The entrance hall centers on a pillow-strewn pouf under a glass-framed light well.
The daughter's room centers on a Julia Gray four-poster bed under an Ironies light fixture.
A painting from  Bethesda's Kaller Fine Arts hangs over an antique cabinet in the mudroom.
The kitchen incorporates a dining space; Stuart Kitchens designed the cabinets and limestone-topped island.
The homeowners' collection of jadeite is  displayed at the far end of the gallery.
The dining room features Venetian plaster walls and a mix of antique and new seating.
The homeowners' golden retriever sits in the garden room painted with leaves and branches by Fine Art Finishes.
The son's room is furnished with a drafting table from Restoration Hardware.
The bed and adjacent side chairs are covered in the same fabric from Raoul Textiles.
In the pool house, transparent stools by Philippe Starck for Kartell keep the space feeling open.

Style + Substance

A team of designers creates an elegant yet playful home for a young family

Style + Substance MARCH/APRIL 2011

The husband prefers traditional décor, the wife gravitates to contemporary and their young children like to play on whatever’s in front of them. “My kids use this as a trampoline,” says the wife, pointing to the custom-designed pouf in the large foyer of the family’s Bethesda home. The entrance hall introduces the couple’s divergent tastes—and child-friendly touches—in grand style. The Victorian seat, durably upholstered to withstand little jumping feet, rests under a large, round opening in the ceiling encircled by a glass balustrade fastened with stainless-steel bolts. Visible through the aperture is the upper floor’s barrel-vaulted ceiling and a crystal chandelier sparkling in the light from a Palladian window.

This unexpected juxtaposition of architectural elements well represents the eclectic design throughout the spacious, three-level house. Created by Bethesda interior designer Marci Brand and her Washington, DC, colleague Christina Dutton, the décor combines elegant furnishings, classical architectural trim and contemporary art set against hand-decorated walls. “This is a house built on the details,” says Brand. “We kept layering and layering to give substance to the rooms.”

The designers’ work began before local builder Monroe Development completed the construction so each space could be customized to its particular purpose. From the basement home theater and putting green to the second-floor exercise room and children’s library to the garages housing a collection of sports cars, the expansive house caters to the habits of each family member. “We use every room in the house,” says the wife. “Everything here is purposeful. We take advantage of all the spaces we’ve created.”

Meeting the homeowners’ needs took a village of architects, designers, builders and craftspeople to ensure all the components came together. To finish the walls alone, six firms were hired to create wood paneling and moldings, stenciled floral patterns, decorative painting and Venetian plasterwork. Their handcrafted treatments soften the hard edges of the rooms with color and texture while making the new construction look aged.

Brand led the interior design effort, enlisting Dutton and DC designer Sara Magovern Leahy as the scope of the project grew larger. “It was a team effort on every level,” says Brand. She and the homeowner frequently scoured showrooms in Atlanta and New York and also searched for designs locally. The wife was an active participant in the process, buying Art Deco pieces at the Paris flea market and encaustic paintings from galleries in Manhattan and Bethesda.

“The house is a great reflection of her personality,” says Dutton. “It’s young, fresh, very stylish.” Evident throughout the interiors are the homeowner’s favorite green hues along with complementary reddish tones to create a consistent color palette from room to room. “I love the way the house flows,” says the husband, a corporate executive. “It feels relaxed and comfortable.”

Opening to a center hall, the house has no grand stairway. “We wanted to be able to use the foyer for entertaining so we moved the staircases to the sides,” says the wife, who has held a baby shower in the space. Behind the foyer, a long gallery extends crosswise to separate the more formal living and dining spaces at the front from the more casual kitchen, family room and office at the back. It leads from a mudroom off a side entrance to the master bedroom suite at the other end of the house. 

While the rooms feature traditional moldings and wainscoting, Brand and her team injected a more modern feeling with judiciously placed furniture and contemporary artwork. “I don’t like fussy,” says the wife. “I wanted the house to feel elegant but still livable.” 

In the living room, a custom sofa and a Donghia chaise in soothing beige flank an oval glass coffee table. Punctuating the simple arrangement is a custom pendant light with a curvy silk shade shaped like an Alvar Aalto vase. The elegant space isn’t just for company, but is used by the children who practice on the Steinway piano in one corner. 

After school, the kids congregate at the back of the house to do their homework on a custom banquette pulled up to the oval kitchen table. Next door, the family room centers on a double sofa covered in a tough-wearing fabric. “We paid a lot of attention to durability because of the young children. We became the queens of pleather,” says Brand, pointing to a faux leather cushion on an antique Swedish bench in the gallery.

Upstairs, the couple’s children have the run of their own domain. Along with their bedrooms, they make use of a circular library lined with children’s books, a play space and a craft room. Whimsical fixtures and vivid colors clearly differentiate this part of the house as a kids’ zone.

The first-floor master suite, in comparison, is subdued and calm. At the foot of the bed, a seating area extends in front of a fireplace framed by a French wedding mantel. Mirrors on the bed and low tables reflect light from tall windows and French doors opening onto a balcony overlooking the swimming pool. “Why look at a wall when you can have the view?” rhetorically asks the husband.

In summer, the family heads to the pool through a garden room painted with leaves and branches. A pavilion next to the water provides a place to change, shower and hang out. Inside the small building, the interior bursts with contemporary style in bright splashes of turquoise. “The owners wanted the open feeling of today,” says Brand. “It needed to be clean and simple.” 

From a built-in bench and cubbies in the entranceway, the pool house opens to a sitting room with an L-shaped sofa and a kitchenette. Transparent stools, chairs, coffee table and light fixtures made of Lucite almost disappear to make the space feel bigger. At the end of the room nearest the pool, a folding glass wall completely opens the interior to the outdoors.

Brand says the decision to jettison traditional design in the pool house came as a result of gaining the confidence of the homeowners over time. “Marci understood it was our house and responded to us, rather than pulling out a signature style,” says the wife. “That made working with her very easy.” 

Frequent Home & Design contributor Deborah K. Dietsch is based in Washington, DC. Stacy Zarin Goldberg is a photographer in Olney, Maryland. 

INTERIOR DESIGN: MARCI BRAND, CHRISTINA DUTTON and SARA MAGOVERN LEAHY, design associate, Marci Brand Interiors, Bethesda, Maryland. ARCHITECTURE: THEODORE L. OLDHAM, principal architect, Theodore L. Oldham, Architect, Portland, Maine; JAMES LYONS, AIA, consulting architect, Lyons Architecture, Silver Spring, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: GRIFF GOSNELL and JEFF HANES, superintendent, Monroe Development, Vienna, Virginia. 


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