Designer Patrick Sutton loves a good story. And he knows how to tell one through the interiors he carefully crafts. The remake of a 200-year-old Georgetown manse—a collaboration with architect Ankie Barnes—weaves a decidedly hometown tale. “Washington is a classically designed city, so there is a classicism inherent to the location,” explains Sutton. “But Georgetown is also very human in its scale and somewhat informal in its interactions. We layered those two things together as an attitude and made the interiors reflective of that.”
Rooting the design to place honors the home’s—and its past owners’—inextricable link to local lore. “The house has obviously seen a lot of people [live there] over the years, the most storied of whom is Ambassador Bruce and his wife, Evangeline,” notes Sutton. David Bruce held top U.S. posts around the world during his illustrious diplomatic career. Between tours of duty from the mid-1940s to the ’70s, the late couple resided in the Federal-style abode, still known as the “Ambassador Bruce House,” where they famously hosted DC’s elite in grand fashion.
The current owners— Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank and his wife, DJ—enlisted Barnes and Sutton to renovate and redesign the home, the oldest portion of which dates to 1815. (As this issue goes to press, the house is privately listed for sale through Washington Fine Properties.)
The brick residence expanded over time, first with a pair of additions flanking the original side-hall structure. Later, the Bruces added on a ballroom to the right for large-scale entertaining, with a master suite above it. “The whole shell had to remain because it is historic and protected—and we loved it,” explains Barnes, who navigated the historic-approval process before any improvements were made.
The architect drafted a plan to maximize the home’s above-ground footprint and increase the overall square footage by excavating the basement. “The house was charming and generally in good condition, but it had a challenging flow,” he recalls. “We did a tremendous amount of reorganizing, much of which involved moving structural doors and removing structural walls.” In the narrow entry hall, for instance, dramatically widening the opening to the dining room on the left created, as Barnes describes it, “a sense of expansion.”
New detailing, around that opening and throughout the house, “respects and even heightens the classicism of the trim and molding package that was there,” says Sutton. The substantial, arched pediments that now cap the living-room openings offer proof positive.
The kitchen also opened up under the reorganization. The previous owners had renovated the space a few years before, but the floor plan remained choppy, with a separate butler’s pantry, working kitchen and breakfast room. Combining these distinct areas created a continuous eat-in kitchen with space for an ample island.
Three sets of stairs, including those in the front and back halls, received makeovers of varying scope. The pièce de résistance is an elliptical staircase crafted of Imperial Danby marble from the Vermont quarry that supplied the Jefferson Memorial.
Before, a half-story, wooden stair connected the living room to the sunken ballroom. When Barnes and Sutton decided to extend that stair to the newly expanded basement, they reimagined it. “The new stair is made out of self-supporting, solid marble,” notes the architect, “the way it might have been done in Roman times.”
At the top of the stair where the ceiling barely reaches seven feet, a conservatory-style, mirrored ceiling tricks the eye, creating the illusion of height. “A conservatory [mirror] makes sense because the landing is right off the garden,” explains Sutton. “We were able to solve a functional problem with an aesthetic solution that was on-message.” French doors on the landing open onto the stone terrace.
Upstairs, each of the six bedrooms takes design inspiration from a past U.S. president. In the master suite (which boasts his-and-her bathrooms), George Washington’s influence is evident, from the portraiture to the period-style furnishings. The Lincoln chamber features a somber palette, befitting a wartime president.
Previously, the lower level comprised a staff apartment and storage/service space. “Digging out the basement essentially created a whole new floor below grade, which added wonderful amenities to the house,” remarks Barnes. These include a recreation/lounge space, bar, whiskey-and-wine cellar and two powder rooms.
Sutton exercised poetic license in these spaces. Take the lounge area: A brick-and-steel, vaulted ceiling creates a catacomb effect, while a chenille-covered sectional and mohair-covered chairs—not to mention the metallic cork wall covering—impart a speakeasy vibe. “You have this contrast between luxurious and playful materials and the ancient character created by the brick arches,” the designer notes. “When you mix things that are old with things that are new—or take an old space and put new furnishings in it—you elevate the qualities of both.”
Employing a combination of found objects, fine antiques and comfortable, modern furniture, Sutton lent each room a distinct identity. As he explains, the classical detailing, though “rendered in different materials and different levels of refinement or rusticity,” creates a sense of unity. “A thread of classicism knits it all together. We respected tradition and then layered in soft things that feel tactile, engaging and warm.”
