For landscape architect Kevin Campion and architect Adam McGraw, the Purcellville project was special from the start.
The Loudoun County estate sprawls over 200-plus acres of Virginia horse country, virtually all under conservation easements. To the southwest, the Blue Ridge Mountains beckon across a valley that transitions each autumn from green to rust. On the northern edge of the site, a gracious stone residence constructed in 1932 reflects the dignity of just three owners who’ve occupied it over the past 90 years. In the eyes of Campion and McGraw, the stunning property was fertile ground. “It’s an exquisite old Virginia estate,” says Campion, of Campion Hruby Landscape Architects. “We worked with the clients to reinvent this place for modern life.”
Its current occupants, a horse-loving family of five, acquired the property in 2015 and quickly approached Campion, who had worked on their prior residence in Leesburg. Over the next five years, he collaborated with the owners, an engineering executive and his wife, an equestrienne, to redefine the agrarian landscape.
His master plan encompassed a range of improvements, from a new entry gate and inviting garden rooms to paddocks and a riding arena. It also mapped out a future barn. When the time was right, Campion suggested that his clients contact McGraw, founding partner of StudioMB in Washington, DC, to design it.
“When we came to the project, it was just open pastures,” recalls the architect. “The new owners wanted to bring in horses. The need for a barn evolved into a greater project.”
McGraw conceptualized a grand, multi-purpose structure that would not only accommodate horses but also serve as a venue for family fun and entertaining. Now central to the family’s engagement with their home, the completed whitewashed, timber-frame retreat boasts an airy great hall perched above an elegant, six-stall stable. The 31-foot-high hall is graced by exposed Douglas fir columns, beams, trusses and joints; pine-paneled walls; and a pair of cupolas that bathe the interior in daylight.
Mid-Atlantic Timber Frames of Pennsylvania crafted the 5,700-square-foot structure, which was fitted onto a waiting foundation. Complete with a sleeping loft, the barn’s 3,050-square-foot upper level enjoys pastoral and equestrian views through oversized glazed openings on two sides; a floating wall supports a stone fireplace and a kitchen extends along one end. Sized to host large gatherings such as an annual party for a local riding school, the hall is also intimate enough for family Thanksgiving.
“What I loved about this project was the fact that the clients gave us latitude to create a home for them,” says Campion. “We added the first equestrian piece, then did a master plan for the gardens, then designed the equestrian areas, then went back to the house.”
The main house is a seven-bedroom dwelling with a peaked slate roof, dormers, chimney and white trim. The late DC architect
William H. Irwin Fleming, who orginally designed it, clearly reveled in rustic stone, not only used to clad the exterior but also in a stone-walled study with a flagstone floor and on a massive stone fireplace—one of nine in the residence.
Recent improvements by Campion and McGraw better connect the main house to its pristine landscape. Existing French doors and a Juliet balcony overlook a new stone terrace, pavilion and outdoor kitchen that surround the existing pool. The home’s columned rear porch surveys neat paddocks once dedicated to rolled hay.
The team took design inspiration from the original home. Campion credits Marshall, Virginia-based mason Ed Ashby with honoring the existing stonework. “The magic of the gardens is the combination of hardscape and local building materials with plants that ties it all together,” explains the landscape architect.
Kevin Campion’s master plan respects the natural contours of the terrain. To fine-tune an all-season plant palette, Campion was joined by fellow landscape architect Meredith Forney Beach, whose favored combinations around the new pool terrace include Little Lime hydrangea, Russian sage, ornamental grasses and catmint with “PowWow Wild Berry” coneflower. Spring daffodils and alliums give way to summer roses. In autumn, the foliage fades to gold.
“It’s a very simple, uncomplicated garden,” Campion says. “There’s nothing really fussy, just a sea of native plants with walls and structures that fit into the landscape.”
As for the new barn, this whitewashed building adds a visual focal point. The finely detailed lower level serves an essential purpose in the equestrian family’s lifestyle with efficiency and elegance. The upper level provides the owners with a venue for sharing the estate with a multitude of guests.
“The design was definitely an evolution,” reflects McGraw. “At the end of the day, the barn has become the jewel of the property.”
Barn & Pool House Architecture: Adam McGraw, AIA, StudioMB, Washington, DC. Builder: Potomac Valley Builders, Bethesda, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Kevin Campion, ASLA, principal; Meredith Forney Beach, principal, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Landscape Contractors: Planted Earth Landscaping Inc., Sykesville, Maryland, and Redux Garden and Home, Catonsville, Maryland.
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.
Windows & Doors: pella.com through pellamidatlantic.com.
On the terrace of an expansive new abode in Great Falls, the essence of this nearly 20-acre property is distilled into a single thoughtful element: an elegant, stainless-steel armillary. Perched on its pedestal, the astronomical sphere charts the passing of the seasons and marks the precise latitude and longitude of the low-slung, stone-and-stucco dwelling where Tony Colangelo and Melissa Delgado live with their twin first-graders, Sophia and Christopher. All four names are engraved amid the celestial rings, reflecting the sense of permanence that inspired the owners. This idyll is meant to sustain multiple generations—if not in perpetuity, then for a very long time.
“This is our ‘forever home,’” explains Colangelo, whose technology contracting firm is now headquartered above the garage. “We consciously designed and built for longevity and multi-generational support as well as for a sound investment.”
As for the armillary, which is set on axis with the imposing front entrance, Delgado, an obstetrician, adds, “We wanted something that was meaningful to us.”
The couples’ adventure began about five years ago. Already at home in Great Falls, they decided that a legacy of land would be a surer gift in 30 years than liquid assets. A real estate agent found them a property with two adjoining five-acre lots; one held a residence that was demolished while the other contained a paddock, which they retained.
