A few boxes already line the upstairs hall as the family of seven prepares to move. But the decidedly unfussy yet chic style of Mary Amons, known by many as the most genuinely real housewife of “The Real Housewives of DC,” still emanates from every room of the house she’s called home for the past 18 years.
Describing her style as “relaxed Ralph Lauren Colorado,” Amons gravitates to a neutral palette and layered textures that foster complementary pops of color. The home today is a far cry from the pink-mortared brick and stucco Dutch Colonial with a red sponge-painted kitchen that Amons first encountered when she began house hunting in the McLean neighborhood near where she grew up.
“I saw tremendous potential,” Amons says of the house, which she’d personalized to the point where all it needed was a landscaping facelift before she began filming the 2010 Bravo reality series. “My favorite house is Diane Keaton’s in the movie Something’s Gotta Give, and that’s what I wanted to recreate here.”
The first order of business was to neutralize the exterior—“There was just way too much going on,” she deadpans—by painting it a single calming color, and adding a front wing that houses a gracious entry, plus the dining and living rooms. She and her husband, wireless communications consultant Rich Amons, later undertook other additions, including finishing a large attic space to make an apartment for the oldest child living at home and adding an expansive flagstone patio that grounds the glassed-in sunroom and provides a perfect space for warm-weather entertaining.
An artist whose own paintings—as well as works by oldest daughter Lolly—adorn several rooms, Amons clearly understands the aesthetic of creating a unifying backdrop. The hardwood floors throughout the first floor are painted black (just like in the Keaton film), and all hard surfaces—from kitchen counters and backsplash to the vanities in all six bathrooms—are Carrara marble. Walls throughout the first floor soothe in Benjamin Moore’s White Dove and white orchids, Amons favorite flower, grace numerous tabletops.
“I heard the best piece of advice once, which is to design your house around the way you dress,” Amons says, gesturing to her black leggings, white t-shirt and black cardigan for emphasis. “I wear very little color.”
With her penchant for layering, Amons’s neutral palette is anything but cold. Just the right amount of decorative molding brings additional depth to several rooms, including the tray-ceilinged family room. It is adorned with a sisal rug and natural hides—another Amons favorite—on the floor and draped over the couch.
With three daughters and two sons to keep up with, Amons has deliberately avoided the trend of letting an oversized television dominate the family room. Instead, a recessed flat-screen rises from a Carrara counter at the touch of a button, and disappears just as seamlessly. The other common rooms are free of TVs and their accompanying gadgetry altogether.
“I didn’t want to give the kids too many options,” she says. “The heart of the home is the living area where we can sit and gather.”
In keeping with this mantra, Amons recently removed a large table and surrounding chairs from the kitchen, freeing the space to become another intimate seating area warmed by a wood-burning fireplace that more often than not is lit during the colder months. “This year has been particularly unified,” Amons says. “Our kids are always developing and changing and the dynamics around here are developing and changing with them. But I’m always all about family first.”
The living and dining rooms—-only a tinge more formal than the other rooms—reveal a combination of pieces the Amons family has collected over the years, complementary Baker furniture, and photographs and other family keepsakes. In a nod to her mother, who deplored window treatments, Amons left most of the windows on the first floor unadorned.
A flirtatious manifestation of her recent embrace of modern décor is a Cappellini chair covered in a Pucci swirl of gray, black and dusty rose that holds court in the living room. Together with the round marble-topped Minotti table, the pieces from DC’s Contemporaria hint at the design direction that Mary Amons’s next home may take. “I’ve definitely been more interested in modern lately,” she says.
Upstairs, the master suite is centered around an over-scaled wooden bed created by a family friend to maximize the view from the bedroom window.
Adjacent to the bedroom is the master bath, a luxurious sea of Carrara that also serves as the gateway to his and hers closets, the latter the site of the biometric lock Amons had installed that created a buzz on “Housewives.”
Although she says a number of factors find the family ready to take up a new residence—they were looking at a variety of properties at the time of our interview—it’s clear that Amons has mixed emotions about the impending move. “It’s bittersweet to leave; it’s hard to let go,” she says. “But I’m excited for changes and new opportunities.”
Amons’s career, too, is branching out in new directions. She’s purchased the rights to produce two films based on real-life stories with releases planned for late 2012 and is expanding Labels for Love (labelsforlove.org), the nonprofit she founded several years ago that stages fashion events to raise awareness and funding for women’s and children’s causes.
And of course the move provides a chance for Amons to continue down the path of modern design. “Let’s just say most of the upholstery will not be coming back the same,” she says. “I’m excited to decorate a new space.”
Cathy Applefeld Olson is based in Alexandria, Virginia. Stacy Zarin Goldberg is a photographer in Olney, Maryland.