Sutton’s upcoming book, Storied Interiors (Images Publishing; October 2018) will feature the Georgetown residence and highlight the designer’s narrative-building approach.
This house, it turns out, has much to say. “Through its decoration, it tells a broad story of varied interests,” Sutton reflects. “Each room is a different chapter in the overall story.”
Architecture: Ankie Barnes, FAIA, LEED AP; Wayne Adams, Barnes Vanze Architects, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Patrick Sutton, Patrick Sutton, Baltimore, Maryland. Builder: Bret Anderson, Pyramid Builders, Annapolis, Maryland.
Landscape Design: Amy Mills, DCA Landscape Architects, Washington, DC.
Chairs + Fabric: gregoriuspineo.com. Chair Fabric & Fabric Wall Covering: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Leather Chair Trim & Wall Covering Trim: samuelandsons.com. Rug: marcphillipsrugs.com. Table: newclassics.net. Drapery: asamance.com. Drapery Leading Edge & Trim: osborneandlittle.com. Mirror: alfonsomarina.com. Chandelier: 1stdibs.com. Paint (Black 2132-10): benjaminmoore.com.
Wall Covering: phillipjeffries.com. Chandelier: 1stdibs.com. Drapery Fabric: dedar.com. Drapery Leading Edge: samuelandsons.com. Rectangular Coffee Table: gregoriuspineo.com. Sofa + Armchairs: ef-lm.com. Sofa Fabric: coraggio.com. Armchair Fabric & Pillows on Wing Chairs: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Round Table: gabriel-scott.com. Drinks Table: viyahome.com. Tufted Ottoman: bradley-usa.com. Console: thebrightgroup.com. Pillows on Swivel Chairs: laurenhwangnewyork.com. Pillows on Sofa with Mokum Patter: osborneandlittle.com. Trim on Sofa: kravet.com. Pillows on Wing Chairs: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Rug: ladybaltimorefloors.com.
KITCHEN & BREAKFAST AREA
Paint Color (Stormy Monday 2112-50): benjaminmoore.com. Backsplash: waterworks.com. Countertops: (Statuarietto – Honed) nashgranite.com. Island Countertop: (London Grey – Honed). Countertop Source: marmistone.com. Bar Stools & Stool Fabric: hickorychair.com. Island Pendants: rejuvenation.com. Cabinets & Island: duncancabinetry.com. Black Dining Chairs: palultd.com. Circular Dining Table: Custom Design by mitchellyanosky.com. Black Chandelier: bakerfurniture.com. Flooring: parisceramicsusa.com.
Paint Color (White Dove): benjaminmoore.com. Bed: alfonsomarina.com. Headboard Fabric: dessinfournir.com. Bed Rail Fabric: pindler.com. Canopy Fabric & Armchair Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Bedding: sferra.com through phinas.com. Blanket: bemboka.com. Rug: ladybaltimorefloors.com. Drapery Fabric: pierrefrey.com. Drapery Leading Edge: samuelandsons.com. Desk & Chair: hickorychair.com. Brown Leather Chair: georgesmith.com . Chair Fabric: edelmanleather.com. White Sofa: bradley-usa.com. Coffee Table: salvationsaf.com. White Armchair: hinesfurniture.com. Night Chests: bennetts.ca. Bedside Lamps: 1stdibs.com.
Backsplash Tile: walkerzanger.com through chesapeaketileandmarble.com. Wall Covering: innovationsusa.com. Marble & Stone Floor: marblesystems.com. Bench: formationsusa.com. Bench Fabric: laurenhwangbespoke.com. Sconces: urbanelectricco.com. Mirror: rh.com.
Paint Color (Wall: Dior Gray 2133-40 & Fireplace Mantel: High Gloss Black): benjaminmoore.com. Drapery Fabric: duralee.com. Drapery Leading Edge: samuelandsons.com. Bed: rh.com. Antique Jacobean Chest: randalltysinger.com. Rug: elikorugs.com. Wood Cabinet/Drawer: eronjohnsonantiques.com. Bench: ef-lm.com. Bench Fabric: pindler.com.
Sofa: arudin.com. Sofa Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Lamps: redmodernfurniture.com. Coffee Table: lawsonfenning.com. Armchairs: bradley-usa.com. Armchair Fabric: maharam.com. Bar & Wall Covering: elitis.fr.