Thick foliage, tall bamboo and trailing wisteria envelop designer Gary Lovejoy’s knoll-top home. Vast expanses of glass integrate the structure with its natural surroundings and invite the splendor indoors. “It’s like a treehouse,” says Lovejoy of his Mid-Century abode, located just blocks from DC’s busy Foxhall Road. “I always envisioned a glass house in the woods, but I never thought I’d find it this close to Georgetown.”
A native Washingtonian, Lovejoy has enjoyed a lifelong affinity for DC’s historic environs. He fondly recalls a childhood riding Georgetown’s bygone streetcars and today relishes exploring its storied streets on foot. In 1992, he happily traded a Logan Circle condo for the light-filled aerie in this optimal location, with its captivating views, lush outdoor areas and—as a bonus—lower-level space to house his design studio. (Lovejoy purchased the home from Thomas Wright, FAIA, its original owner and notable architect, who died in 2006.)
Over the years, Lovejoy has applied his own clean, contemporary aesthetic to the residence, which he shares with his partner, manufacturer’s representative Jay Kanefsky, and their cat, Black Kitty. The home’s streamlined architectural style and open floor plan dovetail perfectly with that aesthetic. However, a six-month renovation at purchase time remedied a few quirks and 1950s holdovers that stood in the designer’s way. For example, he removed a pole in the middle of the living space, combined two upper-level bedrooms into a master suite with a dressing area and enlarged the master bath. Bleached oak replaced linoleum tiles on the floors and inconspicuous cables replaced “river-boat style” roping on the floating staircase. Lovejoy also knocked out one wall, adding a window in the living area’s left corner (he kept the right-side wall for privacy), and updated the fireplace by trading the traditional brick surround for a cantilevered hearth.
“Quality of light and a feeling of spaciousness are important to me,” says Lovejoy. “I always start with how space will work. It’s the challenge of finding an elephant in the room and then visualizing what you can do with it. I focus on the interior architecture and creating the most out of smaller spaces.”
The abundance of glass and natural light makes the 2,300-square-foot house feel larger than it is. Lovejoy employed a pale-on-pale palette, with white walls and creamy furniture, to keep the focus on the ever-changing panorama outside. “Neutrals create that feeling of space,” explains the designer. “With all this glass and the view, your eye doesn’t need to be drawn to strong colors. I wanted to show off the architecture as much as possible.” Rich textures and finishes, such as the kitchen’s tonal striped walls—created by alternating flat and high-gloss paint—accent the quiet color palette.
Extensive artwork introduces the only color to the design scheme. Lovejoy’s collection is eclectic: abstract paintings rub elbows with classical drawings, while gallery pieces mingle with thrift-store finds. And his approach to display is often just as unexpected. In the living room, for example, three divergent pieces rest against an entertainment console of Lovejoy’s own design; they move aside for TV viewing. “I love the relaxed feeling of putting a painting on a ledge or leaning it against a wall or piece of furniture,” says the designer.
One of the paintings in this casual grouping hints at a linear theme that runs subtly throughout the interiors. The graphics abstract, with rectangular forms and primary colors, is an unsigned work in the iconic style of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. Look no further than the living room’s geometric coffee table for evidence of Mondrian’s influence. Or take Lovejoy’s unconventional approach to applying frosted window films, which provide privacy without blocking the light on the stairwell. Rather than cover the entire windowpane, the designer has left a narrow horizontal band between each block of film to mimic stonework. The theme continues in the master bedroom, where a custom media wall features Mondrian-style drawers for storage.
Lovejoy’s furnishings, like his art collection, comprise a mix of styles and provenances. “I didn’t want to create a vintage house,” explains Lovejoy. “That would have been too expected. I wanted an element of surprise and fun. Design shouldn’t be so serious.”
Many pieces are his own creations, including the dining table with a limestone faux finish and the master bedroom’s waterfall nightstands. Others date from the 1940s and ’50s (or were inspired by those eras), yet Lovejoy masterfully works them into his contemporary tableau, either by transforming them with paint or pairing them with current pieces. In the breakfast area, a Mid-Century sideboard looks fresh-stained, alabaster white, while Art Deco chairs set off the sleek table. Classical notes, such as the gilt-framed mirror on the stair landing and the plaster bust of Moses beside the baby grand piano, add interest to the composition.
As relaxed and inviting as the home’s interiors are, the outdoor spaces are just as alluring. Lovejoy and Kanefsky often have friends over for casual dinners and game nights. In nice weather, their parties spill out onto the slate terrace, where a recently restored fountain provides soothing water sounds. “It’s a wonderful feeling out on the terrace,” says Lovejoy. “I have lights on the bamboo. It’s very elegant—but simple and casual too.”
Writer Catherine Funkhouser is based in Arlington, Virginia. Stacy Zarin Goldberg is a photographer in Olney, Maryland.
INTERIOR DESIGN: GARY R. LOVEJOY, ASID; Gary Lovejoy Design Associates, Inc., Washington, DC.