PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALAIN JARAMILLO
“Creative and contemporary” is the way interior designer Michael Winegrad describes his work. His family home in Bethesda reflects this approach in pared-down, open spaces accented by built-in cabinetry, tall windows and a notable collection of artwork.
The main level has no living room but centers on an interconnected kitchen/family room where the designer, his wife Roz and their 11-year-old son Aaron spend most of their time. “I wanted to design a house that was more like us,” says Winegrad. “It has less space than our previous house but better quality space.”
The family used to live in a more traditional home in Darnestown, but decided to move closer to the city so Roz, an executive with Marriott International, could reach the airports more easily for business travel. In 2010, they bought a Cape Cod near the C & O Canal in Bethesda, “knowing we would demolish the house,” says the designer. The couple then enlisted Chadsworth Homes of Rockville to replace the older structure with a new dwelling that Winegrad tailored to the property.
“Even though the house is contemporary, I wanted it to feel in harmony with its place,” the designer says. The steep slope of the site proved challenging, requiring dry wells to dissipate storm water and concrete retaining walls to buttress the hillside.
The dwelling negotiates the grade, with the front extending from the lowest point of the slope so that it encompasses three stories. Winegrad runs his firm from an office on the lowest level of the house that is reached from a separate entrance off the driveway. At the back, the home rises to two stories along the terraced, upper side of the hill. A narrow garden, lined with greenery, centers on Adirondack chairs grouped around a fire pit.
“I designed the house from the inside out, not the outside in,” Winegrad says. “I laid out every room so it works well and allows a place for artwork.” To prevent strong sunlight from fading the modern and contemporary art displayed throughout the home, he eliminated windows from the east and west ends. Large areas of glass—minus draperies and shades—are strategically placed on the front and back to direct light into specific areas and capture views. “I didn’t want the spaces to feel cold, so the colors are soft,” says Winegrad, pointing to gray wall paint and taupe upholstery fabrics.
While the color palette is neutral, the finishes and fabrics are varied in texture and the artwork is strategically placed throughout the house. A brightly patterned silkscreen by Frank Stella hangs at the top of the stairs and a graphic work by Louise Nevelson fits between built-in shelving in the dining room. The well-crafted cabinets throughout the house were designed by Winegrad and custom-built by Ronald Hostetter of Little Cove Furniture in Smithsburg, Maryland.
The main level is treated as one big room where separate functions are defined by cabinetry and furniture rather than walls. “I like the openness in the house, the feeling you can breathe,” says Roz Winegrad. A stone-clad partition divides the family room from the nearby dining room and stairway to the second floor. “I didn’t want to walk down the stairs and see a wall, so I suggested we put in a see-through gas fireplace here,” she says. Her husband’s wish for a wood-burning fireplace is met in the glass-enclosed porch off the kitchen that provides access to the backyard through sliding glass walls.
Roz Winegrad, who started her career as a chef, made sure the kitchen was big enough to accommodate two cooks. Centered on a 10-foot-long island, the space is wrapped in German-made cabinets with a niche specially sized for a Robert Rauschenberg lithograph.
While the house has a separate dining space, the Winegrads admit they rarely use it, preferring to enjoy their meals—even Thanksgiving dinner—at the kitchen table with its reclaimed teak top.
From the main level, a spacious staircase illuminated by a tall window leads to three bedroom suites on the top floor. Winegrad designed the master bedroom to feel like an upscale hotel room with subdued colors and lighting. He salvaged Art Deco chairs for the space and prominently displayed a pencil rubbing of a sculpture by Maryland artist John Ruppert there; the original work is downstairs near the entrance. Down the hall, his and hers walk-in closets are fitted with their own sinks and vanities, leaving the master bathroom clean and spare.
As the home was developed, Roz Winegrad says she offered practical suggestions but left her husband to make all of the major creative decisions. “When you are married to a designer, you don’t co-design because you could end up with a compromise everywhere,” she says. “I trusted him implicitly.”
Frequent contributor Deborah K. Dietsch is based in Washington, DC. Alain Jaramillo is a photographer in Stevenson, Maryland.
ARCHITECTURE & INTERIOR DESIGN: I. MICHAEL WINEGRAD, I. Michael Winegrad Interior Design, LLC, Bethesda, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: CHADSWORTH HOMES, Rockville, Maryland.