Watching a new house go up in the family-friendly neighborhood they had been eying for a year, a couple with two children took note. Once the home’s wood framing was in place, they realized that its generous scale and open spaces matched the layout they had been searching for. And they welcomed the chance to begin again with a fresh style of living ideal for their growing family.
“It was amazing to have a blank slate to start with,” says Amy Sherman, who with her husband, Stuart Sherman, CEO of the digital marketing firm SM Marketing International, purchased the house two years ago in the Luxmanor section of North Bethesda. “We wanted a modern feel, and to push that further with a casual California vibe. Nothing too formal,“ says Amy, a marketing executive at Marriott International.
Moving from a home with tighter quarters, the couple happily anticipated the easy flow from room to room and the panoramic outdoor views. They imagined furnishing the house in a way that would treat the core living areas as a single space, serenely unified throughout. “We wanted it to be clean and crisp, but warm, inviting and cozy too,” Amy explains.
To realize their goal, they turned to interior designer Zoe Feldman Jantzen, with whom they had worked in the past and who shared their vision. Having grown up in a Mid-Century Modern house on Florida’s west coast—and worked with Alexa Hampton, one of Manhattan’s premier tradition-based designers—Jantzen has an outlook rooted at the crossroads of comfortable classic and modern design.
When she arrived, the house was still under construction. Custom builder Jeffco Development and the owners had already selected many finishes—in the kitchen, on the wood-paneled and beamed ceilings, and throughout—so Jantzen nimbly extended that base of neutral colors and natural materials. Meanwhile, the Shermans decided to reproduce her designs for the office and master bedroom in their former home “down to the grass-cloth-accent wall in the master bedroom,” says the designer. Despite duplicating the look in those rooms, almost everything else in the house is new. “It was an incredibly clean palette,” she notes, “a beautiful canvas to start with.”
Starting over can be exciting. Still, furnishing a home on the scale of 7,900 square feet inspired mixed feelings for Jantzen. “When I’ve worked on smaller residences in Manhattan and DC, it’s easy to make them feel warm and finished,” she says, “In a larger home, there’s more to fill in and more of a challenge to keep it feeling collected and cozy.”
To create a sense of warmth, Jantzen introduced organic materials with a range of woods and metals in furniture and lighting. Varied fabric textures help too, from nubby bouclé and linens to smooth leather and silks. In a household with eight- and 10-year-old boys, as well as a pet Maltipoo, the designer took the sensible step of protecting the light fabrics. “We used Sunbrella and other performance fabrics that can take a beating but don’t look like low-maintenance materials,” she says.
As a crisp backdrop to the largely white interiors requested by the owners, interior window and door trim was painted black. “We wanted to make the frames look like black steel, which I think is pretty against the white,” says Jantzen. That graphic contrast outlines panels by Jeld-Wen that fold back and completely open the living room to the enclosed sun porch.
Touches of pattern and color surface in art and decorative objects, including books. Beside a bookcase in the main living area, paired side chairs stand out with their intense apple-green mohair seats. Hanging on an opposite wall, a tall artwork panel incorporates dried moss in a flowing composition. “It appears as a vertical garden tying into the modern, organic space,” notes the designer, adding, “Especially in a house like this that’s clean and light with very white walls, it’s really important to add interest with art.”
Owner Stuart Sherman enjoys living with that art. Several pieces that he found are now displayed in his handsome home office next to the front door. One raw, abstract painting by New York artist Paul Gerben anchors the wall behind a modern Chesterfield sofa covered in butterscotch velvet, and a sparkling nickel-and-glass coffee table—a classic mix of design elements with verve.
Another brilliantly hued work by the same artist lights up a long wall in the cocoon-like butler’s pantry. Jantzen matched its deep navy walls to the color of the existing cabinets, then paneled the bar’s backsplash in coordinated, asymmetrical tile. “This is one of my favorite spaces; it’s moodier, with a ’70s influence,” she says.
The adjacent dining room in smoky gray is enriched by floor-length, forest green-silk drapes. Its vintage table sat for 40 years in the dining room of Stuart’s parents, before it turned out to be the perfect size and style for its new setting. “We had looked at this table forever and suddenly saw it in a new light,” recalls Amy.
Since moving in, the family congregates in that room for Thanksgiving dinner. And they gather every Friday on black-leather armchairs for “movie night” in the tiered lower-level theater room. Another favorite spot is the sun porch. Amy describes the family’s all-season enjoyment of that space: “In spring and fall, we open the windows and love the fresh air and feeling of nature all around,” she observes. “When the snow falls, it’s beautiful, especially with a fire in the fireplace. It’s a very relaxing, super-cozy environment.”
LIVING ROOM Sectional & Fabric: rh.com. Throw Pillows: americaneyewdc.net. Coffee Table: wisteria.com. Console: bakerfurniture.com. Etagére: jaysonhome.com. Chairs with Green Fabric Seats: olystudio.com. Eames Chair, Ottoman & Fabric: hermanmiller.com
BUTLER’S PANTRY Wall Tile behind Bar: waterworks.com. Countertop: White Quartz.
OFFICE Desk, Coffee Table & Art above Sofa: Owners’ collection. Desk Lamp: tomdixon.net. Sofa: leeindustries.com. Fabric: scalamandre.com. Leather Sling Chair: cb2.com. Ceiling Treatment: thibautdesign.com. Rug: dashandalbert.com.