Home & Design

The most successful projects start with a superlative collaboration. This one, in the heart of Kalorama’s Embassy Row, had an unbeatable team: Prix de Rome-winning architect Christian Zapatka and Frank Babb Randolph, a doyen of DC’s design scene for more than 50 years. Together, they awakened the sleeping beauty of a 14-year-old apartment. Their clients, for whom Randolph had transformed two prior houses, were integral to the alchemy.

“We had a sense of good design from living with Frank’s work for three decades,” says the husband, a DC-area dentist. “And we knew from taking part in his process how much potential this place had when we first saw it.”

The wife, whose career in advertising and marketing now informs her philanthropy work, had set her sights on a single-level condo in beautiful, walkable Kalorama when the couple decided to downsize once their son left for college. “We were empty nesters,” she says, “and this place was perfect.”

When they invited Randolph to see the 2,400-square-foot, two-bedroom abode in 2019, his reaction was definitive: “If you don’t buy it, I will!” The large, open spaces, airy proportions and even the silky quiet of the partially below-level elevation sparked the designer’s imagination. But the floor plan was chopped up—especially the primary suite, which had to be accessed via the library. The finishes were dated and broad, flat wall expanses throughout lacked soul. In the living area, a prefab fireplace begged to be replaced.

Randolph turned to Christian Zapatka, his go-to choice for architectural projects, to devise a plan that would indulge his vision: A classic New York or Paris apartment. “We introduced clarity and definition to the jumble of spaces with an enfilade plan featuring defined rooms with proper cased openings,” Zapatka explains. “And we gave the blank walls substance with paneling and well-articulated trim.” The renovation also solved the dilemma of the primary suite’s awkward access, creating a convenient, direct entrance from the reimagined front hallway.

Zapatka’s plan established a 140-foot grand axis that allows the rooms to unfold in a sequence—each subtly framed by doorways. “I delineated a progression of spaces that I call zones,” notes the architect, who built them up using chunky cased moldings, cabinets and shelving that deliver character. He also adorned the walls with classically styled paneling that he describes as “true paneling, not applied.” Three plywood layers per panel, including a molding inset, create subtle shadow lines.

With four coats of Benjamin Moore’s Super White in high gloss, the wall panels convey the look of boiserie, a style found in 18th-century France and often imitated in preWar New York apartments. The same glossy paint on the ceilings reflects natural light from windows and terraces adjoining the rooms. “Painting everything one light-enhancing white ties the entire unit together,” Randolph avers.

A clean-lined, contemporary fireplace in Indiana limestone replaced the flimsy prior model; its low profile is a Randolph hallmark. Wide-plank, bleached white oak flooring in a chevron pattern throughout the dwelling emphasizes the flow between the rooms. “We ruled out carpets, which would only dimension the spaces to be smaller,” says the designer. Finishes on the door and cabinet hardware, picture frames, lamps and lanterns are light-reflective nickel.

A sleek Snaidero kitchen is open to the dining room, but its functions are discreetly hidden. Distressed-wood cabinetry echoes the hue of the foyer’s honed-marble floor. Randolph repurposed much of the furniture he’d used in his clients’ prior home. Inside the bright-white envelope, bespoke Niermann Weeks creations, pieces designed by Randolph and antiques mined from Marston Luce and David Bell are gorgeously sculpturesque. Refreshed upholstery mirrors the greenery on terraces off the living and dining rooms and autumn-orange accents reference Fortuny pillows purchased in Venice on the couple’s honeymoon.

The collaboration wrapped up in the best possible way. As Zapatka comments, “Clients who requested the feel of a New York apartment in Washington now say they can’t wait to return to DC when they’re in New York!”

Renovation Architecture: Christian Zapatka, AIA, Christian Zapatka Architect LLC, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Frank Babb Randolph, Frank Babb Randolph Interior Design, Washington, DC. Kitchen Design: Snaidero DC Metro, Alexandria, Virginia. Renovation Contractor: JEFFCO Development, Rockville, Maryland.


White Oak Flooring: royaloakflooring.com

Paint: benjaminmoore.com. Painting Over Mantel: Owners’ collection. Fireplace: Custom by christianzapatka.com. Club Chairs: Frank Babb Randolph; 202-944-2120. Ottoman: michaelclearyllc.com. Ottoman Fabric: elizabethbenefields.com. Sofa & Sofa Fabric: barbarabarry.com. Round Occasional Table: David Bell Antiques; 202-965-2355. Demi-lune Table: marstonluce.com. Mirror: davidiatesta.com. Flooring: classicfloordesigns.info. Club Chairs: Frank Babb Randolph; 202-944-2120. Club Chair Fabric: cowtan.com. Pedestal Table: dessinfournir.com. Drawers: niermannweeks.com. Pictures above Chest: antique. Neoclassical Chairs: David Bell Antiques; 202-965-2355.

Console Table in Nook: Grand Tour Sculpture: Antique. Light Fixture: vaughandesigns.com.

Cabinetry: snaiderodcmetro.com.

Club Chairs & Upholstery Fabric: Frank Babb Randolph; 202-944-2120. Sofa: barbarabarry.com. Sofa Fabric: hinescompany.com. Coffee Table: davidiatesta.com. Console & Chairs: niermannweeks.com.

Headboard: Custom. Art on Wall: lesliearcher.com. Sconces: vaughandesigns.com.

Vanity: Custom. Flooring: porcelanosa-usa.com.

Bed: Custom. Painting above Bed: Jennifer Grinnell. Bedding: matouk.com. Chair: David Bell Antiques; 202-965-2355. Nightstands: vaughandesigns.com.

Comfort Zone - Everyone has a comfort zone. Whether indoors or out, in a book or on a hike, the key to this sanctum is knowing when you’ve arrived.

