John Haslett had a clear vision in mind when he set out to transform a Reston penthouse from a builder-grade shell into a contemporary, Manhattan-style loft showcasing his art collection. The only catch: Much of the artwork—from paintings and sculpture to one-of-a-kind light fixtures and place settings—had yet to be created.
“I thought it would be a one-year process,” he reflects. “But that year turned into three because of my commitment to finding exactly what I wanted. If it didn’t exist, I found someone to build it.”
Unlike most homeowners who rush the design and build-out process, Haslett savored every moment. The financial-planning executive had recently retired to pursue a second career as a painter—though he hadn’t picked up a brush in more than 20 years. So he viewed this project as an opportunity to interact with artisans of all kinds, not only to realize his urban dream home but also as a refresher course in the creative process.
While Haslett purchased or commissioned art on whirlwind trips around the country, he entrusted the overall design of his two-bedroom penthouse to Alice Busch and Lucas Trunnell of Great Falls Distinctive Interiors, Inc. The mother-and-son team set out to create bespoke interiors that would reflect a level of refinement and attention to detail equal to their client’s art.
“With Alice’s more traditional background and her son Luke, who does more contemporary work, I thought they were a good combination,” Haslett explains. “Getting the best of both generations was going to meet the criteria I was looking for.”
From the entry hall, where niches in the Venetian plaster walls display works in blown glass, metal and ceramics, to the master bedroom with its suspended bed and metal “wave wall,” the completed residence is full of custom finishes and millwork fabricated by RKI, Inc. “We were inspired by a mix of materials such as wood, stone, and concrete,” explains Trunnell. “We wanted to make it feel like a very special environment that you would not see anywhere else.”
Delineating the living room’s two seating areas, a bulkhead in a faux-concrete finish provides a rough contrast to the Kravet sofas covered in soft chenille. Along one wall, horizontal stainless-steel reveals in the mahogany paneling align with grooves in the adjacent Delano marble housing a fireplace and flat-screen TV.
“We carried the exact reveal from the wood into the marble, continuing the linear pattern,” Trunnell remarks. “We worked with the millwork company and the granite studio to make sure it was all perfect.”
An abstract stainless-steel sculpture by Lyle London creates a focal point in the adjacent dining area, which boasts a Venetian plaster accent wall in lavender, one of Haslett’s favorite hues. In lieu of a traditional chandelier—which would have been impossible to center in the asymmetrical space—the team designed a custom fixture. Inspired by the clouds floating by outside his 21st-floor abode, Haslett commissioned California-based Lusive Décor to create a metal-mesh “cloud fixture” through which LED lights shimmer like stars.
The dining area is open to the kitchen, where a sleek bar of Trunnell’s design replaced a lackluster pantry. “The kitchen is one of my favorite rooms,” says Busch. “Behind the bar there’s a frosted acrylic back with LED lighting. John can create any color he wants.”
Once the penthouse was complete, Haslett resided there for a year before he purchased a loft in Chicago that now serves as his permanent home and studio. However, he still returns to the Reston apartment monthly for business meetings. “It feels like I’m in a luxury resort,” he says of his visits.
As he delves into painting, Haslett credits the renovation with helping him transition from a structured business environment to the “free-flowing” career of an artist. “For me, it was about drawing on the experience of these artisans and designers—and decades in their craft—to help me find my creative vision,” he reflects. “It was a learning experience that just happens to be a home.”
Photographer Bob Narod is based in Herndon, Virginia.
INTERIOR DESIGN: ALICE BUSCH, Allied Member ASID; LUCAS TRUNNELL, Assoc. AIA, Allied Member ASID, LEED AP, BD+C, Great Falls Distinctive Interiors, Inc., Ashburn, Virginia. CONTRACTOR: ROGER C. VASSILIADIS, RCV Real Estate, Great Falls, Virginia.