The project was shepherded to completion 18 months ago by a team that included architect James McDonald, interior designer Martha Vicas and landscape architect Joseph Richardson. “It’s a Floridian-style villa on a gorgeous site,” enthuses McDonald, who heeded his clients’ mandate for single-level living—both for raising children now and aging in place later. As a result, the form is linear, encompassing about 6,000 square feet on the main level. Wide roof overhangs shelter generous northeast exposures through bifold and recessed glass doors. Dazzling gray-toned interior furnishings rise to any occasion under ceilings that are 24 feet high in the plush great room and 12 feet elsewhere.
The architect loves the way the massive front door pivots into a barrel-vaulted foyer with a view of the armillary. Left of the foyer is a teal-hued office for the doctor. From there, a cross hall ties the house together. Four en-suite bedrooms lie at the east end and two three-car garages off a breezeway connect to an enclosed pool on the west. In between, the hall opens to a flowing living space: great room, dining area, kitchen and loggia—all overlooking the rear landscape. Beyond a fringe of deer-proof boxwood and ornamental grasses, a lawn extends to woods through which the children can reach Delgado’s mother’s house, one of several adjoining properties since acquired.
“The thought behind the design was really to take advantage of multiple views and to maximize indoor-outdoor living opportunities,” McDonald says. “The architecture allows people to flow from indoor to outdoor spaces with ease.”
The couple’s wish list started with unified areas for cooking, dining and relaxing; an office for Delgado; and a pool. A partial lower level houses a second living room, theater, wine cellar, additional guest room and bath. The interiors had to be livable. “We’re not looking for ornate, we’re looking to be comfortable,” Colangelo says. “When we come home from a hard day’s work, or the kids from school, that’s important.”
Designer Martha Vicas provided sophistication and practicality, balancing Colangelo’s taste for contemporary and Delgado’s for traditional. Nap-ready sofas and chairs wear easy-to-clean fabrics in gray tones and subtle patterns. “We wanted timeless, classic design,” says Delgado. “Martha taught us we didn’t have to sacrifice comfort for style.”
Indeed, Vicas wove lavish elements throughout. In the great room, a fireplace wall combines swirling travertine and textured leather panels bracketed by reeded-oak slats that rise to the ceiling. “We wanted to celebrate the scale of that wall,” the designer explains. The elaborate leatherwork is echoed in the sculpted folds of a massive steel range hood in the chic kitchen by Lobkovich Kitchen Designs. Fixed on the wall opposite the fireplace, the hood becomes an art statement. Between those spaces, metallic cork wallpaper delineates the dining area, making it sparkle. The ceiling is faux-painted in a navy swirl. “It’s another pattern play,” Vicas says.
On a quieter note, the primary suite is a welcoming cocoon, embellished with wall panels of flame-grained walnut, linen and cream-colored cut suede. “We wanted a calm, serene environment,” Delgado remarks.
The family hangs out in the loggia, with its heated-tile floor, fireplace, grilling station and media screen. Retractable glass doors open to the armillary. “We try to include sculpture in every garden,” says landscape architect Joseph Richardson, noting that this one draws residents and guests outdoors.
When it came time to address the landscape, Richardson’s brief included the creation of a long drive through an allée of mature, ornamental pear trees ending in a circular arrival court. He added open expanses of lawn, meadows and a river birch grove, as well as an organic garden and greenhouse. A sunken meditation garden planted with colorful perennials promotes peaceful contemplation while enhancing the view from the owners’ bedroom. Woodland walking paths to Grandmother’s house may come next; Delgado envisions “an enchanted forest vibe.” Enjoying the long-term view, she says, “Each year, hopefully, it will evolve.”
Architecture: James McDonald, James McDonald Associate Architects, PC, Great Falls, Virginia. Interior Design: Martha Vicas, Allied ASID, M.S. Vicas Interiors, Washington, DC. Kitchen Design: Lobkovich Kitchen Designs, Tysons, Virginia. Builder: Artisan Builders, McLean, Virginia. Landscape Architecture: Joseph Richardson, PLA, ASLA, Joseph Richardson Landscape Architecture, Washington, DC. Landscape Contractor: Wheat’s Landscape Design + Construction, Vienna, Virginia. Styling: Kristi Hunter.
Fireplace Design & Art: studioart.it/en. Fireplace Stone: marblesystems.com. Fireplace Wall Paneling: artisanbuilds.com. Bench Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Sofa: Custom. Chaise: dmitriyco.com. Sofa Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Rug: Custom by juliedasherrugs.com. Chairs: aneesupholstery.com. Chair Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Wood Coffee Table: etsy.com. Rectangular Coffee Table: hollyhunt.com. Side Tables: charlestonforge.com. Drapery Fabric: kvadrat.dk/en/sahco. Drapery Fabrication: Leangs Interiors; 301-477-3065. Paint: Balboa Mist by benjaminmoore.com.
Table: Custom by harrisrubin.com. Chairs: bernhardt.com. Chair Fabric: weitznerlimited.com. Chandelier: bocci.com through illuminc.com. Rug: Custom by juliedasherrugs.com. Wall Cover: romo.com. Ceiling Treatment: artstarcustompaintworks.com.
Cabinetry: lobkovich.com. Countertop & Backsplash: glbtileandmarble.com through marblesystems.com. Stove & Cooktop: subzero-wolf.com through ferguson.com. Plumbing: brizo.com through ferguson.com. Hood Design: msvicasinteriors.com; lobkovich.com. Hardware: topknobs.com.
Wine Room Design: msvicasinteriors.com. Wine Room Fabrication: artisanbuilds.com. Glass: riverglassdesigns.com. Tile Flooring: annsacks.com. Cabinetry: lobkovich.com. Countertop: glbtileandmarble.com through marblesystems.com.