For a couple with young kids looking to build a getaway an easy drive from their primary residence in Northern Virginia, the initial urge was to embrace their familiar stomping ground. Then they saw a house several hours away in Maryland—and the instinct to stay within their comfort zone went right out the window.

The couple had already chosen a Virginia lot on which to build when friends encouraged them to go see a newly constructed, modern farmhouse-style abode on Annapolis’ South River. The sprawling, 6,800-square-foot home comprised a main volume with a standing-seam roof, flanking wings and a swimming pool built into the rear deck just 10 feet off the central great room. Set on a knoll of lawn and woodland rolling gently to the water’s edge, the house was a stone’s throw from a little sandy beach and a private dock complete with boat slips and deep-water moorings. “We were blown away,” says the wife. “We didn’t know a ton about waterfront living in Annapolis but we immediately started thinking of ways to make this home a part of our lives.”

They purchased the house fully furnished, with every feature, fixture and finish customized. “It was incredible,” the wife marvels. “Everything blended so well together.”

Builder John Joy of McLean-based Joy Design + Build had originally conceived the house as a weekend spot for his own family. Midway to completion, he realized the project had grown too big and expensive for their needs. “I was having too much fun crafting the design using cutting-edge products,” he says ruefully. He decided to put the property on the market, but first turned to designer Arlene Critzos of Interior Concepts for help with architectural details and furnishings; these finishing touches would enable a turnkey sale.

“Arlene has the ability to collect pieces and personalize and install interiors fast,” Joy notes of the globally active designer, who has been practicing in Annapolis for 40 years. It was of paramount importance to him to finish this personal project with materials and workmanship as fine as those he started with. “I wanted it to be the whole package,” he explains. “So much love went into it.”

The home’s layout ingeniously projects its wings on either side of the pool to protect the south-facing interiors from harsh summer sun. One wing contains the garage and a sunroom on axis with a secondary entry. The sunroom boasts window walls opening on two sides to the pool and patio for alfresco dining. The other wing contains an owners’ suite that spills out to the pool, located a few steps away. A second story houses a guest suite overlooking the water, while two more bedrooms are located above the garage wing.

Joy and Critzos jumpstarted their collaboration in the two-story great room, housed in the center volume. Located opposite the gallery-style main entry, this vast space grabbed Critzos’ attention with numerous skylights and a 45-foot-long wall of sliding doors and black-framed, architectural windows. The room “is so powerful in scale that you see the water and feel the sky,” the designer relates. Living, dining and kitchen areas within the expanse are streamlined in style, but overhead, barnlike sapele trusses reassert the home’s farmhouse vernacular.

Brainstorming the finishes, Joy and Critzos established an envelope of alabaster-hued walls and lime-washed, white-oak flooring with slight variations on “pale, reflective tones,” says Critzos. The sunlit, shimmering whites create a stark contrast with the black-framed doors and windows.

To impart warmth and bring the outdoors in, Critzos selected pops of color from furnishings upholstered in green and midnight blue and a dining table clad in an eye-catching wood-grain veneer. While blue is an obvious accent in waterside homes, Critzos layered the hue with varying shades that resonate in artwork and rugs. “The colors are woven through the rooms,” she says. She furthered the scheme in the owners’ suite with the barest hint of sky on the bed linens and a rug of marine blue.

The team blurred the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces. “The view had to be continuous out to the water,” says Critzos. “We didn’t want anything to stop the eye so I determined how the deck would be furnished by looking from the great room outdoors.” No-color aluminum and mesh furniture outside the sunroom enhance the sense of continuity.

Landscape designer Charles Owen softened Joy’s trough-edged ipe deck with overscaled planters and a curving stairway down to the dock. Adjacent plantings, he says, “give the site more privacy and help the manmade give way to nature.”

The new homeowners couldn’t be happier with their weekend retreat. “It’s exceptionally designed, built and decorated, and it checked every box we had for a second home,” the husband observes. Like Joy, who pushed beyond his comfort zone to complete the project, the family is embracing their new, waterfront lifestyle. Boating is the next step—and they’re sure it’s going to be great.

Interior Design: Arlene Critzos, principal; Samantha Sopp-Wittwer, project manager, Interior Concepts, Annapolis, Maryland. Builder: John Joy, Joy Design + Build, McLean, Virginia.

Comfort Zone - Landscape Design: Charles Owen, Fine Landscapes, Ltd., Sterling, Virginia.


Spectacular workmanship abounds in a venerable Dupont Circle townhouse. American walnut doors and cabinetry feature the species’ pale heartwood, formerly the bane (and detritus) of a woodworker’s studio. Decorative plaster applied in subtle layers brings an inner glow to every wall. And distinctive furnishings, woven like jewelry through the rooms, reflect the owners’ regard for the hand of the artist at work.

The house was built in 1910 in the Romanesque Revival style characterized by the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall. The 21st-century improvement plan for its three floors—formerly chock-a-block with seven bedrooms on one level—didn’t start with a craft-oriented aesthetic. The owners bought the property for the building’s age, authenticity and convenient location. They deliberated for nine months before deciding on a renovation scheme that would channel their taste and lifestyle.

The initial wish list included “relocating electrical outlets, moving some old built-ins and taking out the back stairs to improve circulation,” says the wife, a photographer. She and her husband, an affordable-housing developer from a Maine lumber family, hired architect Michael Lee Beidler, who eventually devised a concept that would address those issues—and more. The final plan expanded the house seven feet into an adjacent alley, then gutted the interiors and started from scratch. The first floor now features an entry foyer, study and great room encompassing sitting and dining areas as well as a generous kitchen. The second floor accommodates a billiard room, guest suite and the wife’s office. The third floor is reserved for the master bedroom suite.

