Home & Design

From their first trip 25 years ago, Bill and Megan Goeller were smitten by the Chesapeake lifestyle. The Delaware-based couple made yearly visits for a decade—boating on the bay, fishing for stripers, enjoying the hospitality of the Inn at Perry Cabin—before they got serious about establishing a base in the area to share with now-grown children and grandchildren. Another decade passed before the right spot materialized: a prized half-acre lot on the Miles River in St. Michaels, Maryland, where their sparkling-new Cape Cod-style refuge offers a breezy, columned porch topped by a white-railed deck from which to revel in the magnificent view.

“We fell in love with St. Michaels when we first visited,” recalls Megan Goeller, wife, mother and chief influencer behind the project’s casual style. “It’s a calmer pace of life, with kind people and beautiful views.”

Veterans of home-building projects, the couple had previously built a getaway from scratch in South Carolina and were constructing a new residence in Wilmington—where Bill is president of an electrical contracting concern—when they called architect Christine Mizak Dayton of Easton, Maryland, in 2019.

“What brought them here was their love of the water. They also wanted to create a home that could entertain the family,” notes Dayton, who captured the spirit of St. Michaels with the couple’s relaxed, two-story, 6,000-square-foot retreat, completed by Focus Construction in 2021. Four thousand square feet of heated living space centers on an open-plan, 24-by-35-foot great room incorporating living, dining and cooking. An adjacent primary suite looks out to a screened porch. Upstairs, four ensuite bedrooms plus a bunk room over a two-car garage await visiting family. The house has six and a half baths in all, including two sharing a shower.

The interior skews lively, with a classic, blue-and-white palette that mixes export-style porcelain with easy-care rattan, cane and wicker furniture. The inspiration and acquisitions came from Megan herself. “I went here, there and everywhere,” she says of shopping adventures that took her from Delaware to South Carolina, as well as nearby Easton. “I wanted it to be light, bright and airy, but I didn’t want grandchildren to worry,” she adds. “I have a lot of antiques in our other homes but we did not want that formality here.”

Built on a tranquil, shady lane, the new house presents its charms quietly. Once inside, visitors are greeted with spectacle: a vista through the great room that extends to open water. “When you come in the front door, you immediately gain a sense of what’s beyond,” says Dayton. Wraparound, double-hung Marvin windows flood the kitchen and dining areas with daylight and views, while sliding-glass doors open wide to the porch overlooking the riverscape that drew the owners to this spot.

“We wanted the house to be built around the view,” says Megan Goeller. “Christine was really tuned in to what we had in mind.”

The layout is straightforward. The foyer opens to the owners’ suite on the right. Straight ahead is the great room, with a fireplace set in a wall of lightly detailed, painted paneling. At left, an open stair hall leads past a powder room to the laundry and mudroom that connect the kitchen and garage. Ceilings are nine feet throughout. The first floor has wide-plank, white oak flooring in the great room and primary suite, while the utility spaces and outdoor surfaces are tiled with bluestone.

The kitchen, designed in collaboration with Kitchen Creations of Easton, was especially important to Megan, who wanted to enjoy views from her Thermador range and from what she calls her blueberry-colored, quartz-topped island. “I cook a lot,” she points out. High-style cabinets improve the view from the sitting area; their design echoes glass-fronted models Dayton has in her own home.

The upper level has evolved. The architect included a sitting area at the top of the stairs. The owners gained a den by reclaiming a central bedroom that opens to the deck. A spiral staircase was added from the deck to the lawn, simplifying the route to the pool. The Goellers acquired the site by partnering with another family to split a double lot where a vintage house has since been demolished. Dayton, who designed new homes for both families, gave each its own identity. “This one is classy but not overly formal,” she says.

Siting respects a 75.5-foot setback from the water and also protects peripheral views from the porch. “I can’t see anything but nature,” Megan says. As Eastern Shore residents know well, seasons have their glories. So do porches. In the winter months, the Goellers enjoy the sunny west-facing front porch overlooking their quiet neighborhood. Come nicer weather, the east-facing porch becomes a favored spot for gazing at the pool and the Miles River.

“Christine was so good at having a vision,” says Megan. “This is a simple home, but it lives so comfortably. It’s the perfect house.”

Architecture: Christine Mizak Dayton, AIA, Christine M. Dayton Architect, P.A., Easton, Maryland. Kitchen Design: Kitchen Creations, Easton, Maryland. Builder: Focus Construction, Ltd., Easton, Maryland. Landscape Design: Solidago Landscapes, Church Hill, Maryland.

Set back on a gentle rise from the street, a contemporary, stone-and-stucco residence expands the architectural legacy of a Bethesda neighborhood known for its Mid-Century Modern heritage. The welcoming, two-story newcomer suggests a California ranch, with a hipped metal roof, deep mahogany eaves and a silvery gray façade enlivened by black trim and plenty of glass.

“The new house stands out, but it actually fits into the neighborhood well,” comments GTM Architects’ Mark Kaufman, who designed the building. “I think the materials, with the aesthetic of bigger glass, feel right.”
A stone-and-glass stair tower dominates the front façade and sends sunlight pouring into a spacious entry hall, where an elevator is tucked into a corner. Straight ahead, a great room encompassing living, dining and kitchen spaces stars a double-height ceiling and a 22-foot-tall stone fireplace framed by an alcove of floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall glass.

“There’s a feeling of being engulfed by these windows,” observes interior designer Annette Hannon, who collaborated on the project with Kaufman and the owners, a businessman and his wife. “As pretty as it is during the day, at nighttime, with the lighting, it’s magic.”

With 6,571 square feet of finished space on three floors, this five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath house could be a millennial’s dream. Yet there’s more to the project: The owners, both active and in their early 70s, wanted to age in place—but their previous Bethesda home had become problematic, presenting steps at every turn. “When we were young, it was fine,” the husband says, “but we really didn’t want to do that anymore.” They opted for the best of both worlds: one-floor living inside a purpose-built, multi-story home.

“They wanted a great space and a really nice owners’ suite on the first floor, with all the amenities they would need,” Kaufman explains.

An opportunity arose to acquire a property nearby and demolish its existing, outdated dwelling. The couple went for it, and Kaufman began designing their new house in December 2019, with construction completed by autumn of 2021. His scheme maximized the triangular quarter-acre lot with an L-shaped plan that positioned the public rooms and garage facing the street, while the primary suite projects out in the rear.

The new abode was conceived for accessibility and ease of living rather than downsizing. The owners insisted on three second-floor bedrooms for visitors; the wife currently uses one as an office. “There’s a bigger bedroom on that level,” Kaufman points out, “so you could definitely put an owners’ suite up there.” A lower level provides a 20-by-44-foot recreation and exercise space, a wine cellar, storage and another bedroom and bath.