Bedding: sferra.com. Wall Upholstery: custom. Wall Paneling: artisanbuilds.com. Scones: brandvanegmond.com through illuminc.com. Side Tables & Bench: aneesupholstery.com. Bench Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Rug: Custom by juliedasherrugs.com. Drapery Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Drapery Fabrication: Leangs Interiors; 301-477-3065. Chaise: aneesupholstery.com. Chaise Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Dressing Room Drapery Fabrication: pierrefrey.com. Dressing Room Chest: bernhardt.com.
Tub: kohler.com. Floor & Tub Tile: architessa.com. Wallcovering: phillipjeffries.com. Bathtub Fixture: kohler.com through ferguson.com. Vanity: lobkovich.com. Countertop: glbtileandmarble.com. Tile: architessa.com. Sink Fixture: kohler.com through ferguson.com. Sconces: urbanelectric.com. Mirror: rh.com.
A new personality for a sedate Bethesda classic starts with crimson panels and a lemon-yellow mailbox at the front door—signs of a spirited remake by KUBE Architecture.This 1950s bi-level has been refreshed as a platform for contemporary living. “From the outside you can tell something has happened,” says architect Richard Loosle-Ortega, a founding partner at the DC firm. “Inside, the house is radically different.”
A main-floor renovation, completed in 2020, reaches its apex with a dramatic, orange-painted ceiling rising over exposed rafters to a double-skylit roofline. This architectural focal point hovers over a light-filled gallery. From front to rear, original walls were removed. In their place, entry, living, dining and kitchen spaces are signaled by varied ceiling heights—flat, sloped, low and high—accompanied by broad swaths of color. KUBE calls the combination “three-dimensional space within otherwise simple block volumes.”
A desire for big change topped the owners’ wish list. Empty nesters transplanted from Venezuela decades ago, the couple had raised two sons in the Wood Acres house. But working increasingly from home—he as an economist, she in real estate—both felt hemmed in by a dated layout, low ceilings and—for two Latin spirits—a lack of pizzazz. “We always wanted a more modern home,” the husband explains. “We were held back by the floor plan.”
Historically, the abode’s defining characteristic was its “split foyer” entrance, featuring a landing with half a flight of steps up to a 1,256-square-foot main floor and half a flight down to a similarly sized lower level. On the main level, the floor plan squeezed in formal living and dining rooms, a corner kitchen and a short hall to three bedrooms and two baths. (The lower level, which was not part of KUBE’s brief, includes a family room, more bedrooms and a bath.)
Today, visitors enter a loft-like space brightened by five skylights and a mostly glass rear wall offering a clear view past a new deck to a lush garden. The project added just 423 square feet across the back—enough to expand the kitchen with a generous island and enhance the owners’ bath. It also provided room for a nine-by-16-foot office. “They had enough space,” Loosle-Ortega explains. “It’s just that it was chopped up by walls.”
Max Sposito of New Era Builders handled the construction, while KUBE’s Matthew Dougherty worked with Loosle-Ortega on the design. Their collaboration ensured the presence of details that elevate what could have become a long box. Original oak flooring was refinished and matched, extending a unified ground plane. A long wall of Italian laminated woodgrain storage cabinets provides warmth while blurring the demarcation between the kitchen and pantry and the dining area. For the office, added to the southwest corner, Loosle-Ortega designed large glass exposures on two sides.
“I wanted to see the four seasons,” says the husband. “In Venezuela, it’s spring all year.”
By angling an interior wall shared by the office and dining area, Loosle-Ortega created a more interesting backdrop for the dining table. Glass insets are strategically placed at the top and edge of the angled wall; they allow light but not sound to flow through.
If the practical need for an office sparked the project, it was the bold use of color that energized the owners. “Colors are very Latin American,” says the wife simply. “I love that sort of thing.”
So does Loosle-Ortega, a longtime educator at Catholic University’s School of Architecture, who has personal ties to Latin America. He counts among his influences the work of Mexico’s celebrated architect of color, Luis Barragán. The result here is a foyer glowing with sun-infused yellow. Beyond the electric-orange skylight well, a deep blue “wall” of sliding doors to the office is balanced by a splash of blue grounding the kitchen’s glossy white cabinets and counters. Only the living area has white walls, one of which fades to pale gray.
“What surprises me is that when people see color, they like it—but they don’t do it,” the husband observes.
Multiple lighting sources, including pendants and up-lights, add complexity. Colored LED strips on the ceiling mark the threshold between old and new spaces while emitting streaks of blue, white or pink.
If the bi-level’s original rigid floor plan has fewer fans today, furnishings from the same era retain their appeal. With their architect’s counsel, the clients traded traditional furniture for mid-century flair with such pieces as a Noguchi coffee table and an Eames lounge chair in the living area.
The owners are thrilled with their dynamic new dwelling. “We decided the next years are going to be the best years of our life,” the husband avows. “Many people invest in a house to sell. We wanted to make sure we have enough time to enjoy it.”
Ticking away over the front door is a classic Ball Clock by George Nelson, its multi-color hands suggesting that this was the right time for change.
Once you’ve taken down walls, how do you build back better?
Richard Loosle-Ortega: Just tearing out all the walls to open up rooms is not enough. An understanding of how to differentiate the spaces from one another is important. I use a full range of tools: vertical changes (ceiling heights); horizontal (sliding doors and wall heights); texture and color (flooring materials and paint); and transparency and light (glass, skylights and reflective materials).
How important is lighting?
The right lighting creates the ambience. This is so important. We use lots of LED lighting in our projects, all on dimmers.
Color can be magical. What are the rules?
Blues and greens and warm oranges are some of my favorite colors. We’ll use whatever the client is willing to use. The key is to make sure the palette works together. Count on testing lots of different paint samples. For this project, we tried three or four oranges and yellows and four or five blues on the wall.
Renovation Architecture: Richard Loosle-Ortega, RA, principal; Matthew Dougherty, design associate, KUBE Architecture, Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: Max Sposito, New Era Builders, LLC, Washington, DC.
