HOUSE OF LIGHT MAY/JUNE 2011
After living in a 1950s rambler for roughly 20 years, Charles and Charlotte Perret became fascinated with a home in their Chevy Chase neighborhood that had been built by Anthony Wilder Design/Build. When they met to discuss remodeling possibilities, Wilder and architect JP Ward introduced the couple to a concept design by renowned DC architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen, a “Dream Home” created in 1998 for Life magazine’s annual feature that showcased a home by a well-known architect. “We fell in love with it,” recalls Charlotte. “It is exactly our taste: the simplicity and little oddities such as the oversized chimney—which we love.”
The Perrets decided to tear down their house and build a Dream Home of their own. They purchased Jacobsen’s design and turned to Wilder to adapt it to their site and their own specific needs. Five years later, their Jacobsen-concept/Wilder-built home has won local, regional and national awards from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
The home displays such typical Jacobsen trademarks as simple gabled forms and linear rooflines. It consists of two pavilions joined in the center by a third housing the main living area. The right pavilion houses the kitchen and dining room while the other contains the master bedroom and two other rooms that double as home offices and guest rooms, each with its own loft.
Wilder and Ward customized the home while preserving its clean lines and amplifying the light. In fact, this house is all about light.
In the foyer, daylight streams through three small dormers to highlight white walls and ebony-hued hickory floors. Spotlights suspended from the ceiling illuminate a painting of Istanbul’s harbor by the homeowners’ daughter, Eugenie Perret; a bench from Minima, her contemporary furniture showroom in Philadelphia, sets the minimalist tone for the rest of the house.
Another of Eugenie’s paintings occupies the space above the living room fireplace, creating an exciting, kinetic focal point. Individual gas jets and a long, narrow firebox offer a novel take on the traditional hearth.
The dining room and kitchen flow together, yet the dining room reflects a refined sensibility that separates it from the spacious, functional kitchen. Rectangles of draped cloth soften the fluorescent ceiling light. Bright red lacquered cabinetry adds drama to the room.
As the design neared completion, Charlotte expressed the desire for a screened porch. In response, the designers created a roomy living space with a vaulted ceiling of Kalwall, a translucent material that blocks out solar gain on a bright day. Doors from the living room, master bedroom and kitchen often remain open to the porch in pleasant weather.
Beyond the porch, a terrace of marble steps down to a pool. With a perimeter of gravel, the marble rests slightly above grade, visually denying the heft of the stone. At night, lights embedded in the gravel illuminate a red concrete wall and the marble bench slicing through it. “That bench weighs over 1,300 pounds,” Wilder says. “It took 12 people to pick it up and slide it into the wall.” Firmly suspended, the bench appears to float.
After the first phase was complete, the Perrets decided they wanted more space to accommodate visiting children and grandchildren. Utilizing the basement was the obvious option, though it was dark. With the marble decks in the rear, excavating the front of the property was the only possible solution for adding more space.
Wilder’s team expanded the lower level toward the front of the house; it now consists of a large entertainment area, an exercise room and a guest room and bath. Windows in the front of the house and an open stair well from the master bedroom pour plenty of daylight into these spaces.
The excavation inspired Wilder and Ward to create a below-grade courtyard outside the lower rooms, traversed by a flagstone bridge leading to the front door. A small stand of bamboo reaches upward, softening the austerity of the entry.
In the master bedroom, light from the expanse of windows fills the room, which overlooks the pool. The tranquil master bath maximizes space. Twin vanities are separated by a passage to the shower behind one vanity and a toilet behind the other. Natural light flows down to the shower and bathtub from skylights above.
This iconic, contemporary Dream Home is now filled with energy generated by the sun—and by modern innovation.
Contributing writer Barbara Karth resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Photographer Timothy Bell splits his time between Washington, DC, and New York.
PROJECT DESIGN: HUGH NEWELL JACOBSEN, FAIA, Jacobsen Architecture LLC, Washington, DC; adapted by ANTHONY WILDER and JP WARD, AIA, Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Inc., Cabin John, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: ROB FARRIE, project manager, Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Inc. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: ANTHONY WILDER and GEORGE BOTT, Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Inc. INTERIOR DESIGN: KARY EWALT, Anthony Wilder Design/Build.
