Despite its intriguing composition of glass, wood, and stone, the front façade of a Bethesda home barely hints at the magnitude of what’s to come. But inside the lofty foyer, where sunlight filters through a screen of mahogany slats onto a wall of hand-worked Antiga stone, it immediately becomes apparent that this is no ordinary teardown.
Floor-to-ceiling windows rim the entire first floor, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces. Rooms spill onto roof decks and terraces and open out to a porch, a pool and a pergola, all of which lure visitors into the landscape.
This is exactly what the owners had in mind when they hired architect Alan Dynerman to design the home on a two-acre property dotted with mature trees. Dynerman spent hours getting to know the clients and developing a picture of how they live. Early in the design stage, he also tapped landscape architect Lisa Delplace of Oehme, van Sweden, and interior designer Lisa Adams to collaborate on the project.
The clients, with children ranging in age from 7 to 16, envisioned a home that easily connects to the outdoors. “We spend a lot of time swimming and playing outside and wanted to be able to see the kids from the house,” says the wife. They frequently entertain friends and a large extended family, so having generous public spaces—including a dining room that seats 30—was key. As she explains, “Our goal was to create the house around the way we function every day.”
After a modest ranch home had been razed on the site, Dynerman positioned the new house to maximize natural light throughout the interiors and create myriad outdoor living areas. With its organic material palette and modern lines, his design would not look out of place on a rugged cliff in Northern California. “Construction, at least in a lot of stuff that I do,” explains Dynerman, “is a dance between the randomness of nature and the orderliness of building.”
From the foyer, the three-story structure unfolds in two directions. The wing facing the street houses an open living/dining room and a library on the main level, the master suite with a private roof deck on the second floor and a home office and gym above. An expansive kitchen and breakfast area connect the front wing to a parallel one housing the family room and garage. Children’s bedrooms and playrooms—and a large roof deck—occupy the levels above, while a lower floor houses guest rooms and more play space.
With the finished residence encompassing 20,000 square feet, Dynerman sought ways to create a sense of intimacy in large-scale spaces. “The clients wanted a very open ground floor with a lot of light and glass everywhere, but they also wanted privacy,” the architect reflects. “I came up with the idea of floating cabinets that allow light in above and below-—but at the same time, there’s a sense of closure. You don’t feel like you’re simply in a glass box.”
In addition to these floating cabinets that Dynerman employed on the main floor, the furniture plan also helps define open living areas. “While the finishes and furniture will stand up to use and time, they also had to be elegant enough to reflect the surroundings,” says designer Lisa Adams. From living room upholstery that mimics the palette of the stone chimney wall to hand-woven Odegard carpets, Adams and her clients selected pieces that not only soften the architecture but also add color and warmth.
Abundant built-ins and shelving eliminate clutter throughout the home. Small appliances are stored out of sight in the sleek kitchen and adjacent butler’s pantry, with their distinctive Austrian applewood cabinetry. And backpacks and sports equipment disappear in banks of built-ins near the back stairs.
The rear family-room wing leads to a large pool area and a porch that the family enjoys year-round; it’s heated for colder months but when weather permits they can slide one wall open completely.
Delplace wove a natural tapestry of plantings into the landscape plan, which includes an expansive lawn for impromptu soccer games, a tree house, a vegetable garden and even a sledding hill. Along the street, clusters of rhododendron, river birch, and native grasses practically hide the house from view. In the large side yard, a combination of evergreens and deciduous species connects the new landscape and surrounding stands of mature trees. “Given that the hardscape features are arranged in crisp angles that respond to the modern lines of the house, we were able to bring a fluidity into the landscape that ties both together,” Delplace says. “Our clients wanted to make sure it was a great place for kids to explore and have autonomy—while being beautiful as well.”
As Dynerman reflects, “The home wouldn’t be what it is without the building and landscape being as integrated as they are.” In fact, the clients and the entire design team agree that their open dialog ultimately made the project a success.
“It was a lot of fun. We all became a family,” says the wife. “I think that’s pretty rare.”
As Delplace concludes, “It was a great collaboration and it’s an incredible outcome to see the home be used and so loved.”
Photographer Paul Warchol is based in New York City.
ARCHITECTURE: ALAN DYNERMAN, FAIA, Dynerman Architects, Washington, DC. INTERIOR DESIGN: LISA ADAMS, ASID, NCIDQ, Adams Design, Inc., Washington, DC. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: LISA E. DELPLACE, ASLA, Oehme, van Sweden, Washington, DC. BUILDER: Horizon Builders, Crofton, Maryland.
FOYER Chest & Art: Clients’ collection. Pendants: resoluteonline.com.
LIVING ROOM Klismos Chairs: williamhaines.com through profilesny.net. Sofa & Other Chairs: donghia.com. Sofa Fabric: fschumacher.com. Coffee Table: roche-bobois.com. All Chair Fabric: pollackassociates.com. Rug: stephanieodegard.com. Floor Lamp & Round Table: hollyhunt.com. Pillow Fabric: fschumacher.com; pollackassociates.com; osborneandlittle.com.
FAMILY ROOM Sectional, Sofas, Sofa Fabric, Glass Table & Table Lamps: hollyhunt.com. Sectional Fabric: perennialsfabrics.com through hinescompany.com. Chairs: donghia.com. Chair Fabric: spinneybeck.com. Light Fixtures: steng.de/en. Custom Coffee Tables: James Marshall Woodworking; 301-831-3230. Pillow Fabrics: kravet.com; nobilis.fr through hollyhunt.com; jimthompsonfabrics.com through hinescompany.com; osborneandlittle.com.