The renovation began with painstaking repairs to the exterior. Since the house is located in a historic district, Beidler employed traditional restoration methods—for example, tasking craftsmen from R. Bratti with meticulously tooling red limestone replacement blocks for the front façade. Inside, the clients replaced oak millwork and doors with walnut and built new walnut-paneled cabinets. Collaborating with woodworkers at Gaston & Wyatt in Charlottesville, Beidler issued a directive: “Don’t cut out the knots or the heartwood. They tell a story that honors the life of the tree.” He also opted for walls made of plaster and lath rather than sheetrock. Pale hickory floors replaced oak flooring throughout and the ceiling moldings were made from hand-cast plaster.

Beidler had created “a cohesive canvas” when designer Michael Hampton joined the team to finesse final finishes and furniture plans. To develop a clear vision for the interiors, Hampton says, “I looked to the house for clues—not to recreate a historical period but to be inspired by its level of handcrafted detail. I saw early how the owners appreciated historical integrity and craftsmanship and didn’t take shortcuts,” he explains. In turn, he set out to create a classic aesthetic with quality furnishings and elegant art against a neutral backdrop of beige hues.

Hampton experimented with paint washes and tints on the walls before he, Beidler and the clients found a more dynamic solution: a selection of Venetian plaster finishes applied by Lenore Winters Studio. Layers of limestone wash deliver a depth of light and movement that paint couldn’t match. The rich finishes, in shades of beige, required 10 months to dry.Sconces by French designer Hervé van der Straeten make a statement by the front door.

In the study, a set of calligraphic paintings purchased on a trip to Japan is cleverly mounted on two folding frames set into the plaster walls, a feat of engineering that hides the TV. Hampton custom-designed the fireplace surrounds out of limestone and marble.

The wife, whose photographic work is printed on metal and displayed over the great-room fireplace, found the modern Holly Hunt chandelier that hangs above a dining table for 12. She credits Hampton’s influence with her choice: “Michael introduced me to a whole world of beautiful design,” she reveals.

The four-year transformation of this Washington townhouse honors a level of workmanship that its collaborators cite with pride. Beidler ranks it “a legacy house,” while Hampton notes the new detailing as “unique but true to its roots.”  As for the owners, they have found a home that they meticulously helped to create—and that they will never leave.

Renovation Architecture: Michael Lee Beidler, Trout Design Studio, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Michael Hampton, Michael Hampton Design, Washington, DC.  Renovation Contractor: ILEX, Washington, DC.

Light Fixture: jeankarajiancollection.com. Chest of Drawers: romanthomas.com. Sconces: vanderstraeten.fr. Stools: Michael Hampton for salvationsaf.com. Stool Fabric: dessinfournir.com. Wall Treatment: lenorewinters.com.
Leather Tufted Sofa: arudin.com. Coffee Table: davidiatesta.com. Top Rug: mattcamron.com. Bottom Rug: Custom through carpetimpressions.com. Chandelier: fuselighting.com. Chair, Chair & Pillow Fabric: dessinfournir.com. Round Side Table: keithfritz.com. Round Side Table Lamp: stephengerould.com. Corner Chest: romanthomas.com. Corner Chest Lamp: Thomas Pheasant for bakerfurniture.com. Custom Fireplace Surround: michaelhamptoninc.com. Calligraphy Painting Frames: broadwaygalleries.net.
Sofa: arudin.com. Chairs: maisongerard.com. Sofa Fabric: hollandandsherry.com. Chair Fabric: markalexander.com. Floor Lamp: phoenixday.com. Rug: carpetimpressions.com. Coffee Table: paulferrante.com. Console: hollyhunt.com. Console Lamps: gregoriuspineo.com. Drapery Fabric: dessinfournir.com. Drapery Fabrication: knightsbridgeinteriors.com. Wall Treatment: lenorewinters.com. Windows/Doors: brombalusa.com.
Table: rosetarlow.com. Chairs: arudin.com. Chair Fabric: markalexander.com.
Cabinets: gastonwyatt.com. Hardware: rockymountainhardware.com. Countertop Soapstone: vermontsoapstone.com. Backsplash & Plumbing Fixture: waterworks.com. Pendants: hollyhunt.com. Refrigerator & Microwave: subzero-wolf.com. Range:  thermador.com. Stools: maxinesniderinc.com. Stool Fabric: hollandandsherry.com.
Rug: mattcamron.com. Bottom Rug: carpetimpressions.com. Game & Billiards Tables: blattbilliards.com. Game Table Chairs: kerryjoycetextiles.com. Chandelier & Light Fixture: charlesedwards.com. Drapery Fabric: rogersandgoffigon.com. Drapery Fabrication: knightsbridgeinteriors.com. Fireplace Surround: michaelhamptoninc.com. Mirror: geraldblandinc.com. Sconces: jonathanbrowninginc.com. Millwork/Cabinetry Fabrication: gastonwyatt.com.