On the main floor, the architect eliminated entry steps. A ramp leads from the garage into the house. Doorways measure 36 inches wide, exceeding ADA specifications. Hallways are five feet wide, with generous turnaround space throughout. After the wife had two knee replacements within three months, her husband reveals, “we tested our theory of whether we could age in place living on the first floor.” Her path was smooth.

The owners’ suite is entered off a strategic hallway beyond the kitchen. Extending from the front stairwell to the rear garden door, it connects the suite directly to the home’s functional features: garage, mudroom, laundry, kitchen, pantry and elevator. Kaufman emphasizes that the passage is barely noticeable from the public spaces, giving the owners an extra measure of privacy while moving to and from their first-floor suite. “The service hall really helped tie the house together,” he says. “It provides access to everything.”

Hannon joined the project before ground was broken, partnering with the architect on cabinetry, kitchen layout and bathrooms and establishing a modern yet warm aesthetic on the glass-walled main floor with plush upholstery and subtly patterned rugs. She added splashes of color to reflect her clients’ spirited personalities while ensuring functionality—for example, a shapely blue Vladimir Kagan chair lightens the mood in the husband’s main-level office. “I firmly believe one’s home should reflect who they are and what makes them happy,” the designer avers. “I think this house reflects the fun nature its owners personally exude.”

Benjamin Moore’s Balboa Mist creates a neutral backdrop in the great room. A smattering of deep browns and blues on upholstery, together with touches of leather and bronze, complement walnut cabinetry extending from living area to kitchen. The white quartz island is lighted by a fixture of frosted glass baubles. For ease of use, seating in the breakfast nook and at the kitchen island is lightweight; the dining table, a slab of birdseye maple, has a self-storing leaf. For viewing the media screen, Hannon chose a standard sofa and swivel chairs. “Sectionals don’t allow the viewer to move around freely,” she explains. “I didn’t want a barrier. There should be flow from the kitchen to the great room during the course of an evening. I love that open relationship.” A brass ribbon sculpture by Martha Sturdy behind the sofa speaks to the clients’ appreciation for art.

In the owners’ suite, the bedroom is lined with textured wallpaper in a pearly hue under 10-foot-high ceilings, with nine-foot-tall windows that meet at a corner overlooking the garden. A door opens out to a terrace. Kaufman designed a sapele mahogany double vanity, fabricated by Sandy Spring Builders in the primary bath, which boasts a curb-less shower. Hannon enlivened the WC with a colorful, custom vinyl wall cover.

Summing up the project, the designer says, “You can age in place without sacrificing design. And you can still have fun.”

Architecture: Mark Kaufman, AIA, GTM Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. Interior Design: Annette Hannon, Annette Hannon Interior Design, Ltd., Burke, Virginia. Builder: Tyler Abrams; Zack Harwood, Sandy Spring Builders, Bethesda, Maryland. Landscape Design: Fine Earth Landscape, Poolesville, Maryland.


Home Automation: htarchitects.com.

Sofa, Swivel Chairs & Coffee Table: aneesupholstery.com through hinescompany.com. Sofa Fabric: designersguild.com through osborneandlittle.com. Pillow Fabric: brentanofabrics.com through hollyhunt.com. Pillow Trim: samuelandsons.com through hinescompany.com. Swivel Chairs Fabric: designersguild.com through osborneandlittle.com. Contrast Back Pillow Fabric: hollandandsherry.com. Blue Chair: arudin.com through michaelclearyllc.com. Chair Fabric & Pillow Fabric: kirbydesign.com through romo.com.  Poufs: hollyhunt.com. Poufs Fabric: designersguild.com through osborneandlittle.com. Rug: carpetimpressions.com. Metal Sculpture: marthasturdy.com through hollyhunt.com. Round Occasional Table: hollyhunt.com.

Table: keithfritz.com through michaelclearyllc.com. Chairs: hollyhunt.com. Chair Fabric: designersguild.com through osborneandlittle.com.

Hardware: pushpullhardware.com. Rug: carpetimpressions.com. Art: Owners’ collection.

Railing: custommetalsofvirginia.com. Stairs: chesapeakestair.com. Figurative Sculptures & Chandelier: Owners’ collection.

Desk: roche-bobois.com. Desk Chair: hermanmiller.com. Blue Chair: vladimirkagan.com through hollyhunt.com. Art: Owners’ collection. Occasional Table: hollyhunt.com. Rug: carpetimpressions.com.

Island Lighting: gabriel-scott.com. Cabinetry: Custom through Metro Carpentry. Counters & Backsplash: msisurfaces.com. Countertop & Backsplash Fabricator: petrastonegallery.com. Stools & Chairs: roche-bobois.com. Breakfast Table: hollyhunt.com. Chandelier: visualcomfort.com through dominionlighting.com.

Wallpaper: carlisleco.com through hollyhunt.com. Bed & Chair: aneesupholstery.com through hinescompany.com. Bed, Chair & Pillow Fabric: designersguild.com through osborneandlittle.com. Bedding: sferra.com. Rug: carpetimpressions.com.

Vanity: Custom through Metro Carpentry. Wall Tile & Flooring: architessa.com. Vanity Top: msisurfaces.com. Vanity Top Fabrication: petrastonegallery.com. Art: detroitwallpaper.com.


When Robyn Segal and Marshall Rifkin moved into their 1912 Kalorama row house, they anticipated upheaval. For the just-married couple—a real estate entrepreneur and financier respectively—the opportunity for a major makeover was central to the property’s charm. Their 2018 purchase was all about the journey of turning someone else’s house into their own dream home. “We were looking to do a project,” says Segal, whose Instagrammable vision drove the redo from start to completion.

The couple called on DC architect Patrick Brian Jones, who had worked with Segal’s family before. His plans detailed the transformation of the dark and formal, two-story brick manse with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths into a four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home designed for relaxed living.

Adding a two-story, 16-foot-deep addition to the rear of the 2,500-square-foot dwelling made all the difference. “Originally, we were just going to renovate the existing covered porches,” Jones recalls. “But the clients’ program made it pretty tight; they were trying to squeeze a lot into the house.” A 52-foot-long backyard left room to replace the porches with a light-filled family room off the kitchen that opens to a new porch; a modern primary suite above it features a balcony and spiral staircase leading to a small roof deck.

The vintage dwelling in the Kalorama Triangle Historic District was elegant for its time, with nine-foot ceilings, a baronial crisscross of wood beams on the dining room ceiling and an ornate corner fireplace in the front parlor. The house is only 17-and-a-half feet wide, with minimal east and west exposures making for dark interiors—but the makeover, completed in 2021, produced a bright, airy and thoroughly updated home. Compartmentalized rooms gave way to an open main level, with the kitchen centered between living and dining spaces that flow together.