It may seem counterintuitive that a thoroughly modern house would draw its defining architectural element from an 18th-century tradition. But that’s how Mark McInturff describes the boldly rebuilt stair hall at the core of a whole-house reinvention he recently completed in Northwest Washington.
“It’s a stair tower,” says the Bethesda architect. Describing his take on a classic center-hall Colonial, he reaches all the way back to George Washington’s home on the Potomac to explain his inspiration. “If you do a center hall right—like at Mount Vernon—when you come in the front, you can see straight through to the back.”
And so, out went the rear wall. In came expanses of glass, an ocular skylight and the floating treads, suspended landings and sinuous steel railing clad in steam-bent oak that transformed a conventional stair hall into a brilliant shaft of light.
The corner property benefitted from a double lot that made it desirable for an active household with two young children. The owner, a businessman, had not envisioned a work of modern architecture; having recently moved from a co-op, his intention was simply to refresh the interior with help from James Loveless of JWL Woodworking, with whom he’d collaborated on his previous residence. Once walls began to come down, however, the need for a master plan became clear. Eager for a layout that wasn’t “all chopped up,” the owner turned to McInturff Architects with the directive, he says, that “it was also important for the house to fit into the neighborhood.”
McInturff quickly devised a plan that would accomplish both goals, working closely with Colleen Healey, then a principal at his firm. “We didn’t just blow the walls out, we connected the spaces,” says Healey, who has since launched her own practice in DC.
The three-story, 5,417-square-foot Georgian manse came with seven bedrooms and five baths. A porch with a retractable screen was added off the dining room. Back stairs were removed, enlarging a kitchen redesigned by McInturff. Upstairs, two bedrooms became an owners’ bath and dressing room. Two third-floor rooms were enlivened by white oak ceiling panels. A studio over the garage was equipped with a bath and a kitchenette and the lower level was excavated to create a recreation room, laundry and sauna.
Facing the street, the home retains tradition with Palladian detailing and cornice molding—but the spirit is modern. Red brick is now painted Bauhaus white. Windows are de-shuttered and outlined in charcoal. A columned portico has morphed into angular steel, framing a mahogany front door with an asymmetric sidelite. Roof shingles have given way to the industrial chic of standing-seam metal. “We try to be very well-mannered from the street,” says McInturff. “What we’re looking for is not a collision but a weaving of elements.”
The radical transformation emerges fully in the back garden, where the façade thrills with angles and curves in glass, metal, mahogany and a smidgen of Georgian brick. The goal is simple: “People live differently now,” the architect affirms. “They want to open their houses to the exterior. They’re going to have a different look.”
A recent tour began at the new portico. “I always start at the front door,” McInturff explains. “I want to see what we’re going to see.” Open sesame: The west-facing interior explodes with light. The back wall of the stair hall reveals a towering magnolia, cryptomeria and holly. The stairs are wrapped in curved, oak-paneled railings—a tour de force of craftsmanship. White oak sets the mood on the first floor with paneled walls. A two-sided fireplace clad in basalt opens up the living room. Curves are a theme: In the library, for example, an oak-paneled wall arcs in a literal embrace.
Details charm: Even in daylight, a ceiling fixture by Moooi in the living room sparkles like fireflies and an intricate porcelain light fixture dangles from the top of the three-story stair hall like a Calder mobile—or a flock of doves.
The curves are repeated in spare furnishings chosen by Kate Ballou of Hendrick Interiors. Ballou adopted the palette of oak and neutrals in largely Scandinavian pieces such as a caramel leather bench by mid-century Danish saddler Erik Jorgensen that keeps company with an Eames Lounge Chair in the sunroom. Ivory wool upholstery from Kvadrat is naturally resistant to dirt, and oak tables have been treated with a sustainable soap finish. “It was really important that the home feel livable,” Ballou notes. “It’s very subtle yet still modern and fresh.”
There are almost no strong pops of color. By design, the hues that anchor the rooms are warm in tone. “It’s not a cold house, it’s a warm house,” the owner enthuses.
Mahogany frames floor-to-ceiling windows across the back and around the north side of the house, which gained floor-to-ceiling glass exposures. “I wanted to see outside,” the owner explains. “With every view, you’re looking at greenery.”
These garden vistas are courtesy of landscape architect Lila Fendrick, who planted evergreens to form a screen behind lush native shrubs and perennials. A strip of lawn is bound by a narrow pool of water running parallel to a simple bluestone terrace.
Discussing how the project evolved, McInturff avers that he and his team “don’t go in with preconceptions. Modernism is very broad—steel and glass to stone and wood. We just kind of feel our way into it.” In this home, wood became the defining character. “Wood talks back, it changes in the light and has multiple colors—it’s authentic,” the architect says. “It resonates with our humanity.”
Renovation Architecture: Mark McInturff, FAIA, principal in charge; Colleen Gove Healey, AIA, NCARB, project architect, McInturff Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. Interior Design: Kate Ballou, Allied ASID, Hendrick Interiors, Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: James Loveless, JWL Woodworking, Ijamsville, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Lila Fendrick, ASLA, Lila Fendrick Landscape Architects, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Landscape Contractor: Evergro Landscaping, Glenn Dale, Maryland.
Sofa: eggcollective.com through dwr.com. Sofa Fabric: dwr.com. Sofa Pillow Fabric: hollandandsherry.com. Rug: woodnotes.fi through ffsgallery.com. White Chairs: atlason.com through dwr.com. White Chair Fabric: dwr.com. Chair Pillow Fabric: roomandboard.com. Small Center Side Table: eggcollective.com. Cocktail Table: andtradition.com through ffsgallery.com. Orange Chairs & Stools: Owners’ collection. Clear Console: Owners’ collection. Chandelier: moooi.com through illuminc.com. Paint: Super White by benjaminmoore.com. Fireplace Surface: architessa.com.