Bed: David Iatesta davidiatesta.com

Bedding: Sferra sferra.com

Night Table: Thomas Pheasant for Baker bakerfurniture.com

Night Table Lamp: Thomas Pheasant for Baker bakerfurniture.com

Hand plastered walls: Lenore Winters Studio lenorewinters.com

Bench: George Smith georgesmith.com

Bench Fabric: Jim Thompson jimthompsonfabrics.com

Vanity Table: Gerard maisongerard.com

Vanity Stool: Madeleine Stuart madelinestuart.com

Drapery Fabric: Pindler pindler.com

Drapery Fabrication: Knightsbridge Interiors knightsbridgeinteriors.com

Chairs: Kerry Joyce kerryjoycetextiles.com

Chair Fabric: Place Textiles placetextiles.com

Pillow Fabric: Jim Thompson jimthompsonfabrics.com

Round Table: Salvations Architectural Furnishings salvationsaf.com

Fireplace Surround: Authentic Provence authenticprovence.com

Art Above Fireplace: Clients personal artwork

Sconces: Vaughan vaughandesigns.com



Wall Tile: Waterworks waterworks.com

Floor Tile: Waterworks waterworks.com

Tile Source: Waterworks waterworks.com

Tub: Antique copper tub

Tub Source: Architectural Accents architecturalaccents.com

Ceiling Treatment: Silver leaf finish Lenore Winters Studio lenorewinters.com

Chandelier: Circa Lighting circalighting.com

Stool: Kellogg Collection kelloggcollection.com

Cabinets: Custom

Countertops: Calcutta Marble



Five years after leaving a career in New York to start her own design firm (and a family) in Baltimore, Laura Hodges got a call from a former Wall Street executive who was also Charm City-bound for family and business reasons. The woman wanted to meet Hodges to discuss the renovation of a penthouse condo she’d bought near the city’s Homewood neighborhood. The 11th-floor aerie with a terrace-balcony overlooking Johns Hopkins University’s undergraduate campus would serve as a home during the client’s frequent visits to attend meetings and host fundraising events. It was also spacious enough to accommodate her Maryland-based parents as well as her husband and sons during breaks from the family’s primary home out West.

After a six-month search, the owner, a Maryland native, found Hodges thanks to an astute lead from a colleague. Her prerequisites were exacting. “She had to be easy to work with, get into the details and represent me well,” the homeowner relates. “I wanted someone who could accomplish the job independently—preferably a woman.” Hodges’ former stints in New York understudying two noteworthy masters of design—modernist Jamie Drake and traditionalist Thomas Jayne—were pluses that suggested this young designer would bring cutting-edge ideas to the table. “My clients value these strains in my work,” reflects Hodges, who also earned business and interior design degrees in New York. “I can find what’s right for them and explain why in the process.”

At their first meeting, Hodges toured the condo, which was then a mostly gutted, 4,800-square-foot concrete shell in a 1990s-era building. “So little was left of the former residence; it was raw,” she recalls. “But there was opportunity in the vacancy for ‘intention’—a design consistency I value that relates everything from larger architectural concerns to the smallest personal details.”

Hodges began the transformation with her client’s desires and lifestyle in mind. Robert Moreland of Lundberg Builders executed renderings for a basic architectural layout. He integrated benches into the entry hall’s load-bearing columns to provide seating with views through the living room to the terrace beyond. Tasked with modernizing and opening what had been a warren of rooms, Lundberg Builders replaced the terrace’s sliding glass doors with five-panel stacking ones to maximize the condo’s capacity for entertaining. Meanwhile, lighting designer Maureen Moran of MCLA simulated a natural wash of light using LED technology, which Hodges subsequently married with stylish fixtures. “The key idea for me was how my client wanted this home to feel,” notes Hodges. “How could I move the design toward calm, elegant and personal and also serve her philanthropic fundraisers?” In recognizing two distinct areas within the U-shaped condo—the front for public entertaining and sides for private family comfort—the designer concentrated on developing elements of style to tie the two together.

Custom molding of Hodges’ design, which she describes as “modern with a reveal,” now runs throughout the condo at ceiling level and on doors, windows and built-ins. To unify the interiors, Hodges devised a color scheme of grays and blues that evolved from her client’s love of the Chesapeake Bay. “The atmospheric colors also serve as a continuation of the Baltimore skyline,” she explains. In the family room, misty grays complement a floor-to-ceiling mural adorning the adjacent breakfast nook that depicts ships under sail in the bay, inspired by her client’s vintage prints by the late Baltimore photographer Aubrey Bodine.

In varying intensities, blues accent every room like stones skipping across placid grays. The hue crescendos in the cocooning, blue-sueded walls of the study. This palette resonated with the homeowner. “The climate and colors of my childhood on Maryland’s Eastern Shore are conjured here,” she observes.

Finding appropriate furnishings for a peripatetic client required some initial spontaneous meetings around town. The main project presentation took place in a Baltimore Starbucks over cups of Japanese green tea. “Initially, she gave me plenty of tear sheets for inspiration,” says Hodges, “but Pinterest proved a more immediate way of communicating ideas and images. It also let us include the builder and the client’s husband in the process. The feedback was time-efficient.” Hodges’ 11-month transformation was a feat of organization that ultimately wrapped family and business needs into a seamless whole. And her clients’ reaction could not have been more rewarding: The family engaged her to re-do their home out West.

Renovation Design & Contracting: Robert Moreland, Lundberg Builders, Stevensville, Maryland. Interior Design: Laura Hodges, Laura Hodges Studio, Catonsville, Maryland. Kitchen & Bath Design: 314 Design Studio, Stevensville, Maryland. Lighting Design: Maureen Moran, MCLA Architectural Lighting Design, Washington, DC. Styling: Mike Grady. 



Home Automation: lutron.com through starrsystems.net. Wood Flooring: wideplankflooring.com.

Outdoor Furniture: janusetcie.com. Trellis Design: laurahodgesstudio.com. Trellis Fabrication: madeinmetality.com.

Sectional sofa & Fabric, Tufted Chairs & Fabric, Drum Tables: thayercoggin.com. Game Table:  Keno Brothers through theodorealexander.com. Side Chairs by Game Table: centuryfurniture.com. Side Chair Fabric: robertallendesign.com. Pillow Fabric: osborneandlittle.com. Bench Fabric: aerin.com through leejofa.com. Side Table & Sofa Table: swaiminc.com. Vintage Arm Chairs: 1stdibs.com. Chandelier: bocci.ca. Artwork above hearth: Jiro Takamatsu, Mia Stone through merrittgallery.com. Wallpaper: winfieldthybony.com.