While extending the foundation, Jones lowered the cellar floor by 18 inches to prepare for a future in-law suite. The first level was cleared to the studs, and all glazing and mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems were replaced. A pantry was demolished and a powder room moved to open up the kitchen, designed by Montgomery Kitchen and Bath. New white oak flooring lightened and modernized the rooms. A straightforward brick fireplace wall with an integrated mantel now anchors the living area; the corner fireplace was discarded. Bordering the rear wall of the extension, French doors framed by sidelites and transoms accentuate light and views. Upstairs, an additional bathroom was installed between secondary bedrooms.

The plan retained the original front door, stair and interior window trim. A long-covered skylight over the stairwell was rediscovered and expanded. “Robyn really liked some aspects of the house,” say Jones, pointing out the staircase. “Where we could preserve those, we did.” Strategically placed built-ins and a mix of new and antique furnishings curated by Segal combine fresh style with utility; she imported a container-load of furnishings, textiles, rugs and curtains from India for use throughout the house.

During covid, the couple insisted on having an office without giving up a guest room. “That was hard to accommodate, given the width of the house,” Jones explains, “but we were able to carve a little space out for the office in front.” The ceiling in the office—formerly the owners’ bedroom—was removed to let in light from an attic dormer.

Segal notes that she and Rifkin took time to “learn the house” before reinventing it. As the daughter of a developer, she was no stranger to construction; in fact, the senior Segal joined his daughter as general contractor on this project, working with Jones. Adam Bechtold Interiors of Vienna, Virginia, collaborated on interior architectural features, layout and more. (Segal has since built on the experience, launching her real estate development firm, Peltrie Place, in 2021.)

The sparkling kitchen-cum-family room has quickly become the owners’ preferred gathering spot—and the architect’s favorite aspect of the project. “I like that it contains both the eat-in and sitting areas,” Jones observes. “We were able to maximize storage, yet it’s still open with a nice, light and airy feel. It is a practical space.”

Segal concurs. “I love to cook,” she says. “We knew we wanted the kitchen to be centered in the house, because we spend more time there. Ultimately, everything goes back to practicality
and function.”

Renovation Architecture: Patrick Brian Jones, AIA, Patrick Brian Jones, PLLC, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Robyn Segal, Peltrie Place, Washington, DC; Adam Bechtold, Adam Bechtold Interiors, Vienna, Virginia. Renovation Contractor: Peltrie Place. Kitchen Design: Montgomery Kitchen and Bath, Gaithersburg, Maryland.


Q+A with architect Patrick Brian Jones

How has the pandemic and its aftermath influenced what clients want from their homes?
People still want open-plan living, but designated workspaces are critical. I’m working on two new residences, and both sets of clients requested separate offices for each partner—on different floors. My new home has workspaces on different floors, too. While my design studio opens to our living spaces, I ordered sliding pocket doors to give me flexibility to close or open.

How do you managewish lists?
I ask clients to write three lists: “Must haves,” “Would be nice” and “Ultimate dream.” We often take aspects of each to come up with a master plan. Then we price it out.

What if the budget becomes a sticking point?
If budget becomes an issue, clients have to decide what’s most important. I always tell them the three main criteria are time, money and quality. With all the money in the world they could have it all, but usually they need to compromise.

The yearning for authenticity spans continents and crosses cultures. It has settled gracefully into an understated property on the Eastern Shore’s Chester River. A spirit of humility prevails in this single-story take on a Chesapeake farmhouse, its vertical siding stained an earthy shade of brown that fades purposefully into the 100-plus-acre site. The project “was always intended to be a small-scale, comfortable second home that our clients could run away to from the city,” explains architect Cathy Purple Cherry. “They wanted this building to blend into the landscape.”

A New York City power couple, the owners had traveled the world—but fell in love with Chestertown, Maryland, more than five years ago. After finding the perfect site, they asked Purple Cherry to design a vacation home there that would reflect their shared aesthetic and values. It had to be sized for the two of them, with a modest presence and interiors that would support a vibrant collection of art, furnishings and books, as well as Asian Pacific artifacts acquired during wanderings abroad.

“Simplicity, smallness of scale, lack of pretense,” Purple Cherry says, ticking off the clients’ program for both architecture and interiors. “And, overarchingly, a very tight budget.”

Today, Nepalese wind chimes sound at the approach to the light-filled, 3,875-square-foot dwelling, which is set on a clearing parallel to and 100 feet back from the water. “One of my favorite aspects of the house is how the design thoughtfully blends in with its surroundings, truly bringing nature into every room and from every angle,” says the husband, a financial executive.

Purple Cherry arrived at the clean, modern spirit her clients had in mind via a restrained form consisting of three volumes. A bird’s-eye view reveals the house plan as a rectangle flanked by two identical squares topped with peaked roofs. “When you’re aiming for something simple and pure,” the architect observes, “symmetry makes for a more peaceful structure within the landscape.”

A visit begins at the east-facing front door, which opens into a 40-foot-long gallery with three points of entry into the 40-by-18-foot great room. The space neatly accommodates seating, cooking and dining for six under a beamed, white-painted ceiling rising to 16 feet. A wall of full-length windows looks west to the river through a 40-foot-long screened porch.

The gallery connects the central living space with two 30-foot-square “pods” at each end of the house. One contains the owners’ suite, featuring a fireplace in the bedroom, a pocket office separated by sliding barn doors, a small library and a laundry. The other wing holds two ensuite bedrooms—a home office now occupies one—plus a mudroom, walk-in closet, powder room and kitchen pantry.

Purple Cherry directed her interiors team to focus on quiet comfort rather than grand entertaining, in keeping with the owners’ desire for a private refuge. Says lead designer Annie Kersey, “The clients sought to combine their curated collection with a modern/minimalistic approach that feels natural and cozy while it draws your eye out to the water.”

In the great room, Kersey started with an existing coffee table and Oriental rug, then added soft goods in a palette shading from cream to gray. “We brought together the colors of the rug to make it the focal point,” she says. Furniture, rugs and textiles collected on the owners’ travels fill the primary suite.

In the kitchen, Crown Point Cabinetry under cabinets finished in Sherwin-Williams’ Classic French Gray frame Wolf, Sub-Zero and Asko appliances. A Remains Lighting Co. globe fixture and a backsplash of handcrafted, glazed-brick subway tiles from Waterworks nod to the residents’ New York ties. “The tiles are long, skinny and heavily pitted, so they’re a bit urban and modern-looking,” notes Kersey. Charcoal-gray grout provides contrast and relates to the dark gray, honed-soapstone perimeter countertop.