Though high-end décor often conveys images of silks and linens, fragile antiques and delicate porcelains, “‘I want nothing in the house that I can’t put my feet on,’” she recalls her husband saying. “Comfort was the priority in both the visual and physical sense,” she confirms, “but I wanted the house to make a statement.”
As she perused magazines and newspapers for ideas, Sloter repeatedly came across the name Designing Solutions, designer Debbie Wiener’s firm that focuses on family-friendly interiors—and discovered it was a good match. The renovation encompassed a new library, gallery and great room; the homeowners asked Wiener to furnish these spaces, as well as make over the existing entry foyer, dining room and powder room.
Wiener, mother of two active teenage boys, understands the wear and tear family life can bring to a house. She is an expert at choosing materials and furnishings that eliminate the need for nagging and are immune to the catastrophic potential of spills. However, she also appreciates luxurious fabrics, fine furniture lines and quality workmanship and manages to blend these two seemingly incompatible priorities, designing indestructible spaces that also look good.
The Sloters’ home was built as a 1990s take on a Georgian traditional, with a center entry and the living room to one side and the dining room on the other. They had decided that the traditional living room was completely useless for their lifestyle, since they make full use of the casual, contemporary living space adjacent to the kitchen with its expanse of windows overlooking the pool and wooded landscape. So they converted the living room to Stan Sloter’s home office, accessible from the foyer through frosted glass doors.
Beyond the entry, a generous gallery opens to the kitchen, the library, the great room and the powder room. Broader than a hallway, the gallery is the center of the home and a casual gathering spot for friends when the Sloters entertain.
A mix of traditional and contemporary, the rugs reflect the Sloters’ taste; they gravitate toward items with historic roots punched up with current colors and
patterns in earthy hues. “That is part of what I loved about the project. I love a mix; it makes a room very unique,” notes Wiener.
At the beginning of the project, Wiener initially focused on rugs since they were a top priority for Sloter. Wiener e-mailed her some design samples to get a sense of her style and color preferences. Little did they know, the rugs would become the stylistic link in their overall decorating concept.
Wiener designed all of the rugs used in the project and had them fabricated by Kensington-based Soroush. “I sketched all these rugs, sitting in the carpool lane, waiting for my car to fill up with five screaming kids. I think moving from her house of kids to my car of kids inspired me,” explains Wiener.
Ultimately there would be seven rugs, each a different design yet linked by color and motif, from striped borders and spirals to geometric shapes. Through the use of color, pattern and fibers made of New Zealand wool, Wiener assured her clients that the rugs would either disguise or resist stains that might come from a pack of pre-teens running through the house. In the great room, she purposely positioned her most highly patterned, colorful rug under the sofa where the girls will most likely be eating in front of the TV.
Throughout the new spaces, Wiener’s choice of lighting is inspired: a fixture designed by Christian Liaigre in Lee Jofa silk hangs over the dining table. Wiener needed a fixture of equal importance for the adjacent foyer; she designed a shallow drum-shaped pendant with a shade of striped silk in hues that coordinate with the rugs and the dining room draperies and upholstery. Over the billiard table hangs another gorgeous fixture: a whimsical pumpkin-colored silk fixture with ochre dots by Holly Hunt. And in the library, two custom floor lamps in a twig motif bring the outdoor imagery inside.
Furnishings in both the dining room and library are traditional with contemporary accents. The dining table legs are capped with shiny, chrome ferrules; the accompanying chairs upholstered in a contemporary fabric. The chenille library chairs sport a present-day motif of confetti swirls.
“To make things really durable, I didn’t rule out bringing in some commercial lines when it was appropriate—when it worked,” says Wiener, noting the center table in the library. In addition, built-in window seats are topped in cushions with innersprings for added comfort. The girls like to lounge on them to read or study and the family gathers around the table in the comfort of the four chairs to play board games or work on puzzles.
Are the concepts of upscale luxury and family-friendly mutually exclusive? Wiener’s work for the Sloters completely proves the notion false.
Contributing editor Barbara Karth resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Mark Finkenstaedt is a photographer based in Falls Church, Virginia.
Interior Design: Debbie Wiener, Designing Solutions, Silver Spring, Maryland