Dining Table: bakerfurniture.com. Dining Chairs: centuryfurniture.com. Chair Fabric: robertallendesign.com. Bar Cart: margecarson.com. Chandelier: axolightusa.com. Rug: webstercarpetandrugs.com. Wallpaper: winfieldthybony.com.

Cabinetry: platowoodwork.com. Bar Stools: vanguardfurniture.com. Refrigerator & Range: subzero-wolf.com. Dishwashers: askona.com. Countertop & Backsplash: silestoneusa.com. Paint Color: Wickham Gray by benjaminmoore.com. Pendants: visualcomfortlightinglights.com.

Sectional Sofa & Sofa Fabric: leeindustries.com. Pillow Fabric: kravet.com, designersguild.com, jffabrics.com. Coffee Table: centuryfurniture.com. Rug: floors-etc.com. Paint Color: Wickham Gray by benjaminmoore.com.

Dining Table: hickorychair.com. Dining Chairs: henredon.com. Chair Fabric: sunbrella.com. Lantern over Dining Table: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Mural: monktonstudios.com. Rug: floors-etc.com.

Wallpaper: phillipjeffries.com. Built-In Bed Design: laurahodgesstudio.com. Bed Fabrication: lundbergbuilders.com. Desk: arteriors.com. Bedside Table: centuryfurniture.com. Table & Desk Lamps: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Paint Color on Bookcase: Buxton Blue by benjaminmoore.com.

Bed, Nightstand, Arm Chairs, Ottoman, Arm Chair Fabric & Leather Bench: centuryfurniture.com. Side Table between Arm Chairs: hickorywhite.com. Built-In Book Shelf Design: laurahodgesstudio.com. Shelf Fabrication: lundbergbuilders.com. Rug: floors-etc.com. Grass Cloth Wallpaper & Hand-painted Grass Cloth Wall Covering: phillipjeffries.com. Custom-Embroidered French Bed Linens: phinas.com. Pillow Fabric: kravet.com. Sconces: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Paint Color on Bookcase: New Providence Navy by benjaminmoore.com.

Arm Chairs: centuryfurniture.com. Bistro Table & Bar Stools: elitemodern.com. Desk: & Built-In Bookcase Design: laurahodgesstudio.com. Desk & Shelf Fabrication: lundbergbuilders.com. Paint Color on Bookcase & Trim: Hale Navy by benjaminmoore.com. Artwork: Alina Maksimenko through merrittgallery.com. Wallpaper: winfieldthybony.com. Rug: floors-etc.com.


Designers and collectors have been known to wait hours for the doors to open at Georgetown’s Marston Luce Antiques when one of its seasonal shipments arrives. Sourced by owner Marston Luce at fairs, flea markets and brocantes from Paris to Provençe, this precious booty has a devoted clientele. They come, one Connecticut-based designer explains, “Not just for the quality of the antiques, but to enjoy Marston’s eye for one-of-a-kind pieces and the unexpected ways he puts them together.”

Not surprisingly, Luce brings the same deft curator’s eye to the Northwest DC residence he’s lived in for 25 years. Though a private person, he recently opened the 1929 center-hall colonial to Home & Design following a decision to downsize. His house is full of mementos and antique furnishings collected with his late wife, Julie. But his life changed with a new marriage in 2017, and he has elected to start afresh. “I’m ready for a new chapter,” he says as he prepares for the move. “A bit of Biblical wisdom reminds me of what I’m taking along: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’”

The three-bedroom house he leaves behind abuts a quiet street near a wooded stretch of Rock Creek Park. Luce’s green thumb drew him to the tree-shaded residence, happily situated just a few miles from his Georgetown shop, yet away from the urban bustle. He designed a picket fence and gate after a style he saw and admired in New England, bordering it with a layer of boxwood for privacy. The sloping backyard was leveled with 30 truckloads of dirt to accommodate a secluded garden; Luce now enjoys the view with a glass of wine while sitting in the adjacent covered loggia, nestled below the kitchen wing.

Over the years, Luce made changes to the house that spanned its three stories. Small windows on one side of the dining room were replaced with longer, graceful models, while an addition remodeled and enlarged the kitchen to encompass a breakfast nook. Updating the bathrooms allowed him to incorporate antique panels he’d acquired in France in the master suite. Several fireplace mantels were replaced with ones of American provenance; visitors would never guess that the dining-room mantel—faux-painted to look like a limestone antique from France—is actually of American Civil War vintage. Wide-plank oak floors, previously stained black, were stripped and pickled to create a sense of lightness. Luce embellished the dining room with a coffered ceiling and subtly striaed walls, while walls in the front hall were scored to look like masonry.

Although he specializes in French antiques, Luce did not set out to create an authentic French abode. “I wanted to open the house to the outside for a sense of lightness, which the French do so well,” he says. “But a truly French house requires French architecture. My home is American and furnished with French antiques.”

Many of its furnishings are of period-French origin and rare—de rigueur for a dealer in the business since 1981. Luce also owns a country house in France’s Dordogne region and makes it his base as he combs the country for the special pieces that have clinched his reputation. Among favorites he’s kept over the years: a 1750 commode with its original green paint and a Roman-inspired chair from the pre-Napoleonic Consulate period. A circa-1800 map of Italy and a gilt dove—formerly a building finial—are examples of overscaled furnishings added for the moment of surprise they impart. His combinations are deft—a talent that comes, he says, from “buying because I respond to a piece and then figuring out how I’ll work it in later. Good things are good company for each other.” But he also likes oddities. “When it goes against convention, it says something interesting,” he observes, noting a pair of mid-20th-century linen angels’ wings bought at a fair in Brussels and probably used in a Christmas pageant. “Some people call me a dealer,” he remarks, “but I think of myself as the head of the lost-and-found department for things unappreciated and undervalued.”