Bench: Erik Jorgensen through ffsgallery.com. Small Table: andtradition.com through ffsgallery.com. Chaise & Ottoman: hermanmiller.com through dwr.com. Rug: starkcarpet.com. Paint: Super White by benjaminmoore.com.
Sofa: Custom through danieldonnelly.com. Sofa Fabric: kvadrat.dk. Pillow Fabrics: roomandboard.com. Swivel Chairs: hollyhunt.com. Swivel Chair Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Nesting & Side Tables: fredericia.com through ffsgallery.com. Light Fixture: foscarini.com through illuminc.com. Rug: bloomsburgcarpet.com. Millwork Fabrication: potomacwoodwork.com. Paint: Super White by benjaminmoore.com.
Light Fixture: bocci.com.
Table & Chairs: knoll.com.
Breakfast Table: knoll.com through dwr.com. Breakfast Chairs: Erik Jorgensen through ffsgallery.com. Lounge Chairs: atlason.com through dwr.com. Lounge Chair Fabric: dwr.com. Small Table: Erik Jorgensen through ffsgallery.com. Paint: Super White by benjaminmoore.com. Cabinetry Fabrication: potomacwoodwork.com. Countertops: caesarstoneus.com through usmarbleandgranite.com. Sink Fixtures: ferguson.com. Cooktop: mieleusa.com through ferguson.com. Fireplace: woodlanddirect.com.
Visitors to Guy and Angie Paolozzi’s Vienna home may be forgiven for feeling transported to the French countryside. The first glimpse, through an allée of zelkova trees, reveals a stone manor more typical of Northern France than Northern Virginia, with a castle-ready tower anchoring one end.
The house, designed by architect Gregory L. Palmer, a principal of Harrison Design, “fits like a glove” on its sloping five-acre site in a riparian wetland crossed by a rippling run. “The setting could easily be transplanted to France with a little change in vegetation,” says Palmer from his base in Naples, Florida. He came to the clients’ attention in 2005 as the architect of a Virginia show house; Angie and Guy Paolozzi, who is a land developer and small business owner, eventually invited him to design a French-accented dwelling to fit their site. The result, completed a few years ago, is an elegant but relaxed “country house” rooted in the timeless solidity of Normandy and Brittany, with touches of sunny Provence. Historical accuracy is honored in the details, but the spirit is spiced with 21st-century comforts required by an energetic family of five.
The impression is old, yet new. The exterior of Lueders limestone was craft-cut to expose natural veining. The steep slate roof was laid in staggered butts to suggest age-old handiwork. The front façade, with its parade of arched double doors and Provençal blue shutters, hints at the house’s mythical French origin.
The layout, encompassing 14,142 square feet on three floors, is all American. With two teenagers and a youngster in elementary school, the Paolozzis desired five bedrooms, six full bathrooms and three half-baths, a lower-level theater and game-room complex, plus a mudroom and back stairs near the car court.
A classicist known for Old World finesse, Palmer imagined an authentic French farmhouse expanded over generations. At its core, the dwelling is a rectangular prism with extensions “added” for dining, guest quarters, a study and a pair of two-car garages. Reclaimed timbers crisscross ceilings, but the pièce de résistance is a 52-foot-long, groin-vaulted gallery fronting the farmhouse core.
The home’s entry, located at the gallery’s midpoint, reveals a garden view across a 26-by-18-foot great room, where steel-framed glazing opens the back wall to the pool terrace. “If you look at the front of the house, it’s fairly traditional from a proportion standpoint,” Palmer explains. “As we roll to the back, we’ve opened it up with large metal doors. It’s still very classical, but you never would have had these doors in a traditional house.”
The Paolozzis opted out of a formal parlor in favor of this plush-casual nexus, which flows into a 40-foot-long kitchen and breakfast room and onto an adjacent 32-by-19-foot arched stone loggia. “One of the best times to be out on the loggia is in the pouring rain,” observes Angie Paolozzi. For the kitchen, her essential command post, Portfolio Kitchens of Vienna produced double farm sinks, a La Cornue range and an oversized island topped with a 65-by-85-inch slab of Calacatta marble.
McLean designer Maria Galiani attributes her clean, neutral interiors to a client with “great taste and a great sense of style.” The first floor is a seamless visual journey in buff and blue. Floors are laid with Beaumanière limestone or wide wood planks. Walls were treated to a custom mix of stucco and Venetian plaster for a look that Galiani calls “not rustic, but not too formal.”
Vintage lookalikes, such as mantels cast from antiques, blur the line between history and this new build by The Galileo Group. Only the dining room exudes formality, with pale painted molding and glass-fronted cabinets holding a collection of blue and white china.
Throughout the first floor, fireplaces harken back to an era before central heating. Chandeliers styled as candelabras recall a time before electricity. Palmer, who takes historical authenticity seriously, offers a caution: “I tell people, ‘Don’t look at houses done in the last 50 years in this style. Go back to the roots, to the original designs and build from that. Create your own.’”
But he is quick to add that historical style is only a beginning. “We wanted to be in this time and place,” Palmer reflects. “Certainly history is informing it, but we wanted this to be a modern house.”
Architecture: Gregory L. Palmer, AIA, NCARB, Harrison Design, Washington, DC, and other cities. Interior Design: Maria Galiani, Galiani Design Group, McLean, Virginia. Landscape Contractor: Chick Landscaping, Inc., Burtonsville, Maryland. Builder: Patrick Latessa, The Galileo Group. McLean, Virginia.
Flooring: realhardwoodfloors.com. Beams: ivancdutterer.com. Wall Treatments: variancefinishes.com through Season Services; 571-432-7020. Interior & Exterior Stone: pimentastone.com. Windows: hopewindows.com. Paint: benjaminmoore.com.
Rug: tamarian.com. Chandelier: niermannweeks.com. Trim & Pillow Fabric: schumacher.com. Sofa: Owners’ collection. Sofa Upholstery: osborneandlittle.com. Fireplace: francoisandco.com. Coffee Table: ralphlauren.com. Swivel Chairs: leeindustries.com. Swivel Chair Fabric: Barry Dixon for Vervain through fabricut.com.
