Panoramic vistas beckon through floor-to-ceiling windows in the contemporary penthouse of the 31-story Waterview condominium in Rosslyn, Virginia. They sweep across the Potomac River from Georgetown to the National Mall, bringing city landmarks and monuments into focus.
Impressive, too, are the views inside the aerie, where unadorned planes of wood, stone and metal enclose flowing spaces. Ordinary elements are treated unconventionally, from hidden doors to sculptural ceilings and walls finished in raw and refined materials, heightening the visual contrasts.
“The closer you look, the more quality you perceive in the design,” says homeowner Matt Calkins, a corporate CEO and board-game designer. “The home is full of surprising details and tactile pleasures.”
Calkins is the single dad of a 12-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, who live in the condo part-time. The executive says he “likes to get really involved in projects” and recently moved his software company, Appian, from Reston to Gannett’s former headquarters in Tysons. Remodeling the Waterview condo was his first foray into residential design; at the recommendation of Appian’s commercial architect, he turned to DC modernist Robert Gurney to spearhead the effort.
“Bob is really good with the back and forth of ideas,” says Calkins. “He is flexible and I felt I could collaborate with him.”
In organizing the U-shaped apartment, Gurney says, “The views were the thread that wove the project together.” He arranged the kitchen, dining area, living space and game room along the perimeter facing vistas of DC and situated the home office, kids’ bedrooms, bathroom and playroom in the opposite wing overlooking Rosslyn.
The large master suite bridges the two sides, offering views of the Kennedy Center and Washington Monument. The master bedroom incorporates a sitting area and a cedar-clad spa bathroom centered on a Japanese soaking tub.
Gurney maximized the ceiling heights and spatial flow in the 4,865-square-foot apartment by gutting the existing compartmentalized interior. However, he confronted some elements that had to remain in place. “Since this is a penthouse, there was infrastructure like roof drains and plumbing stacks that couldn’t be moved,” the architect recalls.
Accommodating these necessities led him to segment the ceiling above the main living spaces into drywall facets resembling the folded-paper constructions of origami. To accentuate this effect, the ceiling is separated from the adjacent walls so it appears to float. Observes Calkins, “It looks like a cloud that drifted in and might drift out.”
In contrast to the ceilings, wood, metal and stone differentiate and enrich the walls and architectural elements. Dark, wenge-finished surfaces define the kitchen and the bookcase partition separating the living/library area from the game room. Quarter-sawn white oak is applied to floors and corridor walls, while sheets of reflective steel define the utility core at the center of the unit. Structural concrete columns are left exposed as a contrast to the wood and metal finishes.
“We tried to create tension between materials,” says Calkins, pointing out the piano’s polished surface next to the raw concrete column in the living area. “But it is done quietly. Creating a peaceful feeling was one of my goals. There are no loud artworks or carpet runners to disrupt the space.”
In the dining area, the back wall is clad in cleft slate to integrate one of the only artifacts on display: a large fossil of an extinct marine reptile that Calkins acquired from a dealer in Hamburg, Germany. A plant fossil purchased at Astro Gallery in New York is similarly recessed into a wall of the master bathroom.
Interior designer Therese Baron Gurney, who often collaborates with her husband, complemented the architecture with wood-topped tables and low-slung leather chairs. “It was a challenge to find pieces that were classic, comfortable and didn’t block the views,” she explains. “We chose designs that were simple and elegant, but not fragile.”
Since completing the renovation, Calkins purchased two adjoining units on the floor and tapped the Gurneys to expand his home into those spaces. Another fossil wall is planned, along with a larger kitchen and a sitting room oriented to the views. As the homeowner notes, “I will be able to enjoy sunsets over the city.”
Renovation Architecture: Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, principal, and Nicole de Jong, AIA, project architect, Robert M. Gurney, FAIA Architect, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Therese Baron Gurney, ASID, Baron Gurney Interiors, Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: Peterson and Collins, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland. Kitchen Design: Julia Walter, Boffi Georgetown LLC, Washington, DC. Home Automation: Atlantic Control Technologies, Annapolis, Maryland.
Flooring, Source: grafbro.com. Lighting Design: gsadc.com.
Rug: silkroadcarpetandrugs.com. Coffee Table: centralstationinteriors.com. Chairs: poltronafrau.com. Pillow Fabric: brentanofabrics.com. Floor Lamp: davidweeksstudio.com. Side Tables: Baker. bakerfurniture.com.
Table: usonahome.com. Chairs: poltronafrau.com.
Cabinetry: boffi.com. Hood: gaggenau.com. Countertop Source: usmarble.com. Backsplash Source: salvatori.it. Cooktop: gaggenau.com.
Table: poltronafrau.com. Chairs: hermanmiller.com. Rug: mitchelldenburg.com. Walter Knoll Sofa: m2l.com. Sofa Fabric: pollackassociates.com. Throw Pillows: weitznerlimited.com. Coffee Table: cassina.com.
Bed: natuzzi.com. Lamp: Lumina lumina.it. Rug: silkroadcarpetandrugs.com. Chairs: wkworks.com. Chair Fabric: kvadratrafsimons.com. Center & Side Tables: classicon.com.
Custom Wenge Cabinet Design: robertgurneyarchitect.com. Cabinet Fabrication: alleghenywoodworksllc.com. Flooring & Countertop Source: usmarble.com. Sink Fixture: lacava.com. Fixture Source: rlvoight.com. Cabinet hardware: hafele.com. Soaking Tub: bradfordproducts.com.
Sofa: ligneroset-dc.com. Rug: whiteoakcarpet.com. Chairs: hermanmiller.com.