Since the early 1980s, DC designer Ann Andrews has provided Luce with options for textiles, wallcoverings and finishes that freshen the backdrop for his collections. She adheres to a cardinal rule in the Luce decorating lexicon: “Even though antiques are intrinsically formal, never invoke a formal mood around them.” After helping him arrange his collection of green pottery on the living-room shelves, she provided swatches of fabric for slipcovering a favorite club chair. Luce’s choice of pale green punctuates the room’s verdant sensibility. “I credit myself with knowing him well enough to gather the right choices,” Andrews says. “He makes the decision in five seconds.”

Luce attributes the confidence of his eye for beauty to almost 50 years as a keen observer. The clients who regularly queue in front of his shop detect this high level of connoisseurship. “It’s my business to see more than most people,” he reflects. “An object should deliver as much pleasure to a client as it does to me.” What he buys, he treasures.

Interior Design: Marston Luce, Marston Luce Antiques, Washington, DC, and Ann Andrews, Ann Andrews Interiors, Washington, DC.


All antiques and furnishings through marston luce.com.

Sofa & White Armchair Fabric: perennials.com. Green Chair Fabric: nobilis.fr.  Consulate Period Chair Fabric: blithfield.co.uk. Rug: mattcamron.com.

Rug: mattcamron.com.



Few DC designers can create quintessentially classical interiors like Frank Babb Randolph, who has been transforming homes in and around the nation’s capital for 50 years. Randolph’s father came to Washington as a congressman from West Virginia in 1933; his son is fond of saying that he arrived “five years later and stayed seven decades.” A recent search for his fourth home—“without so many stairs this time”—would have initiated Randolph’s eighth decade living in Georgetown. Instead, he discovered a two-bedroom condo in a Georgian-style Kalorama building replete with history and beauty that spoke to his classical soul.

“I was looking for great architecture and day-long exposure to sunlight,” Randolph says about his two-year search. “If I was going to be lured from Georgetown, it could only be for the classical architecture in Kalorama’s embassy district.”

A lifelong student of architecture and the decorative arts, Randolph’s talents surfaced in the 1970s when he assisted iconic New York decorator Billy Baldwin, managing his redesign of Pamela and Ambassador W. Averell Harriman’s Georgetown home. But instead of capitalizing on this leg up into New York’s prestigious design world, Randolph chose to stay in Washington, crafting signature work on such projects as the Italian Embassy, the vice president’s residence in the era of Dick Cheney and the DC home of “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell.

The condo he found in Kalorama is one of his favorite projects to date and certainly one of his happiest. “I came to a party here years ago,” he reminisces about the second-floor unit in The Holton on S Street. “Then I saw it for sale last year. With the high ceilings, long windows and sunlight flooding in, I thought, ‘This is it!’ I signed a contract the next day.”

For Randolph, The Holton’s cultural cachet even exceeds its second-floor-with-elevator ease of access. Prix de Rome-winning architect Waddy Wood designed the 1906 building for Jessie Moon Holton and Carolyn Hough Arms, who wished to establish their new girls’ school with small, intimate classes in a residential building (the Holton-Arms School later relocated to Bethesda).

Wood’s grand, classical style borrowed architectural elements from antiquity after the manner of other Kalorama homes that were built for the era’s industrial barons and later converted to embassies. A large library with a fireplace on the second floor had been the heart of the school, serving as a classroom during the day and a club-like retreat for study after hours. It was still the heart of the condo Randolph purchased, though it had since been partitioned to create separate living and dining rooms.

After consulting local architect and friend Christian Zapatka—also a Prix de Rome-winner in architecture—Randolph decided to restore the room to its original grandeur. “Frank and I took down the walls to open the two rooms to one,” says Zapatka. “We eliminated the dining room and removed a doorway to deliver more light to the kitchen and a study at the back of the condo.”

The lack of a dining room was not a problem for Randolph, who has long embraced the idea of living mobilier. Furniture—including his antique French dining table on casters—moves around the room as needed. The result is a magnificent drawing room with four windows emitting light via a southwest exposure. “We gave the windows wider casings and panels underneath, doubled the baseboard widths and eliminated some built-ins,” explains Zapatka. “The architecture emphasizes the room’s height and classical dignity.”

Into this spectacular envelope Randolph introduced his signature light-enhancing color palette. “I believe we look for light as we age,” he notes. “It’s the essence of feeling good about life and living.” The afternoon light casts what he calls a “magical” pink tone in the drawing room—the result of a subtle lavender hue he had custom-mixed into the off-white wall color, inspired by the oxidized Murano glass in a pair of antique mirrors. Randolph repeats lavender notes in varying intensities on upholstery, in the wool rag rug and on the backs of the remaining built-in bookshelves. Upholstery, finishes and artwork introduce a spring green so soft it might be mistaken for a reflection from outside.

In contrast to the drawing room, Randolph kept the original muted hue in the entry hall, but glazed it for reflectivity. “I call it ‘English drabware,’” he says, referencing a dark-clay ceramic produced in early 19th-century England. “It’s not my usual, but the contrast with the light in the drawing room was irresistible.”

The cozy master bedroom came with walls upholstered in burlap-textured linen. As in the rest of the residence, Randolph furnished it mostly in a mix of French, English and American antiques or pieces he designed to his own specifications after classical precepts. “The commonality is my love of classicism,” he observes.