Chairs & Dining Table: owners’ collection. Chairs & Dining Table Fabric: osborneandlittle.com, clarke-clarke.sandersondesigngroup.com. Chandelier: davidiatesta.com. Flooring: Custom by Giacalone Floors; 240-388-1774. Beams: ivancdutterer.com. Fireplace: pimentastone.com.
Countertops & Tile: glbtileandmarble.com. Backsplash: marblesystems.com. Cabinetry: Portfolio Kitchens; 703-242-0030, premiercb.com. Hardware: ashleynorton.com. Range: lacornueusa.com. Bar Stools: hickorychair.com. Bar Stool Fabric: osborneandlittle.com.
The complexity of a whole-house renovation was increased exponentially in a townhouse reinvention near Washington’s Logan Circle. That’s because the owners, Sharon H. Russ and David Rubin, had just expanded their domestic real estate holdings by one adjoining historic row house. With an active family and professional responsibilities—she is a consultant, he is a managing director at Deloitte—they had longed for more space. When the opportunity arose to purchase the property next door, the couple jumped on it.
But as Russ points out, they knew they might move out one day. The task they presented to architect Salo Levinas: Join the two dwellings for now, but preserve future resale value.
“The houses were joined, but with the possibility of separating them,” explains Levinas, principal of Shinberg.Levinas, a multi-disciplinary Washington practice. “The challenge was to create one large unit that you could close tomorrow and have separate units that would work perfectly well.”
Preservation requirements dictated that the historic façades remain unchanged, including the two front doors; the owners use the door to their original end unit. Inside, the architect envisioned a modernized, four-level home encompassing 4,200 square feet and including five bedrooms, four full baths, a study and a family room. Two lower-level rental units were also renovated.
On the main floor, Levinas established an expanded envelope for entertaining. By taking down party walls and moving one staircase, he created wide open spaces defined by off-white gallery walls. Calibrated shafts of daylight from repositioned skylights and existing clerestory windows bounce off polished European white oak flooring. Behind those walls, double the wiring and plumbing was installed, in case the units need to be walled off again and another kitchen is required.
The floor plan and architectural features subtly respect the former division between spaces. The doubled living room now boasts two handcrafted steel fireplaces—one for each downsized unit. It took even more finesse to accommodate two complete staircases. Levinas gave each its own strong sense of individuality; one, newly fashioned in the owners’ original row house, winds up from the kitchen in a coil of steel. The architect calls this his “statement” staircase; its counterpart in the acquired home was demolished in favor of a straight flight with open risers, separated from the adjacent dining area by a suspended partition. Levinas found room for a nifty “wine wall” beneath the stairs.
For furnishings, Russ turned to Sandy Despres Stevens, a New York-based French designer then working under the name Decopostale. “Our goal was to bring a contemporary but warm feeling to the home,” says Despres Stevens, now CEO of the New York office of Jean-Philippe Nuel, a Paris designer of hospitality and residential interiors. “As it is a narrow space with a lot of circulation, we needed to find the right balance in furniture proportions and materials to achieve a clean design that is comfortable and livable.”
Deborah Kalkstein of Contemporaria designed the sparkling kitchen, where Italian Cesar cabinetry hides every possible appliance. “The kitchen is open to the entrance so it becomes a very important part of the two houses,” she remarks.
The upper floors are enlivened by floor-to-ceiling windows across the backs of both houses, where there are no preservation requirements. The boys sleep on the second floor, encompassing two rooms and a bath on either side of the former party wall. The third floor houses a sleek owners’ suite on one side and an office, guest room and bath on the other; natural wood paneling lines the walls, closets and hallway, which culminates in a glamorous owners’ bath. The ceiling was lifted to 13 feet by borrowing space from the attic.
The family moved out during construction. When the dust settled just before the pandemic, Russ, Rubin and their two teenage boys returned to a transformed home. On the serene main floor, walls provide space for displaying bold art. In the dining room, for example, a slanted wall creates a niche that frames a Renée Rendine sculpture made of crocheted fishing line. Says Levinas, “We don’t treat these rooms like boxes, but as sculpture.”
You gutted one townhouse and retrofitted another. How tricky is that?
Salo Levinas: In remodeling an old house, you don’t know what is hidden; the floors are not straight, the bricks are not completely aligned. With craftsmanship, you are able to do it. The partnership is crucial. Fortunately, we chose a contractor with craftsmen who know our expectations and were able to meet them. This kind of job requires people who have pride in the construction.
How important is budgeting?
As a design firm, we are very conscious of budgets. The architect has the responsibility to manage the budget, not to communicate false expectations to the client. If they spend so much money on planning, you can’t build. You have to start with an honest relationship.
Is designing a home a bonding experience?
Everything is designed by our firm. We treat the house as a whole. To go into detail, to engage with the client in a tight, tight relationship—that I really enjoy.
Renovation Architecture: Salo Levinas, AIA, principal, and Paola Lugli, project architect, Shinberg.Levinas, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Sandy Despres Stevens, Decopostale, New York, New York. Kitchen Design: Deborah Kalkstein, Contemporaria, Potomac, Maryland. Contractor: Czecher Construction, Woodbridge, Virginia.
Half a lifetime ago, Ajaipal “Jay” Virdy anticipated the serene home that he and his wife, Shalu, now enjoy. Back then, Virdy’s fledgling tech company occupied space next to a builder whose work he admired.
Two decades later, the dream came true. With two grown children and an enviable career complete, Virdy and Shalu were moving from Leesburg to a classic, two-story abode in McLean. The property was endowed with an ideal setting and recently added guest quarters perfect for Virdy’s aging mother. But the 9,422-square-foot house, built in 2001, came with awkward and dated interiors.
