Unexpected contrasts fill the Bethesda residence architect David Jameson designed for himself, his wife Nancy and their two children, McKenzie and Jake. Raw and refined, dark and light, solid and void, outdoors and indoors, the material and spatial juxtapositions in this unconventional home reflect Jameson’s ongoing search for new ways of refreshing modern design.
“This is a laboratory for me where I can investigate new technologies and materials to use on other projects,” he says on a tour of the home, pointing to glass doors that slide open and shut automatically and a shower stall made of Corian.
The contemporary residence replaces a 1949 home designed by noted DC architect Charles Goodman that was damaged by a fallen tree. Jameson followed the footprint of the original modernist dwelling in planning his 7,700-square-foot replacement and throughout construction preserved the mature plantings on the property.
From the street, the new home’s rectilinear façade lacks any signs of domesticity and could pass for a museum on the tree-edged corner lot. Carefully composed light and dark planes surround the setback mahogany front door. Sections of fritted glass are judiciously placed within walls that resemble shiny, rusticated concrete blocks.
The unusual, custom-made cladding turns out to be molded, stainless-steel panels treated with what experts call a “light interference” coating. “The metal was made in London by Rimex Metals Group as flat sheets,” explains Jameson. “We shipped them to Zahner in Kansas City, where they were custom-molded and fabricated into the finished façade system.” A specialized architectural metals fabricator, Zahner has produced materials for Frank Gehry and other top architects around the world.
The shimmering, dimpled steel surfaces reflect the colors of their surroundings, changing from inky to bright hues. “It’s like scrunched-up aluminum foil with its crinkled and light-reflective quality,” says Jameson. “It’s a mirage-like material.”
From its mostly opaque frontage, the L-shaped house shifts to become transparent on the inner sides, enclosing a courtyard with a swimming pool and a two-story pavilion for entertaining and hanging out. The vibe is California modern with floor-to-ceiling walls of glass connecting inside to outside. Marking each level of the house are horizontal bands of stainless steel that were bead-blasted to create the look of pewter.
The tall panes are edged in black ceramic frit to appear weightless and conceal the structural steel, with organic, wood-finished mullions on the insides of the glass. Windows by Tradewood allow daylight to flood the open-plan spaces on the home’s two levels, turning it into a lantern at night. “The idea of the house is a study of light in different ways— its refraction, capture and infusion into the interior,” says Jameson.
Pale-white schist paving extends from the outside to the inside of the house, and unvarnished planks of Western red cedar cover the ceilings. The finishes invert the typical residential arrangement of wooden floors and white ceilings.
Warm-hued sapele mahogany window mullions and banding around the perimeter of the rooms keep the spaces from feeling too austere. Bright abstract paintings, most created by DC artists, hang in every room to add punches of color.
In the two-story entrance hall, the raw cedar planks are applied to both the ceiling and walls to create the effect of a tall wooden box. Dramatically juxtaposed against the textured surfaces are the black diagonal planes of a steel-enclosed stairway leading to the second-floor bedrooms.
Sequestered at one end of the foyer, the living room focuses on a wall clad in anodized aluminum that incorporates a gas fireplace. The space extends to a bay enclosed by glass on three sides and perched above the side yard to embrace views of the landscape and pool.
The dining room provides a transitional zone between the stair hall and living space in front, and kitchen and family room at the back of the house. In this long room, a painting by DC artist Steven Cushner takes up an entire wall to provide a graphic backdrop to the dining areas.
The kitchen design runs counter to the current popularity of white cabinets and light finishes. Black granite resembling veined marble is applied to the countertops and backsplash. The cabinets are finished in metallic lacquers to resemble burnished lead and silvery aluminum.
These materials are repeated in the adjacent butler’s pantry and in the master bathroom—where the granite is applied to an 18-foot-long vanity—to provide visual consistency.
Just off the stair landing on the second floor, the ceiling and front wall of the TV lounge are tiled with the same reflective metal panels as the front façade. The master suite, with its large bathroom and dressing area, occupies the front space above the living room. Two bedrooms for the Jameson children overlook the courtyard and two guest suites across the hall accommodate visitors.
Furnishings throughout the house are a mixture of new and vintage mid-century pieces collected by the architect over the years. Many of the tables and chairs are by Danish designer Poul Kjærholm, whose philosophy, “to express the personality of the material,” is shared by Jameson.
In the family room, the sofa and armchairs are upholstered in furry shearling, a cozy comfort within the home’s hard edges. Behind the seating, a long wooden dining table made by Ru Amagasu, grandson of the renowned Pennsylvania furniture maker George Nakashima, bears tree bark and fissures in the timber.
Such natural imperfections, Jameson says, are part of the beauty of hand-worked materials and important to his designs. “I really like the act of making things,” he asserts. “Architecture is about creating an experience that celebrates craft as well as space.”
Architecture & Interior Design: David Jameson, FAIA, Bethesda, Maryland. Builder: Ally DC, Bethesda, Maryland.
Windows: tradewoodindustries.com. Stone Flooring: stonesource.com. Acoustic Plaster: baswa.com. Lighting: luciferlighting.com. Structural Engineering: lintonengineering.com. Mechanical Engineering: foleyengineering.com. Civil Engineering: casengineering.com. Plumbing Fixtures: fantiniusa.com through unionhardware.com. Home Automation: casaplex.com.
Landscaping: evergrolandscaping.com. Pool Installation: lewis-aquatech.com. Furniture: Richard Shultz through knoll.com.
Cabinets & Surfaces: boffi.com.
Table: Satoru Amagasu. Vintage Hans Wegner 501 Chairs: wright20.com. Sofa & Side Chair Fabric: Shearling. Radio House Sofa, Finn Juhl Side Chairs & Coffee Table and Poul Kjaerholm Daybed: furniturefromscandinavia.com.
Vintage Eames Chair & Ottoman: phillips.com.
Cabinets: boffi.com. Fixtures: fantiniusa.com through unionhardware.com.