Randolph often muses on the sunlight flooding his drawing-room windows. “In Georgetown, the houses were so close together, I couldn’t see the sky. Here, I have seven hours of sun and can watch the clouds go by,” he marvels. The home he spent two years finding has given him a perspective he celebrates every day.

Renovation Architecture: Christian Zapatka, AIA, Christian Zapatka Architect LLC, Washington, DC.  Interior Design: Frank Babb Randolph, Frank Babb Randolph Interior Design, Washington, DC.



THROUGHOUT: Custom Paint: benjaminmoore.com.

DRAWING ROOM: Diva Sofa, Tivoli Bench & Waterfall Table: designed by Frank Babb Randolph, made through davidiatesta.com through hollyhunt.com. Diva Sofa Fabric: delanyandlong.com through cowtan.com. Drawing Room Consoles: niermannweeks.com through michaelclearyllc.com. Rug: Georgetown Carpet. Slipper Chair Fabric: sunbrella.com through hinescompany.com. through Hines.

FRONT HALL: Tables: David Bell Antiques; 202-965-2355.















Subtle Style Soon after moving to Washington, Cris Briger got an enthusiastic greeting from a designer she met at a party who remembered the to-the-trade furnishings Cris and her late husband, Paul Briger, created in their Briger Design atelier in Mexico. The firm supplied designers around the world with one-of-a-kind finds, from mirrors sold at Bergdorf’s to coral chandeliers that hang in Lilly Pulitzer boutiques. The designer told Briger, “No one has ever done a bedside table like you did. Give us more!”

Cris and her son, Charles Peed, are now doing just that from the family’s new home, a four-story townhouse in DC’s tony Kalorama neighborhood. After nearly 20 years of living and working in Mexico, the Brigers closed Briger Design and in 2015 relocated to Washington, lured by its history, architecture, and culture. Paul Briger’s sudden death in 2017 was devastating and galvanized Briger and Peed, Paul’s stepson and a designer with training from the Savannah College of Art and Design, to continue the family legacy.

“It was natural for us to form a design firm in order to move on,” says Briger. “Charles stepped in and we built from there.”

The 1970s-era townhouse where she and Peed now live and work is sequestered behind a gated entry and accessible through a manicured courtyard that Peed describes as the vestibule. “You walk past garden borders to get to our door and it creates a mood,” he says.

Immediately apparent past the front door is a sense of impeccable taste within. Starting in the entry hall covered in Manuel Canovas wallpaper are beautiful furnishings Cris and Paul Briger fabricated and treasures collected over the years for their three homes in Mexico. The interiors of these are spotlighted in a coffee table book, Briger + Briger: Comfortable and Joyous Homes, City, Country and Lakeside, which the couple co-authored for Rizzoli in 2007. The tome illustrates a philosophy Briger and Peed now embrace in their current residence: “The house is a private stage for the lives of its inhabitants and the guests who enter it.”

Paring down the family’s furniture collection to fit the townhouse would prove to be a challenge. But, as Bridger reflects, “We must revive the furnishings we own to keep them relevant. Refitting must be ongoing as we move through life.”

She embraced the opportunity. “Our townhouse has beautiful light and flows from its open plan,” she says. “So I needed to keep the rooms simple and coherent.” With a few deft changes, she made the interior architecture a backdrop for a curated display of favorite furnishings. Original millwork with a traditional profile was retained throughout the house and walls were painted Benjamin Moore’s crisp, white Chantilly Lace.

The editing process began with the oak floors. Briger decided they should be bare so she had them stripped and cerused for a lighter look—then relegated her Oushaks and Aubussons to storage. A fireplace mantel in a third-floor bedroom was moved to the second-floor library to echo one in the adjacent living room.“Duplicate fireplaces create a symmetry that connects these rooms,” says Briger.

Unique, eye-catching items drive the design of each space. “We like uncluttered,” Briger explains. “It makes a stage for beautiful pieces.” Upholstered favorites from previous homes anchor the living room like sculpture, in a mix of fabrics she likens to “an intricate mating,” adding, “You’ve got to love fabrics to coordinate them.”

Briger and Peed augmented the family collection with local finds. For example, an 18th-century gilt Swedish clock from Marston Luce Antiques graces the dining room. “It was chosen to set a mood,” Briger explains. “Neoclassical and spare, but with personality.”

Classical references, appropriate in a city built on the tenets of classicism, are a favorite motif. “The beauty of what the Greeks and Romans produced stands the test of time,” says Briger. Collections of porcelain, furniture, statuary and art reference this ancient aesthetic. Sculpture and a plaster relief on the terrace are modeled after ones from antiquity. In the adjacent dining room, a pair of reeded column plinths holds classically derived statuary that Briger and Peed now fabricate through their firm, Get the Gusto. In addition to providing design services, they run an e-commerce site offering tabletop items, textiles, accessories and more.

More derivative but no less descriptive of their love of antiquity are busts that adorn tables, an 18th-century map of Rome and an iPhone transfer print of an altar painting in a Roman church. “It’s a masterpiece by Caravaggio,” says Briger, who took the photo and had it enlarged to create a sense of drama.

In collaboration with Case Design, Briger and Peed renovated the kitchen with new cabinets and Silestone countertops approximating the look of marble but without its propensity to stain. Briger favors a task-oriented, clean-lined kitchen—no prep island necessary—and close by, a breakfast room with dishes on open shelving so guests can help themselves. Swedish chairs around the table sport a blue-and-white fabric that makes them interchangeable with seating in the rest of the house.

The upper floors are dedicated to bedrooms—two on the fourth and Briger’s master bedroom and dressing room on the third. With their period French elegance, the bedside tables produced by Briger Design will stay with her always; prototypes of the originals will soon be on offer through Get the Gusto.