Virdy called on his former neighbor, design-build company BOWA, which in turn enlisted architect Sarah Armstrong of Studio 360 and Betsy Delisi of Lotus Interior Design. The team quickly sized up the home’s quirks: The owners’ suite was an unwieldy labyrinth, the kitchen lacked warmth—and something about the entry hall didn’t work. What followed was a two-year, top-to-bottom reimagining that converted the home’s nine bedrooms to five with three sitting rooms, and revamped the rest of the existing spaces.
“It’s heaven,” says Shalu Virdy. “It’s our forever house.”
Armstrong imparted drama and functionality without expanding the footprint. “We started with the architecture, creating a really great space,” she notes. Walls were moved, ceilings raised, windows expanded, paneling gutted, the attic reclaimed, the owners’ suite redesigned, the kitchen enhanced, and the lower level personalized with a golf simulator and sufficient room for musical equipment to sustain multi-generational family gatherings. (Jay plays guitar while Shalu sings.)
First came the entry—a low, narrow space where any sense of arrival had been cut short by a blank wall straight ahead. That barrier hid a sun-filled family room at the back of the house. By raising the ceiling, widening the space and replacing the wall with black-framed, sliding-glass doors, Armstrong established a fresh dynamic and compelling vista from the front door. “My goal was to have a straight shot through to the garden view,” she explains.
Next, partial walls and classically styled columns between the family and breakfast rooms were removed, effectively adding 11 feet of living space. The outside wall of the breakfast area was replaced with matching black-framed sliders opening to the patio. The expanse of glass marries the interior to a 1.16-acre landscape, where a pool and putting green blend in amid flowering trees. Says designer Delisi, “The house didn’t present as interesting until Sarah got hold of it.”
To establish a uniform envelope, Delisi had the walls and ceilings throughout painted Benjamin Moore’s China White. Furnishings were added in soft blues and greige. The interior scheme honors Armstrong’s black-framed doors by treating the existing window frames to a thin outline of gray paint; draperies soften windows only in the dining room and owners’ bedroom. With 10-foot ceilings, Delisi chose dramatic lighting for size and presence.
The move to a new house enabled the owners to shift to a more contemporary style. That choice led to the decommissioning of a collection of Indian carpets and richly carved wood furniture. “We sold almost everything,” declares Shalu Virdy, adding, “I have no regrets.”
However, the couple has not abandoned natural wood or fine craftsmanship. The breakfast table showcases a live-edge slab of Claro walnut 15 feet long, which Delisi sourced in Oregon and had finished in Wisconsin. The remodeled kitchen, a collaboration with kitchen designer Eric Lieberknecht, boasts a paneled ceiling, striaed-veneer cabinet fronts and a hand-rubbed, stainless-steel range hood. A white oak display cabinet provides a focal point from the stair hall. “Wood is back,” Delisi avers.
Upstairs, Armstrong reconfigured the owners’ suite. The bedroom awaits a Maya Romanoff wall covering, but the master bath is ready for its star turn. The couple asked to replace his-and-her spaces with a single bath, centered on an extravagant porcelain-and-glass shower and floating tub. At Jay Virdy’s suggestion, a spiral stair was added in the owners’ closet; it accesses a storage loft, carved from unfinished space in the attic, where a glass-fronted cabinet showcases Shalu Virdy’s colorful collection of Indian saris.
Today, sunlight streams through the bare, crisply painted windows in the living room, where plush seating designed by Betsy Delisi and fabricated by Stewart Furniture accompanies the family’s baby grand piano, one of the few keepsakes that transitioned to McLean. Throughout the house, Delisi commissioned wall panels, carpets and lighting with subtle musical motifs as well as a keyboard painting above the mantel to reflect her clients’ love of music. She also incorporated contemporary patterning suggestive of their Indian heritage; in the foyer, for instance, a mosaic niche spotlights a precious sitar.
The lower level came last—but not for lack of importance. A nifty wall of acoustical white oak slats forms the backdrop for a wet bar with a backlit onyx countertop. A hidden door in the slats reveals a movie theater. Essential music equipment occupies half a wall. Nearby, a door leads to a golf simulator enlivened with an image of the course at Pebble Beach. A delighted Jay Virdy says, “I live in the golf room.”
On cue, Shalu responds, “And I have the rest of the house.”
Renovation Architecture: Sarah Armstrong, AIA, Studio 360, Clifton, Virginia. Interior Design: Betsy Delisi, Lotus Interior Design, LLC, Ashburn, Virginia. Kitchen & Bath Design: Eric Lieberknecht, Eric Lieberknecht Design, Washington, DC. Contractor: BOWA, McLean, Virginia.
Rug: tamarian.com through galleriacarpets.com. Chandelier: visualcomfortlightinglights.com through dominionlighting.com. Sofas: stewartfurniture.com through americaneyewdc.net. Sofa & Pillow Fabric: kravet.com. Painting over Fireplace: through kevin.mcpherrin.com. Console Table: hollyhunt.com. Paint Color: benjaminmoore.com.
Desk: blackwolfdesign.com. Chair: David Edward through Kimball.com. Rug: kravet.com. Chandelier: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Paint Color: Mega Greige through benjaminmoore.com. Cabinetry: custom by lieberknechtdesign.com.
Rug: tamarian.com through galleriacarpets.com. Chandelier: corbettlighting.hvlgroup.com through dominionlighting.com. Sideboard: lorts.com. Mirror: uttermost.com. Drapery Fabric: kravet.com. Table: bermanrosetti.com. Chairs: stewartfurniture.com through americaneyewdc.net. Chair Fabric (Front): romo.com. Chair Fabric (Back): arc-com.com. Wallpaper: mayaromanoff.com through kravet.com.