A precise budget led to cost-effective choices including asphalt shingles, prefabricated fireplaces and a patio of ipe wood rather than stone. Pared roof overhangs and minimal trim emphasize a clean-lined, modern aesthetic while inside, builder Pilli Custom Homes excelled at detailing—case in point, the distinctive square beams and boxed planks on the great room ceiling, which are set vertically to emphasize height.

Landscape architect D. Miles Barnard of South Fork Studio in Chestertown complemented the streamlined architecture with a restrained palette of ornamental grasses bordering the waterline and native shrubs planted around the house. He achieved all-season interest with chokeberry, clethra, summersweet, fothergilla, oakleaf hydrangea, inkberry, winterberry, Virginia sweetspire and Southern bayberry. A pair of Sweetbay magnolia trees graces the front entrance.

The heated, 14-foot-wide screened porch off the great room boasts a fireplace of stucco and rough stone. Jeld-Wen windows finished in Chestnut Bronze influenced both the trim color and furnishings selected by Kersey and team. The porch is a mainstay, making possible the kind of intimate evenings among close friends that the clients envisioned; at the same time, the easy indoor/outdoor connection makes the house expandable for larger events. “Porches are a lot about nighttime use,” notes Purple Cherry. “It’s not about the view, it’s about the camaraderie.”

Architecture: Cathy Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP, CAS, Purple Cherry Architects. Interior Design: Annie Kersey, Purple Cherry Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. Builder: Guy Pilli, Pilli Custom Homes, Millersville, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: D. Miles Barnard, RLA, ASLA, South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture, Chestertown, Maryland.


Stylistically, Washington’s Watergate complex has always exhibited a split personality. The cutting-edge 1960s project by Italian architect Luigi Moretti came with a futuristic, curvilinear exterior and curiously fussy interiors. Following the luxury building’s debut, a model apartment marketed it with period trappings worthy of an 18th-century palazzo. Over the decades, occupants have struggled for a decorative truce. Now, in a total redo of that same 2,500-square-foot model unit, Washington architect Christian Zapatka has brought harmonious closure to a half-century of unease.

The finished space is an exuberant, art-filled modern home, rooted in the Watergate’s mid-century heritage but focused on today’s relaxed lifestyle. Its 100 linear feet of windows have been warmed up by the room’s gleaming expanses of teak, walnut and bird’s-eye maple. Soft, slight-scaled furnishings and nubby textiles selected by New York designer Didi Granger float in an airy living room overlooking the Potomac. Punches of color come from contemporary works by Jasper Johns, Robert Motherwell and Al Held. Amid such glamour, the residents’ Springer Spaniel can race across new, superhard white oak flooring or luxuriate on a creamy-white circular rug.

“The apartment lives wonderfully,” says owner Henry McKinnon, a retired psychotherapist and second-generation art collector from a family with philanthropic ties to Norfolk’s Chrysler Museum of Art. “This place is the best.”

McKinnon and his partner Ron Gage, a retired executive, were moving on from an antiques-filled 1830s Georgetown manse when they inspected the Watergate East apartment in late 2020. As McKinnon recalls, the unit exuded “1980s Versailles style with crazy moldings everywhere—but we loved the space and the view.”

Zapatka, who stood with them that day near the wall of windows, assured: “We can do something more.”

On a recent afternoon in the transformed abode, the architect pointed out the glories and challenges of the redo. The three-bedroom, three-bath corner unit is exceptional for its windows extending more than 50 feet in two directions. The central living space fans out from the midpoint. Originally, the public area was bracketed by two bedrooms and baths on the left, and the kitchen and a third bedroom and bath on the right.

However, the initial layout had to be reclaimed before Zapatka’s update. Interim owners had interrupted the flow, enclosing a third of the open area with flimsy, louvered partitions and blocking dining room windows with a built-in vitrine. Still, Moretti’s elegant entrance sequence—leading from an elliptical vestibule to an elliptical hall—survived, as did marble flooring that may well have been extracted from the Vatican’s quarry. (The Vatican was an original investor in the Watergate, once under Italian ownership.)

Zapatka began with what he calls “the big gesture.” In his plan, windows would rule and interior elements would be “pulled back” from them—inspiration taken from mid-century master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Farnsworth House. Like Mies, Zapatka would make magic with wood, stone, brass and bronze.

In the elliptical hall, now paneled in zebrawood, Zapatka closed off an opening to the dining room, narrowing attention on views of the river. “My mentor Michael Graves told me many years ago, ‘You don’t want to give it all away at once,’” notes the architect. In another salvo, he points out the existing Calacatta marble floor and says, “We always love to preserve what’s original and good.”

The Watergate’s forest of freestanding structural columns has bedeviled residents for decades. In the central living space, Zapatka celebrated two by wrapping them in teak and bronze. Meanwhile, heating and cooling units below the windows have been dressed up in white cabinetry. Awkward angles resulting from Moretti’s unusual geometry are now disguised—inside a “Mad Men” bar here or a stone-clad niche there.

The apartment’s eight-foot ceilings presented another hurdle: Near the windows, they drop six inches to accommodate the balcony on the upper floor. Zapatka turned this visual disruption into an element of delight with a coat of high-gloss white ceiling paint, which reflects the windows and makes them seem taller.

Work ensued despite pandemic woes. The dated kitchen was refitted by Snaidero, the owners’ bath enlarged and the powder room restored. A washer and dryer were installed in a primary bedroom cabinet.

The second bedroom was co-opted as a den, separated from the living area by a floating paneled partition. This furniture-quality unit with bird’s-eye maple drawers hides another structural column inside smooth teak veneer, which curves around to face the living room.

For McKinnon, the den was key. “Ron and I are very casual, so we wanted a nice den,” he says, swiveling in a Danish lounge chair.

In her furniture selections, Granger embraced the clients’ desire for neutrals. “The largest determining factor was the Watergate’s round shape,” notes the designer, who set a curved sofa on a circular rug accented with small round tables. These face a seating area against the teak wall where, she adds, “you can really take in the view.”

Bare windows heighten the experience. “At night, the windows become like black mirrors,” marvels Gage. “You see the paintings everywhere.”

Drawing Board

Q+A with architect Christian Zapatka

How do you decide what elements to keep in a redo?
In general, almost all of my work involves existing structures. I’m a firm believer in preserving, restoring and renovating whatever is good. I take a very hard look at what’s there to find components that are representative of a property’s history.

Where do you seek inspiration?
I love looking back to find inspiration. I try to channel what the original architect was thinking, and I imagine the great materials and design gestures belonging to a home’s period—whether it’s a Rockefeller apartment in New York or a Mies van der Rohe in Chicago. There’s a good bit of fantasy, but the point is to evoke the spirit of an era.

