clad in unfilled travertine. The other side of the hallway opens into the dining room, with a square French walnut dining table and a matching sideboard that cantilevers out from the wall—both designed by Jameson.


An expansive family room/kitchen appears beyond the dining room. The kitchen’s layout hasn’t changed, but the cabinetry has been refaced with custom-designed teak and there is now one large-scale island where there used to be two. The counters are a honed gray schist called Pietro Cardoso, and the backsplash is acid-etched ceramic fritted glass, which includes a layer of enamel painted on the back for durability. 


The skylight in their bathroom was not the only one the couple had grown to dislike over the years. They requested that Jameson get rid of the others—one in the kitchen and one in the family room above a casual eating area. The architect designed floating ceilings that hang below each skylight to block the sun and heat while still allowing indirect light to filter into the room.


Stair rails were replaced by tempered glass with delicate handrails of plate bronze. The upstairs master suite is entirely carpeted with custom-made felted wool from New Zealand, while Simon’s home office, the walk-in closet and the bedroom all boast teak cabinetry. 


In the master bathroom where it all started, Jameson has created a haven of tranquility, with shallow custom limestone sink basins, a limestone soaking tub and plate-bronze countertops. The roomy shower stall has a five-foot-wide pivoting door and a floor made of Inca stone—one piece of which is cleverly raised to allow water to drain around it. The architect also added state-of-the-art elements, including a wall of windows made of ionized electronic glass that becomes frosted for privacy at the touch of a button; walls on each side of the room are made of opaque glass with light fixtures behind them that cast a softened glow on the room. Each includes a mirror as part of the glass expanse.


The home’s new streamlined approach perfectly reflects the couple’s aesthetic. “When we started this, David asked us how we live our days,” Cathy Simon recalls. “All of this evolved from his knowing that.” She pauses. “We love to be here. This house is us.” 


Paul Warchol is a photographer based in New York City. 


ARCHITECTURE: DAVID JAMESON, FAIA, David Jameson Architect, Alexandria, Virginia. CONTRACTOR: MIKE MADDEN; JOHN PAGE, project superintendent:, Madden Corporation, Rockville, Maryland.

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