Cabinetry: custom by lieberknechtdesign.com. Countertops: silestoneusa.com through cosentino.com. Backsplash Tile: marblesystems.com. Hood: Custom by akmetalfab.com. Range: viking.com. Refrigerator: subzero-wolf.com. Fixtures: waterstoneco.com through fergusonshowrooms.com. Stools: swaim-inc.com. Pendants: visualcomfortlightinglights.com.
Sconces near Door: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Rug: tamarian.com through galleriacarpets.com. Sectional & Aqua Stools: stewartfurniture.com through americaneyewdc.net. Sectional Fabric & Pillow Fabric: kravet.com. Chair: americanleather.com through americaneyewdc.net. Chair Fabric: romo.com. Lamps & Coffee Table: americaneyewdc.net. Sofa Table: lorts.com.
Vanity: Custom by lieberknechtdesign.com. Countertop: glbtileandmarble.com. Tub/Source: bainultra.com through tsomerville.com. Shower Enclosure: riverglassdesigns.com. Shower Stone: Fabbrica Marmi e Granniti porcelain slabs through marblesystems.com. Shower Stone Fabrication: glbtileandmarble.com. Floor & Wall Tile: Linea Porcelain through marblesystems.com. Plumbing Fixtures: fortisfaucet.com through fergusonshowrooms.com. Sinks: mtibaths.com.
It takes labor-intensive pruning, clipping, clearing and clean-up to ensure that the finest shrubbery and perennials achieve their natural form and lend the seasoned garden a grace and depth uncommon in the new.
A Bethesda family has overseen just such a garden for more than three decades, tended most recently by McHale Landscape Design, which won a 2020 Decade award for maintenance. A specimen wisteria has conquered a porch, while ivy and espaliered pyracantha completely hide stone walls.
“It’s a reserved garden,” says Matt Morris of McHale, who has been steward of the property for close to 15 years, working with the owners’ gardener. Morris defines the secret of maintenance as “advising what to do and more likely what not to do.”
The front yard is a classic: dogwood, azalea, rhododendron and boxwood framing a turf lawn. “Mind you, we have some deer issues that curtail what can be done,” Morris admits.
In back, the terrain is terraced, with a swimming pool slipped into a long, narrow slot at the bottom of the yard, beneath a willow. A koi pond lush with aquatic plants burbles beside a patio. Designed by McHale’s Phil Kelly, it was renovated by Morris and crew a few years ago.
“There’s not a lot of air flow,” Morris notes. “The main challenge is always water. Mother Nature just won’t stop raining on you.”
The client had mandated a pool on a level side lot, but Dunlevy saw opportunities in the slope: With courageous use of cut-and-fill excavation, he addressed runoff—and was able to add an understated pool and plantings worthy of a Heritage award. “Now the client has an asset rather than a liability,” he observes.
The slope dipped 30 inches to the property line. By constructing a 36-inch-tall retaining wall at the boundary and filling it tightly with excavated soil, Dunlevy gained the right elevation for the rectangular pool with space for a spa that spills into it and a circular stone fire pit. Arborvitae and cryptomeria provide privacy. A historic wood-frame garage at one end of the pool dictated the design of an attached outdoor changing area while providing space for equipment.
The pool is bounded by a thermal Pennsylvania flagstone terrace to match an existing upper patio. A meandering path is enlivened with camellia and a Japanese maple. Out of sight but not out of mind is a large dry well topped with a bed of river stones, which manages runoff to adjacent properties. Says Dunlevy, “I always try to be as neighborly as possible. It costs a little more, but it will pay off in the end.” And that flat side lot? It became a baseball diamond.
Dozens of truckloads of dirt were hauled away to transform a barren slope into a landscape designed for outdoor living and recreation.
The finished property, which won a Distinction award, is now terraced to fit a mountain of boulders; they rise six feet from the edge of a pool and serve as a retaining wall supporting holly and arborvitae. The pile of Tennessee stone doubles as a waterfall and jumping-off point for three kids. A 12-foot-wide spillway stone weighs in at three tons.
“It was pretty easy to install. The rest of the rock was in place,” says Cohen, adding that when the monster stone arrived, “the crane just lifted it up there.”
Cohen designed the pool 10 feet deep to ensure safety for adventurous water nymphs. (A lifeguard’s chair is stationed nearby.) Occupying the lower yard, a synthetic turf sports court hosts basketball and soccer games; when school facilities weren’t available during coronavirus restrictions, the team practiced on the home field.
Surrounds enhanced the existing patio, outdoor kitchen and fire pit with new lighting. Plantings include Arkansas blue star, St. John’s Wort and a mix of ornamental grasses. Pennsylvania bluestone steps lead to the sports court, which is screened from the pool by native grasses. Hanover Appian random pavers around the pool nicely complement those great big boulders from Tennessee.
With an acre and mature trees already framing the property, a landscape designer can easily fashion distinct garden rooms. And if the owners happen to be collectors, those “rooms” may showcase art amid ornamental trees, flowering shrubs, grasses and perennials—all of which make maintenance essential.
On a Zen-calm Bethesda property, owners first created an Asian-inspired garden. Years later, they commissioned architect Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, to add a pool pavilion. Landscape architect Thomas Rainer, then with Rhodeside & Harwell, unified the landscape using ebullient masses of hydrangea anchored by globes of boxwood, with windblown grasses, ferns and perennials to soften the hardscape—and to set off garden sculptures such as a lettered figure by Jaume Plensa.
“There’s a matrix of reliable plants,” Rainer explains. “Most of the plant palette is ‘blowsy;’ the big thing is the looseness. Plants grow to their full height and volume.”
The task of pruning this paradise has fallen to Shorb Landscaping, a winner of this year’s Distinction award for residential maintenance. “The complexity can offer its challenges at times,” admits Ted Pleiman of Shorb, who sends a three-person team weekly to tame drifts of astilbe, coral bells, hakone grass, hosta, allium and daylily. That’s what it takes “to keep everything looking natural.”