Home & Design

Seen from the front, the home is situated so as not to overpower its sloped site.

A hallway in the owners’ wing leads to the bedroom, beyond which an exercise room communes with nature via windows on three sides.

The lower level houses a sport court, equipped for both basketball and lacrosse.

The kitchen, visible beyond the dining area, was designed by GTM with custom Wood-Mode cabinetry, Caesarstone countertops and a porcelain-tile backsplash.

The open-plan central volume houses dining and living areas made light and airy by clerestory windows and a vaulted ceiling.

.Mark Kaufman, AIA, LEED AP, GTM Architects. Portrait by Ron Solomon.

In the L-shaped backyard, the pool is bordered by the owners’ wing and the porch, which boasts a retractable screen.

Simple Lines

GTM Architects and Sandy Spring Builders craft a custom Bethesda home with chic, modern-farmhouse flair

A steeply sloped Bethesda lot turned out to be the perfect spot for a custom home designed by GTM Architects and constructed by Sandy Spring Builders. “We worked with the site’s natural grade,” says GTM’s Mark Kaufman. “We were able to give the basement full light on one side of the house while a few retaining walls allowed for a flat backyard with a pool.”

The L-shaped, 6,900-square-foot residence comprises three gabled volumes: A central, open-plan kitchen/living area is flanked on one side by a garage with three kids’ bedrooms above it and on the other by a ground-floor owners’ suite. The latter volume creates one half of the L; along with the central volume, it embraces a courtyard for the pool and patio. The lower level includes a guest suite and—for the owners’ lucky teenage boys—a sport court complete with high-impact walls, lacrosse nets and a basketball hoop.

Clad in board-and-batten and lap siding, the home nods to farmhouse style—though simplified architectural lines and expanses of black-framed glass give it a modern edge. Giant clerestory windows in a double-height vaulted ceiling bathe the living area in light. A sleek kitchen anchors one end of the space while at the other, a blackened steel fireplace is the perfect spot to gather. Clean-lined finishes selected by design coordinator Robert Pincus of Sandy Spring Builders contribute to the home’s contemporary sensibility.

Both the central volume and owners’ suite open to a grassy backyard via sliding-glass doors. A covered porch off the dining area boasts retractable screens; it flows out to an ipe deck where the pool and a raised hot tub beckon.   

Architecture: Mark Kaufman, AIA, LEED AP, GTM Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. Interior Design & Contracting: Sandy Spring Builders, Bethesda, Maryland. Landscape Design: Joel Hafner, Fine Earth Landscape, Poolesville, Maryland.

Ask Mark

How do you ensure that a modern home will fit into a traditional neighborhood?
I keep to classic shapes such as gabled roofs but simplify them and enlarge the windows. If it’s scaled right and you make it beautiful and high-quality, a modern home can read well in a traditional setting.

What building materials do you favor for modern projects versus traditional ones?
I rely on the same materials, but I use them differently: smoother stucco, stonework that is more linear, square gutters, different window profiles.

How do you scale a two-story, open-plan room so it feels intimate?
A vaulted ceiling adds a “wow” to a room, but for intimacy, features such as windows, lighting and kitchen cabinetry should be at human scale—the height of a normal ceiling.

Advice for clients building a custom home? 
Make sure your architect knows how you want to live. The most useful information you can offer is your wish list.

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