Home & Design

The Wilders replaced worn decking with an ipe terrace. Philippe Starck’s plastic Bubble Club sofas for Kartell and Bertoia wire side chairs for Knoll complement the mid-century pool.

Anthony and Elizabeth Wilder in their sleek kitchen.

A glass stairway surround opens sight lines between the kitchen and family room; Jack Rosen Custom Kitchens supplied the cabinetry. The island is topped with Calacatta Lincoln marble.

Furnishings from Minima in Philadelphia were acquired from a client who moved to Florida.

A console topped in Calacatta marble separates the kitchen and dining area.

An expanded opening leads from the foyer to the dining room, where the Wilders showcase an archival print by Andrew Faulkner in a respectful nod to the home’s legacy; the artist’s father, architect Winthrop W. Faulkner, renovated the dwelling for previous owners.

The Wilders modernized a guest bath with heated floors and sinks molded into Corian counters.

The guest room opens out to the tennis court.

Anthony Wilder chills out with his grandson on the new ipe terrace.

A broadened stairway descends to a pool deck expanded with simple flagstones. Three generations now enjoy the swimming pool of the designer’s dreams.

With a coat of gleaming white exterior paint, a generous planting of boxwoods and a thoughtful interior renovation, the Wilders have polished their residence for today’s contemporary lifestyle.

Modern Oasis

Designer Anthony Wilder and his wife Elizabeth revive a 1960s Bethesda home with a focus on family

To appreciate the delight Anthony and Elizabeth Wilder take in their freshly updated Bethesda home, it helps to understand what—and who—came before. For years, Anthony Wilder drove past the property on his rounds. Trees obscured the driveway, but he could see that the 1960s-era, one-story home—then clad in pale-gray brick—embodied his longtime aspiration: to live in a contemporary home with a pool. “I visualized the heck out of the house for years,” he admits. After 30 years as founding architectural designer of his eponymous design/build firm, Wilder appreciated the fact the house was built not of plywood but masonry—a sign of provenance.

Today, the white-painted dwelling sits like a jewel box on its velvety two-acre lawn, with a golf course across the road, a vintage pool in back and a tennis court on the side. The nearly 4,000-square-foot house may never have looked so welcoming or comfortable in its contemporary skin, or been more enjoyed by visiting family, including two grown children and three grandchildren.

With its flat roof and boxy form, the outer structure changed little from its mid-century origins. But inside, a major renovation completed during the pandemic refreshed the design, chiefly converting single-purpose rooms into a larger, multi-functional space while respecting the footprint and integrity of the original plan.

The home was designed in 1963 by Grosvenor Chapman, a titan of historic preservation who helped save Georgetown and Lafayette Square. Ironically, Chapman’s client, Herbert William Robinson, was a software pioneer.

Chapman drew a hollow square with a courtyard at its center. The house faces north, but doors and windows—many floor-to-ceiling—open to the landscape on all sides. The center atrium pours light into the interiors. Public rooms are grouped around the north, west and south sides, while sleeping quarters—the owners’ suite plus two bedrooms and baths—occupy the eastern side. A lower level includes another bedroom and bath. (There is also a bomb shelter with a hand-crank air intake, possibly inspired by Robinson’s Cold War assignment identifying strategic bombing targets in the Soviet Union.)

In the 1970s, the property passed to the late attorney John E. Nolan and his wife, who remained there until they were ready to downsize to a condo and phoned the Wilder firm for remodeling help. One conversation led to another and in 2013 the Wilders finally acquired the property that Anthony had longed for.

Outdoors, overgrown trees have been removed and privacy screens enhanced. Inside, the Wilders refined the palette to shades of white and black. Their modular furniture fit right in, as did a grand piano in the living room, now rechristened the music room and hung with black-and-white photographs of ’60s-era songsters including Frank Sinatra and The Beatles.

From the start, the seasoned remodelers zigged and zagged. “We did everything we don’t recommend,” explains Elizabeth Wilder, president of Anthony Wilder Design/Build. They moved in during the winter of 2014—before repairing a leaky roof. They deconstructed—before finalizing the plan. When a blind corner in the kitchen impeded access to the family room, Anthony simply bashed through the walls one day. They weren’t just any walls, but a combination wet bar and pantry on the kitchen side and a wall of bookcases on the family room side. In between were stairs to the lower level. Amid the exposed ductwork and dangling wires, Anthony made a dramatic design move: He enclosed the stairs on three sides with clear glass at railing height, visually connecting the kitchen and family room while transforming the stairs into an elegant central feature.

The couple and their three dogs hunkered in the back rooms on air mattresses while walls were finished off and roofing repaired, then settled in to enjoy their new home. Their initial effort had left plenty to do—including the kitchen itself—which they decided to tackle when the pandemic came along. “What drove our [latest] renovation was a need to keep the crews busy,” recalls Elizabeth. First, they installed an ipe deck followed by 21 replacement windows and doors. When serious construction began, they decamped to the home of some friends.

Working with Maria Fanjul, one of their firm’s architectural designers, they began to see the corner kitchen as a centerpiece of an L-shaped great room. A walk-through reveals the strategy. Straight ahead from the foyer, a doorway to the dining room was enlarged to gain a more gracious passageway into the heart of the home. Expanses of glass on two sides already flooded the dining room with light. To share that daylight with the kitchen, the Wilders took down an end wall and its old swinging door and linked the two spaces. A freestanding, marble-topped console delineates the zones while keeping the shared vista open.

The centerpiece of the kitchen is an immense island topped with Calacatta Lincoln marble. “The island is the soul of the house,” Anthony says. The same stone graces the peripheral counters, backsplash and even the window frames. Glossy white cabinets offset wood flooring refinished in charcoal. Favorite features include a steam oven and a tap that delivers hot, cold and sparkling water. The console facing the dining room houses a second oven, wine refrigerator and storage.

“Having a space where everyone can gather was a huge factor in our decision to renovate,” Elizabeth says.

A drive-by today might make architect Chapman smile. Renovation has preserved the past while making the house sparkle anew. Anthony is sure it was meant to be. “If you believe in anything enough,” he says, “it’s already written in your heart.”

Renovation & Interior Design: Anthony Wilder and Elizabeth Wilder, principals; Maria Fanjul, architectural designer, Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Cabin John, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: Anthony Wilder Design/Build.

 

RESOURCES

GENERAL
Windows & Doors: pella.com through pellamidatlantic.com.

PATIO
Dining Table Base: knoll.com. Dining Table Top: custom. Outdoor Sofas: contemporaria.com. Outdoor Coffee Table: livingdivani.it.

LIVING ROOM
Leather Eames Chair & Ottoman: dwr.com. Round Leather Chair: bakerfurniture.com. Leather Chaise: knoll.com.

DINING ROOM
Table Chairs: rh.com. Art: Andrew Faulkner through edithgraves.com.

FOYER
Bench: dwr.com.

KITCHEN
Cabinets: jackrosen.com. Oven, Stove & Cook Top: subzero-wolf.com. Steam Oven, Coffee Machine & Dishwasher: mieleusa.com.

BATH
Floor Tile: architessa.com. Sink & Vanity: us.kohler.com. Medicine Cabinet: robern.com. Faucet: weaverhardware.com. Shower Wall: crosswaterlondon.com.

POOL AREA
Mesh Chaise Lounge: cb2.com. Umbrellas: ikea.com.

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