What are the ingredients of a successful project?
There are three ingredients. From my side, I have to bring the ideas and the design. Then there’s the execution—the constant, intense work. Third, and most importantly, a good client. You need their trust, enthusiasm and patience. If the client is game, you’re going to have a good project.

Renovation Architecture: Christian Zapatka, AIA, FAAR, Christian Zapatka Architect, PLLC, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Didi Granger, Didi Granger Interiors, New York, New York. Renovation Contractor: Reynaldo Vasquez, VR Construction, LLC, Arlington, Virginia.




The stately 1922 Colonial in Northwest Washington was always desirable, but as the owners learned over time, it took an architect’s vision to reconfigure the main floor and make modern living a joy.
“The house is so much more comfortable and usable,” says Gretchen Robbins, a health and wellness coach, who shares the remodeled, 4,200-square-foot house with husband Michael, a consultant, their three teens and a Portuguese Water Dog.

The family’s house-proud journey has taken more than a decade and three renovations to get just right. Working with Fowlkes Studio on the two most recent updates, in 2017 and 2021, has proven its worth. The prior redo made an oversized 1980s-vintage primary suite more livable. And the latest converted the underused great room below it into a 24-by-29-foot kitchen that is now the heart of the home.

The family’s remodeling adventures began in 2011 with their purchase of the five-bedroom, five-and-a-half bath house. Though they upgraded the kitchen right away, it remained cramped. Upstairs, frustration grew over the primary suite, where the bedroom was too big, the bathroom too small and the closets inadequate. “We had a king-sized bed and it looked like a postage stamp,” Gretchen recalls.

In 2017, the couple called architect VW Fowlkes, a schoolmate of Michael’s, and his partner and wife, Catherine, for help. Catherine proposed reducing the bedroom dimensions to expand the bathroom with a walk-in shower and tub enclosure and enlarge the closets. The renovation added a pocket office in an adjacent exercise room. “We made everything just a little more proportional,” Catherine Fowlkes says.

In 2021, Gretchen called again, this time to address the home’s challenging kitchen. “Everybody would be crowded in there when I was entertaining, and I didn’t like that,” she recalls. Expansion on the quarter-acre lot was not an option, but Catherine saw opportunity within. By reordering rooms—and shifting an interior dining room wall 18 inches—the century-old house was remade.

To get there, three main rooms on one side of the center stair hall were essentially flipped. “This was really about flow, reconfiguring and carving up a space into more rational spaces,” says Catherine, who spearheaded the latest redo. “We had worked together before, so there was a lot of trust.”

The former great room is now a live-in, eat-in, entertaining-ready kitchen. The formal dining room became an intimate TV room with an electric fireplace. And the old kitchen faded into history; in its footprint, Catherine designed a project highlight: a regal gray antechamber known as the butler’s pantry, which serves as a chic mudroom and adjunct bar.

“The changes just made a lot of sense,” says the architect, looking back on the previous cramped, dark kitchen and bright, spacious but ill-used great room. “It wasn’t quite right—but now everything is gracious.”

Once dominated by an oversized leather sofa, the space containing the kitchen boasts a Saarinen table and a custom banquette in a sunny alcove. A pizza oven built into the old fireplace supplements an array of reinstalled Wolf appliances. New, full-height windows and doors open to an existing terrace and a garden designed by Kelley Oklesson of Groundsmith Collective. A frosted-glass interior wall opens to the cook’s pantry.

“The architect brought a level of creativity, thoughtfulness and uniqueness,” Gretchen Robbins declares. “The kitchen is absolutely the center of the house. It’s so inviting and comfortable. We’re always in there.”

During the latest upgrade, the family moved out for demolition, then returned during four months of construction, occupying the untouched side of the stair hall and second floor. Builder Simon Ley set up a camping kitchen on a side porch off the formal living room (now the dining room), even connecting the garden hose to a temporary sink. Gretchen turned to a friend, local interior designer Rachel Poritz Mennen, for stylish new furnishings in the kitchen and TV room.

The butler’s pantry is an essential feature. Individual lighted closets secure backpacks, while custom cabinets by Ted Ferris hide snacks, refrigerator drawers and Michael’s prized pellet ice machine. The dog can pad about on the brick floor, or hop into a mosaic-tiled puppy spa under the watchful eye of a mounted trophy stag that conveyed with the house. A marble farm sink is sized for armfuls of flowers destined for the kitchen’s 13-by-5-foot, Caesarstone-topped island.

“Catherine is so ridiculously talented,” Gretchen says, pointing out the butler’s pantry. “She had an image of what this room would be. It’s elegant, but also extraordinarily useful. That 100-percent sums up the house. It’s a million times more usable now. It’s gorgeous.”


Q&A with architect Catherine Fowlkes

When expansion is not an option, how do you start a redo?
Often, critical spaces are incorrectly sized for the occupants. Sometimes it’s as easy as swapping furniture around, but more often we move interior walls. We always evaluate circulation to the outdoors as well as inside. Replacing exterior doors with windows—and windows with doors—can change the way people live in their homes.

How do you add character in a pristine, modern space?
We like to create a fictional history for spaces that may be devoid of personality. Often we amp up crown molding or wall paneling to bring attention to a minimal, subtle moment. The addition of a patinaed plaster wall or a worn brick floor, for example, really highlights sleek new cabinetry.

The best projects are where the team—builder included—shares a basic trust, and everyone is allowed to have new ideas. Problem-solving is a fundamental part of an architect’s job. When a clear vision has been established, the solutions tend to make a project stronger.

Renovation Architecture: Catherine Fowlkes, AIA; VW Fowlkes, AIA, and Will Letchinger, Fowlkes Studio, Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: Simon Ley, Ley Ltd., Washington, DC.

With daylight flowing in and an open floor plan that makes living joyful, the owner of a redesigned Cabin John, Maryland, home recalls the epiphany that led her family to embark on a makeover four years ago. She was sitting on the floor with a fellow mom, stuffing gift bags for their children’s school. Despite its 3,000-plus square footage on three levels overlooking a glorious woodland preserve, the 1980s contemporary came with a cramped main floor that impeded living for an active family of four—especially when it came to filling those gift bags.

“It was always a fight,” explains Meryl, an attorney, who shares the house with her husband Joe, a geographer and small-business owner, their two youngsters and a chocolate Labrador.

Fortuitously, Meryl was sitting face-to-face with the solution: That fellow mom was architect Colleen Gove Healey, then a principal at McInturff Architects, who launched her own firm in 2019. The meet-up triggered a transformation of the dated, cedar-clad hideaway into a white-walled aerie with crisp, black-metal accents. Centered on an open kitchen, each room enjoys clear views of the landscape in the latest iteration, which is topped off with an owners’ suite on a new upper floor where oversized windows are level with the treetops.

