If Kate Bolduan had her way, her five-bedroom house would be decorated entirely in neutrals. “I would have done every room in gray, putty and raw wood,” she admits. Fortunately, the CNN congressional correspondent had the practical sense to hire Georgetown architect Jerry Harpole to remodel the home in the District’s Foxhall neighborhood and expand the palette. “He brought me out of my comfort zone,” says Bolduan, pointing to the red Murano glass lamps and illuminated bar sign in her living room.
Harpole renovated the 1952 dwelling less than a year after it was purchased in 2010 by Bolduan and her husband Michael Gershenson, a real estate investor at The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm. “We had enough time between when we bought the house and renovated to know what worked and what didn’t,” says Bolduan. The couple decided to completely overhaul the outdated kitchen and rejuvenate the living and dining rooms with new furnishings, lighting and paint to reflect their contemporary tastes.
Embracing Bolduan’s favorite putty color as a starting point, Harpole created a low-key backdrop of neutral furniture and finishes, and spiced them up with vibrant artwork and unusual accessories. “The house is traditional but the homeowners aren’t. They wanted something simple, elegant and fresh,” says Harpole. “Our goal was to create a sophisticated retreat for them, a place they could go after busy days at their high-profile jobs.”
No stranger to design, Bolduan worked at House & Garden magazine as an editorial intern during her student days at George Washington University. “That experience opened me up to the world of decorating styles,” says the Indiana native. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Bolduan joined NBC to work as a production assistant in the network’s Washington, DC, bureau. Her first on-air job was at a local television station in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I was a local reporter covering anything and everything,” she says. “One of the major stories I was involved with was the Duke University lacrosse scandal.”
Bolduan joined CNN in 2007 as a national correspondent for CNN Newsource. She covered the 2008 Presidential election and a wide range of news stories, from the Minneapolis bridge collapse to landings of the retiring NASA space shuttle fleet. As CNN’s congressional correspondent, Bolduan now reports on Capitol Hill’s hot-button issues and biggest names on a regular basis. She snagged exclusive interviews with President Barack Obama’s first stimulus plan watchdog, Earl Devaney, and Speaker of the House John Boehner following the final vote on the U.S. debt ceiling agreement.
In her own house, the CNN correspondent says she wanted “a nod to the modern and a nod to the classic” and made comfort a top priority. “We wanted a home where you aren’t afraid to sit on the sofa,” she says.
In the living room, the Room & Board sectional is upholstered in suede-like microfiber and strewn with brightly patterned pillows. Far more unexpected are the coffee table, which is fashioned from a teak tree trunk, and side tables made from polished aluminum, clear acrylic and faux animal horn. Pale armchairs are pulled up to a cowhide rug and a colorful photo of a diver by Debby Hymowitz hangs over the sofa. “The idea was to create an interesting collection of pieces that look like they might have been gathered over time,” says Harpole.
Since the house has no family room, the living area serves as a casual place to relax, entertain and watch the TV mounted over the fireplace. One end of the space opens to a screened porch that provides a tranquil getaway for dining and hanging out in spring weather. “Our work lives are so intense; we wanted our home to be calm and peaceful,” says Bolduan.
The couple often unwinds after work in the kitchen, where stained cherry cabinets and CaesarStone countertops evidence Bolduan’s beloved neutral shades. Stainless-steel appliances and glass-tile backsplash lighten the earth tones with shiny and light-reflective surfaces.
At the room’s center, a nearly eight-foot-long island is encircled by a continuous strip of electrical outlets for easy plug-ins of coffeemaker, mixer and other gadgets. Custom cabinets extend to the adjacent breakfast room where a window was covered over to create a beverage center with pull-out refrigerator drawers and a wine cooler.
Another simple but transformative move was to enlarge the doorway between the kitchen and dining room. “It really connected the two spaces so now we eat in the dining room all the time,” says Bolduan. The large wooden dining table can be fitted with several leaves for holiday dinners and velvet-upholstered chairs brought in from the living room to accommodate extra guests.
A small room off the entrance foyer now serves as a cozy office for the couple. A large wooden desk provides enough work space for two and an acrylic wingback chair set on a zebra-patterned rug extends the playful mood from the nearby living room.
Given her unpredictable work schedule, Bolduan reviewed and selected many of the furnishings from photos on her Blackberry in between live shots on CNN. “I like decorating as you go,” she says.
Throughout the house, high-end designs are mixed with affordable pieces purchased online from familiar retailers, including Home Decorators, Restoration Hardware and West Elm. Harpole added custom touches, such as a leather border around the living room’s woven sea grass rug, to make some of the furnishings more unique.
Next on the homeowners’ agenda is the renovation of the second floor. Bolduan says she will extend the look of the main level up to the master suite and guest bedrooms. As she explains, “Neutrals and pops of color will be used to achieve a balance of calm and comfort with a little bit of drama.”
Deborah K. Dietsch is a frequent contributor to Home & Design. Bob Narod is a photographer in Herndon, Virginia.
RENOVATION DESIGN & INTERIORS: JERRY HARPOLE, Harpole Architects, Washington, DC. RENOVATION CONSTRUCTION: STAN SLUGA, Recon Construction, Fairfield, Pennsylvania.