Even a penthouse in the Ritz Carlton can offer its share of shortcomings. For Matthew and Julie Hagen, it was standard-grade finishes that diminished the quality of their new home—a fact they luckily realized while the space was still under construction. They called a halt to the proceedings and hired interior designer Lisa Bartolomei to complete the job with a more sophisticated aesthetic in mind. “We wanted our home to be both elegant and comfortable,” says Matt Hagen, whose company manufactures and distributes building products. “We had a specific vision and opinions. Lisa gave us exactly what we had envisioned and more.”
To achieve the couple’s goals, Bartolomei tapped a long-time colleague, architect Ernesto Santalla, for help with the interior architecture. “It was a shell,” Santalla recalls of the original space. “We worked with the client to design the floor plan, built-ins, ceilings and bathrooms. This project offered the utmost in customization."
After consulting with the Hagens, Bartolomei devised a plan that would combine Art Deco and Asian influences to create a clean-lined, modern look throughout the home. Art Deco and Asian furnishings are interspersed with custom pieces—most designed by Bartolomei herself. The couple “appreciated fine detailing and finishes,” the designer says. “They wanted it to be luxurious.”
Visitors now enter the apartment through an elegant foyer lined with mirrored and bronze panels on one side and hand-screened, upholstered silk on the other. A macassar ebony cabinet with goatskin doors designed by Bartolomei makes a bold statement.
Adjoining the entry is the “grand foyer,” a lavishly appointed room paneled in lush, English sycamore with a dropped ceiling painted in 24-karat gold leaf. A custom macassar table and an oversized chandelier of bronze and mica anchor the room. “They wanted a public space,” explains Bartolomei, who built a model of the chandelier out of foam core to determine its size and shape.
Visible beyond the foyer, the living room’s panoramic, fourth-floor vistas bring the Potomac into dramatically close proximity. Though it would be tough to compete with that view, the designers created another focal point with a fireplace flanked by English sycamore built-ins; a Chinese red onyx mantel and surround perfectly blend with the woodwork. “It had to be rich and strong enough to work with the sycamore,” Bartolomei says. Above the mantel, a wide wood panel displays a large encaustic painting; the panel slides over to reveal a flat screen TV that is otherwise completely hidden.
As Matt Hagen recalls, the selection of living room and dining room floors jump-started the entire project. “I wanted a very unique floor that had movement, color and texture to it,” he says. They chose wide-plank rosewood—which took nine months to arrive because the shipment got caught in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. “Matt said they were worth waiting for,” Bartolomei says. “Nothing else looks like rosewood.”
A wide doorway between the dining and living rooms was replaced with a center wall and openings to either side that “create a new flow and a sense of intimacy in the dining room,” says Bartolomei. In addition to a macassar ebony pedestal dining table and faux shagreen leather chairs, the dining room is home to two favorite pieces: a tall, red Chinese wedding chest and an African fertility gate that Bartolomei acquired at auction. A wall of lacquered panels at one end of room conceals the door to the modern kitchen, which houses Poggenpohl cabinetry made of wenge and sand-blasted glass.
Throughout the apartment, Ernesto Santalla designed the ceilings to feature different types of lighting and to generate visual interest. “We tend to locate everything within reach,” he explains. “We often neglect the ceiling plane.” Santalla worked with lighting designer Wayne Hinson to integrate the ceiling details with the lighting plan.
One-of-a-kind finishes and furnishings abound in every room of the home. The office, converted from one of the penthouse’s three bedrooms, contains a custom zebra wood desk, while paneling and built-ins in African movingui wood create a serene and polished vibe. The powder room boasts a sink console and back wall made entirely of onyx; a stucco faux finish covers the rest of the walls. The guest room walls are upholstered in silk and an eight-and-a-half-foot tall upholstered headboard is recessed into the wall. The guest bath is surfaced in slabs of Botticino marble.
While a palette of browns and oranges prevails throughout much of the apartment, the master bedroom is a study in white: plush carpeting (requiring a no-shoes policy) complements an ultrasuede upholstered wall and headboard, bedding, club chairs and a leather-wrapped dresser. In the center of the rectangular room, a custom white-lacquered chest designed by Bartolomei offers drawers for storage on one side while on the other it conceals a flat-screen TV that can be raised for viewing from the bed. Art Deco occasional pieces in dark wood punctuate the expanse, and rosewood paneled closets with goatskin parchment fronts flank one wall. The spacious master bath is clad entirely in heavily veined Porto st. Laurent marble.
The Hagens are “ecstatic” with their elegant and luxurious home, and both Bartolomei and Santalla attribute the project’s success to their creative collaboration. As Bartolomei says, “You get a better result when you put your strengths together.”
Photographer Geoffrey Hodgdon is based in Deale, Maryland.
INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE: ERNESTO M. SANTALLA, AIA, LEED AP, Studio Santalla, Inc., Washington, DC. INTERIOR DESIGN: LISA BARTOLOMEI, Bartolomei & Co., Washington, DC. CONTRACTOR: Horizon Builders, Crofton, Maryland.