“I wanted windows and as much light as possible, to become one with nature,” says Joe, leading a top-to-bottom tour. “Colleen created that for us.”

The overhaul married the architect’s industrial-modern instincts with the clients’ nature-driven values. Dubbed Corten Tree House, the dwelling is notable for its exterior of rust-red, weathered-steel panels and cedar shakes recycled from the original structure. Completed in 2021, the redesign added 1,000 square feet to what is now a six-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath dwelling. Angled, sky-lit ceilings peak at 15 feet and glazed openings bring the outdoors into the heart of the home.

“The original house had high ceilings with an interesting grid of cross beams, but the overall impression was heavy and dark,” Healey recalls. “We wanted it to be lighter and brighter.”

The “before” dwelling was hidden behind a freestanding garage on a steep, one-third-acre lot. The main floor was constructed at grade level, but the front door opened to a landing half a flight below. (Steps led down to secondary bedrooms on two lower levels built into the slope.) On the main floor, east-facing windows received morning light while clerestory openings on the west consigned rooms to shadows for most of the day. The galley-like kitchen was claustrophobic, a space by the stone fireplace was tight for a sofa and the sitting room was too small to host game-day gatherings.

Healey gave the house new presence. The garage was demolished and replaced by an attached one with finished space above. The front door was raised to the main level by floating a wood-plank walkway over the topography. The roofline was staggered and the front façade brightened by glass.

To free up the interior, non-structural walls were removed and doorways widened. The newly configured, L-shaped living/kitchen/dining area is anchored by a dramatic fireplace expanded and rebuilt with gray-toned fieldstone. The former living room is now a bar where sliding doors open to a deck, fire pit and play lawn in front. Light cascades from myriad openings, including a 15-foot expanse of pocket doors in the living room and a clear glazed kitchen backsplash overlooking the woods.

Working with Stuart Kitchens, Healey reoriented the kitchen from a U-shaped layout to a corner-L configuration, with pale gray, wood-veneer cabinetry. To avoid clutter, she designed a 14-by-six-foot walk-in pantry behind the range wall as a go-to spot for coffee, snacks and everyday china.

“The house is informal and welcoming,” says Healey. “It’s large, but has a modesty that’s airy and generous.”

Meryl and Joe engaged deeply in the process, and their involvement sparked other significant changes. The room above the garage had been conceived as an office until Meryl awoke to the realization that the stunning space deserved better use. They opted to devote it to the owners’ suite, making their original bedroom Joe’s office.

“It’s really important to have an open relationship with the architect,” Meryl reflects. “Any time a new idea came up, Colleen was excited. As she says, ‘Magic happens when you are fluid.’”

Standing in the dining space beneath a prized blown-glass light fixture, Joe expresses his delight: “The process was hard, but the result is awesome. We have a house we love.”

Renovation Architecture: Colleen Gove Healey, AIA, CARB, Colleen Healey Architecture, Washington, DC. Kitchen Design: Stuart Kitchens, Bethesda, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: Cabin John Builders Cabin John Maryland.

Drawing Board

Q&A with architect Colleen Healey

How crucial is lighting to a project?

Lighting has become part of our practice. We believe that light fixtures tell a story and lighting designers have realized that they can make an impact on a space. It can be challenging to figure out because each fixture is wired differently, and that information needs to be communicated to the electrician early in the process.

What is the right way to employ mirrors?

I like to take mirrors down to the floor or up to the ceiling. It costs a bit more but makes all the difference. Another area to use mirrors is outdoors, where a mirrored wall can visually enlarge a space or add dimension by reflecting a planting scheme.

Should you live at home during a renovation?

I encourage clients to move someplace comfortable because the process is long and tough on a family, marriage and kids.

Pristine Acres offsets a McLean home with a minimalist oasis

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Colao & Peter balances past and present in a Middleburg landscape

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A design team imparts a resort-like vibe to a woodsy McLean Home

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Reimagining a secluded backyard as a private playground started with near-perfect terrain and clients who knew exactly what they wanted: a place to spend happy years together before three daughters leave the nest. 

“This project was done with a family focus,” explains landscape architect Joseph Richardson, who crafted a blueprint for the three-quarter-acre property. “There’s a certain informality to it, but what they have created is resort-like.” In the backyard, he plotted a 22-by-50-foot swimming pool; a board-formed concrete seat wall alongside it is lighted by a 50-foot-long LED strip. 

At one end of the pool, Michael Winn of Winn Design + Build conceived and constructed a 500-square-foot, post-and-beam pool house featuring a wet bar, lounging space with a gas fireplace, a changing room and an outdoor shower. “We felt the post-and-beam design gave the structure an airier feel,” says Winn. 

The clients placed RH furnishings around a Hart Concrete Design fire pit, which is sited near an outdoor kitchen and dining terrace. The pool deck of Techo-Bloc pavers edges a 7,500-square-foot lawn. Lavish perimeter plantings of Green Giant arborvitae, oakleaf hydrangea, sweetspire, holly, witch hazel, rhododendron and bottlebrush buckeye flourish amid more than 900 perennials, grasses,
ferns and bulbs.

“I love pretty pictures,” Richardson notes. “But at the end of the day, I am most gratified when someone tells me how their project has improved their lives."

Landscape Architecture: Joseph A. Richardson, PLA, ASLA, Richardson & Associates Landscape Architecture, Washington, DC. Architectural Design & Contractor: Michael Winn, Winn Design + Build, McLean, Virginia. Pool Construction: Jose Pimenta Construction Company, Rockville, Maryland. Landscape Installation: Black Pearl Management, Leesburg, Virginia.

An 18th-century log cabin anchors a serene retreat in Middleburg, Virginia, where restrained outdoor features marry the rustic with the new.  

“This was a unique project,” says landscape architect J.R. Peter, whose assignment included reimagining a pool, walls, steps, walkways and the entrance drive as well as creating a walled garden and adding appropriate plantings throughout the property. 

Set on 11 acres, the historic cabin is joined to a white stucco ranch house updated by architect-owner Richard Gessner. A new portico on the rear façade provides a bird’s eye view of the expanse. Stone-walled terraces descend to a rebuilt pool where topiary guards an Asian-accented, white stucco pool house. “Its form is different from the main house, but the materials tie together,” Gessner explains. A glazed overhead door suggestive of a shoji screen opens to the pool. 

Completed in 2020, the project displays what Peter calls “rustic meets industrial” style. A board-formed concrete wall at one end of the pool and matching fire pit show the imprint of wood. Traditional ledgestone has been clean-cut by hand to give a modern appearance. Rustic pool pavers were laid in a linear grid. “We wanted to contrast textures,” Peter says, “and were tying all these things together with our choice of materials.”

New lighting enhances an existing saucer magnolia tree beside a neat row of red twig dogwood. Grasses flourish amid boxwood. On a newly cleared slope, Peter planted a bosque of gingko trees that will one day shade the old log cabin. 

Landscape Architecture & Contractor: J.R. Peter, PLA; Joseph Colao, Colao & Peter, Luxury Outdoor Living, Sterling, Virginia. Architecture: Richard Gessner Architect PLLC, Washington, DC. Pool House Contractor: KohlMark Group, Burke, Virginia.

Spare architecture and sleek white loungers exude the relaxed luxury of a California spa in a backyard McLean retreat. The home was in the design phase when Pristine Acres joined architecture firm WCRA and builder TriCrest Homes on the project. The timing ensured that the landscape design, from materials to detailing, would harmonize the owners’ entire lived experience. This allowed key elements of house, pool, grill, terraces and pavilion to merge into a cohesive whole inspired by a uniform palette of white trim, black granite and wood accents.

“As we dive into this indoor/outdoor lifestyle, pulling the outdoors and the indoors together at an early stage is extremely helpful,” observes Pristine Acres’ Steve Waldron. 

Fence to fence, the site measures a fifth of an acre. Landscape architect Kevin Kurdziolek centered a 20-by-40-foot pool with two infinity edges in the backyard; on one side, water cascades over a 24-inch-high basalt wall. The pool meets grade with a sandblasted marble terrace topped by an engineered-wood deck, which extends into a pavilion; a shower of faux rain falls into the pool from its roof. Horizontal wooden slats define one pavilion wall; they crop up again on a pergola shading the black-granite grilling station off the kitchen. Minimal plantings and artificial turf over a stormwater retention system ensure low maintenance.  

“What we like about these compact backyards is that you can design the whole space, edge to edge,” says Kurdziolek. “Everything fits together like pieces of a puzzle.” 

Landscape Architecture & Contractor: Steve Waldron, president; Kevin Kurdziolek, PLA, ASLA, Pristine Acres, Great Falls, Virginia. Architecture: WCRA, Chantilly, Virginia. Builder: TriCrest Homes, McLean, Virginia. Photography: Pristine Acres.

The potential for a multi-dimensional garden in the woods was clear from the start on a three-plus-acre clearing in Great Falls, Virginia. The owners of a Colorado-inspired, stone-and-wood residence sought to enhance their property with a pool, vegetable garden and play space for children. The plan developed by landscape architect Jeff Plusen layered vegetation in organic curves and set stones as nature might have dropped them. He even integrated a faux stream by recycling pool water over a cascade of Delaware River pebbles.

“It’s a tremendous property carved out of the woods, so the connection to the environment was very important,” Plusen notes.  

A wild spirit flourishes in the backyard. Stacked fieldstones support a pool sidewall. Irises and grasses sprout among irregular flagstones, a fire circle and pathways to an expansive lawn. For contrast, orderly travertine pavers surround the pool and gazebo.

Garden installation was undertaken by Planted Earth Landscaping. Starting in 2015, spaces for play equipment and a kitchen garden were established, and serviceberry trees, oakleaf hydrangeas and summer meadow bloomers planted. Close to 100 additional trees replenished the forest edge. “We went with nothing smaller than two-inch calipers,” says then-project manager Justin Spittal.

An unusual cattle-crossing grate at the front entrance keeps deer out, while welcoming guests with an unobstructed and lush view. “This project was awesome,” says Spittal. “Other than the native forest, there wasn’t a single plant on site when we got started.”

Award: Distinction, Total Residential Contracting (Planted Earth). Landscape Architecture: Jeff Plusen, ASLA, RLA, Plusen Landscape Architects, Catonsville, Maryland. Landscape Contractor: Planted Earth Landscaping Inc., Sykesville, Maryland. 

The interior update of a home overlooking the South River in Edgewater, Maryland, led naturally to outdoor improvements. For McHale Landscape Design, the commission meant revisiting a two-acre property completed 15 years earlier. 

“The new owners wanted a higher level of finish, beauty and serviceability,” says senior landscape designer Hans Bleinberger, who led the latest iteration. “A lot of the challenge was in reimagining and reinventing.” 

Obstacles included an outdated concrete pool deck; awkward access to a potential patio off the lower level; and a restriction against new paved surfaces since the property is located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

The company landed on elegant solutions to each dilemma. A deck clad in irregular flagstone has supplanted the concrete surface, and the pool has been fully upgraded. A newly created ipe patio and path to the dock extend the home’s lower level outdoors, while a lower terrace was granted a permit thanks to the use of permeable decking. 

Poolside plantings include a fringe of Russian sage in the foreground of the river view. A slope of wave petunias, hydrangeas, perennial sage and daylilies descends from pool deck to ipe pathway alongside a generous new flight of stone steps between brick retaining walls.

The serene setting belies substantial effort, which extended to finding new brick to complement the 20-year-old house. “It’s kind of neat when you can get back on a property, upgrade it and bring it up to modern standards,” Bleinberger observes. “At the end of the day, you want to make it look easy.”

Award: Distinction, Outdoor Living. Landscape Design & Contracting: Hans Bleinberger, McHale Landscape Design, Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Photography: Erin B. Bogan.

Flourishing limelight hydrangeas bear witness to the thoughtful revival and sustained maintenance of a century-old estate in Baltimore. The two-plus-acre property, boasting an early 20th-century Georgian-style residence and a dramatic stone terrace, was treated to a major upgrade in 2017. New owners called in landscape architect Jamie Brown to rethink worn features. His program called for regrading a sloping rear yard to create a dramatic incline and central steps linking a stone terrace to a new great lawn. Today, a mass planting of 120 white-blooming dwarf deutzia shrubs blankets the incline. “We wanted a low shrub for erosion control that would also relate to the period of the house,” Brown explains. 

Pinehurst Landscape Company installed the garden elements and provides continuing care, starting with perimeter screening and deer fencing. Hydrangeas enliven a side yard. “The wow factor of the plants has only increased,” says Pinehurst’s Ted Carter. The landscaping “has got a big kapow.”

Improvements include repair of a vintage-stone lily pond, pool upgrades and construction of a gazebo. New, mosaic-patterned quartzite pool decking contrasts with the freeform stonework of the original terrace, which was rebuilt using existing massive slabs of hand-quarried bluestone and new machine-cut bluestone, hand-chiseled and artificially weathered to blend into the legacy landscape. “That’s the coolest thing about this whole project,” says Carter. “It was fun to use the character of stone to its full extent and bring it to life.”

Award: Heritage/Outdoor Living (Pinehurst). Landscape Architecture/Design: Jamie Brown, Beechbrook Landscape Architecture, Baltimore, Maryland. Contractor: Paglia Contracting, Forest Hill, Maryland. Landscape Installation: Pinehurst Landscape Company, Glen Arm, Maryland.

Though a refreshing, 18-by-40-foot pool adds drama to a rear-garden redesign in Great Falls, Virginia, there is more to the project worth celebrating. When owners reached out to Surrounds Landscape Architecture + Construction in 2019, their gabled residence lacked adequate entertaining space. The design team constructed a covered terrace and merged it with an expanded back porch. Adding a stone wall here, a neat path there, plus a lively planting of perennials, the one-and-a-half-plus-acre property scored greater functionality as well as glamour. 

Chad Talton, a principal landscape architect at Surrounds, quickly focused on the rear façade. “Let’s blow out this small covered porch and make it a full covered room,” he proposed. The new, metal-roofed terrace incorporates an outdoor kitchen, plus dining and sitting areas. An existing outdoor fireplace gained new stature as a focal point in the dining space. Overhead heaters extend the outdoor season. Adjacent to the terrace, a prefab spa faced in stone beckons year-round.

Surrounds put a finishing touch on enhancements by crafting a welcoming new entrance to the property from the motor court. A cedar gate opens into a stone-walled pocket garden planted with colorful perennials and boxwood. From there, a walkway of Pennsylvania bluestone charts a clear new path past box hedging and white-flowering crape myrtle trees to the bluestone terrace and pool surround. 

As Talton reflects, “We tried to create a cohesive environment that is easy to use for owners and for guests.”

Award: Grand, Outdoor Living Area, Design/Build. Landscape Architecture & Contracting: Chad Talton, PLA, Surrounds Landscape Architecture + Construction, McLean, Virginia.

Dream jobs come in all shapes and sizes. For Jennifer Wagner Schmidt, the ideal interiors project was a $3 million contemporary Bethesda residence, just built and waiting to be furnished, and a client seeking a fresh start.

“Everything was from scratch,” Schmidt recalls. “The client’s only proviso to me was ‘do your magic.’

The three-story stucco, glass and brick house strikes a dramatic presence on its quarter-acre corner lot. There are six bedrooms, five and a half baths, a multi-feature recreation room on the lower level and a roof deck up top. The foyer and primary bedroom are double-height spaces, enhanced by floating staircases with glass railings. 

Designed and built on spec by Prime Solutions Group, the 7,000-square-foot house was purchased in the spring of 2021 by a CEO from New York and his wife, who have two young children. Seeking help in selecting furniture and art for the main level and bedrooms, the owners discovered the Ashburn, Virginia, designer behind JWS Interiors through social media.

“The husband reached out,” explains Schmidt, whose Instagram followers number in the six figures. Her online posts show a taste for creamy textiles on cushy sofas, monumental marble coffee tables, spare architectural lighting and a touch of humanizing handiwork, be it a wooden stool, a woven rush seat or a coal-black ceramic bowl. It’s the warm side of modernism, but totally fashion-forward. Schmidt’s projects demonstrate a penchant for art that pops, including a sassy image of Marilyn Monroe blowing an enormous bubble of pink gum—though whether her Miami client sprang for the $30,000 limited edition or the $15 reproduction poster is not revealed. 

In fact, the designer’s success on the Bethesda project rested as much on her ability to marry high and low elements. “I combined high- and medium-end with custom to create an entirely custom look,” she says. “That’s how I stayed on budget.” 

The Bethesda home had been staged for sale as a glam singles pad—not for a couple with two kids and a dog in tow. Schmidt, who has two teenage daughters, understood that the family would appreciate comfort over cool metal and glass. “I wanted it to feel naturally modern and comfortable,” says the designer, who set out to create clean, airy interiors that evoke a sense of serenity. “I started with a white canvas so it would all flow.”

She went for drama in the foyer. A clean-lined marble console of her own design rests below a bold digital photo collage by Australian artist Dina Broadhurst. 

In the main-level living spaces, the existing envelope of white walls and European white oak floors is enlivened by strategically placed windows. Schmidt softened the floor-to-ceiling glass with simple linen panels over sheers in the family room. “The house gets amazing light,” she says. “I wanted to incorporate natural sunlight and play off that with the furniture.” Nubby textiles look touchable, and they are: They have been professionally sprayed for stain resistance.

Significantly, the designer defined the primary living area not as formal living and dining spaces, but as a laid-back family room and eat-in kitchen. For maximum functionality, the family room is organized in two conversation groups: one by the fireplace, the other facing the opposite wall. In keeping with Schmidt’s more relaxed concept, she scouted popular retailers such as CB2, West Elm and RH for casual but stylish furnishings; choices were guided by availability, practicality and her particular aesthetic. She elevated the look with custom designs including a statement marble coffee table, a chair that conjures a nomadic past and an oversized, upholstered ottoman. “I wanted the home to read as naturally modern and comfortable, really just a clean, airy feel,” she says. 

To the left of the foyer is the husband’s home office. Schmidt papered one wall with Kelly Wearstler’s Crescent, an oversized geometric pattern in an ebony colorway. Behind the desk hangs a painting by David Carlson; a second work by the Arlington artist and community activist was commissioned for the owners’ bedroom, furnished with a custom upholstered bed and vintage chairs. A loft accessed from a floating staircase in the primary bedroom is staged as a tranquil retreat and yoga studio. A sauna was added to an existing bathroom that Schmidt detailed in black marble. She also applied her aesthetic in two upstairs children’s bedrooms and a serene guest room.

The owners were able to move in after a remarkably quick 10-month decorating process. “My clients were very easy to work with,” says the designer. “The attitude was, ‘Just show me your designs; you’re the professional.’ It was a dream project for me.”

Interior Design: Jennifer Wagner Schmidt, JWS Interiors, Ashburn, Virginia. Architecture & Custom Builder: Prime Solutions Group, Potomac, Maryland.


Pendants: shop.thedpages.com.
Sofa & Armchairs: cb2.com. Sofa & Armchairs Fabric: cb2.com.
Sofa & Sofa Fabric: cb2.com. Coffee table, Corner Chair & Drapery Fabrication: Custom.
Light Fixture: hinkley.com. Table: rh.com.
Console: Custom.
Desk: cb2.com. Wall Covering: kellywearstler.com. Rug, Sofa & Coffee Table: westelm.com.
crateandbarrel.com. Pedestal: luluandgeorgia.com.
Bed: Custom through michaeldawkins.com. Chandelier: rh.com. Chairs: vintage. Night Table: custom. Rug: luluandgeorgia.com.
Bed: cb2.com. Chandelier: rh.com. Chair: custom.

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