“The interior design in this house was a springboard to our new business,” reflects Briger. “This is where we crafted the idea to celebrate home and continue our 20-year family design legacy.” n


Interior Design: Cris Briger and Charles Peed, Get the Gusto, Washington, DC. Kitchen Cabinetry Fabrication: Hope Hassell, Case Design, Washington, DC.


Table: marstonluce.com. Chairs, Chandelier, Etagere: Owners’ Collection. Fabric: raoultextiles.com. Sideboard: charlesspada.com. Lanterns: circalighting.com.
Hood: ventahood.com. Countertops & Backsplash: silestoneusa.com. Cabinet: crystalcabinets.com. Pendant: circalighting.com. Oven & Stovetop: subzero-wolf.com. Classical Temple Breadbox: Owners’ Collection.
Sculpture, Console & Mirror: Owners’ Collection. Sconce: circalighting.com. Wallpaper: manuelcanovas.com.
Drum Chandelier: circalighting.com. Round Table & Clock: marstonluce.com. Fabric: raoultextiles.com. Large Table, Chairs, Sconces & Columns: Owners’ Collection.
Sculpture: americanplant.net.
Recamier: antiquearmsdealer.co.uk. Writing Desk & Mirror: westerhoffantiques.com. Sofas, Bergere, Skirted Chair & Map of Rome: Owners’ Collection. Checked Fabric: raoultextiles.com. Sofa & Bergere Fabrics: pierrefrey.com.
Armchairs & Sconces: Owners’ Collection. Armchair Fabric: pierrefrey.com.
Bed, Chair, Lamps & Bedside Tables: Briger Design. Trumeaus: Owners’ Collection. Bed Curtain: colefax.com. Bedding: matouk.com. Ceramic Heater:


Private Landing Tucked into a private landing on Spa Creek, a modest block of brick, 1980s-era townhouses offers placid views of a row of companion boat slips. A few streets over, traffic in Annapolis might as well be worlds away—so absorbed by its marine surroundings is this picturesque location.

Designer Skip Sroka noted the laidback vibe when the owners of one of the residences asked him to alter its dated interiors. After completing three major projects for the DC-based couple, Sroka knew that over the past decade they had used the Annapolis retreat as a rental property—but enjoyed spending time there once in a while, too. “The small size is magical when you’re used to a big house,” Sroka says of his clients’ decision to redo and keep the townhouse for themselves. “It’s so close to the water and such an easy getaway from DC.”

The irresistible views and cool Annapolis environs were an inspiration to Sroka, who used them to form a vision for the project. “Here was a cozy, private place offering the chance to be away and stress-free,” the designer recounts.

However, the interior architecture definitely dampened the mood. “It was an ’80s condo with the generic builder’s architecture, fussy colonial-style detailing and poor use of space,” reflects Sroka. He remembers standing by the front door with project designer Antonella Cestone LaFranchise and lamenting the lack of a sense of the outdoors or even a glimmer of a view of the creek.

Says LaFranchise, “We knew we had to rearrange the floorplan, to see out from as many points as possible.”

She and Sroka gave their clients concept plans detailing spatial changes and an overall design aesthetic for three floors. With their approval, Sroka assembled a team that included architect Tom Manion and Annapolis contractor John Riley. Annapolis Historic District requirements precluded alterations to the home’s exterior. “Changes to a townhouse unit would alter its uniformity,” Manion explains, “so any door, window or third-floor roof modifications were out of the question.”

A more attainable objective was streamlining the chopped-up rooms to gain some through-views. To that end, he and Riley took all three levels of the home down to the studs, eliminating some interior walls, reorganizing the HVAC and plumbing and concealing storage wherever possible. “The 1980s bear no resemblance to the 21st century when it comes to building efficiently,” Manion notes. “A flow-through of the rooms wasn’t as important then. That meant we had to move a lot around.”

Major alterations started in the kitchen. Essential appliances and storage were shifted to one wall and another was eliminated. “Just doing that freed up the adjacent staircase in the middle of the townhouse for change,” Manion says. Cutting back the staircase enclosure and adding a wrought-iron railing gained light and a sense of the outdoors beyond.

Tongue-and-groove cedar planks on the ceilings echo the look of a boat deck; their platinum-gray stain was chosen from a half dozen custom-mixed samples. “We used the rough side of Eastern white cedar for a rustic effect,” says Riley, “and dyed the floors on the first floor satin-finish black.”

The boat deck-worthy ceiling and ebony flooring created a light-reflective envelope that conveys an easy, modern mood. “This simple decision drove the project’s design aesthetic,” says Sroka. “It replaced the ersatz-colonial mood with a rustic sophistication appropriate to Annapolis. It also made the rooms on each floor feel larger and more open, yet cohesive.”

In the open-plan living/dining room, a raised dining table and banquette designed by Sroka and chairs from R. Jones take in the view through sliding doors beyond the seating area. Manion, who praises Sroka for “seeing space as an architect,” describes this clever demarcation of the dining and living areas as “the reverse of a step-down between rooms to provide a sense of separation; it’s a step up via the dining furniture’s height.” In a stroke, Sroka created both a view and a separation of function for two areas in one room.

The clients’ wish list for their refurbished abode was substantial. In the 19-by-20-foot main room, they requested a floor-to-ceiling bar; a fireplace wall with an integrated flat-screen TV; and storage behind double frosted-panel doors. LaFranchise followed up with finishes and textures that visually tie together the first-floor rooms.

Improvements to all three floors extend the easy flow. Gone are the ceiling bulkheads and inefficient closets. Storage is now concealed inside beautifully crafted built-ins in the second-floor bedrooms and baths. On the lower level, Sroka designed an ingenious bunkroom that is both stylish and functional, with inset closets flanking a paneled fireplace wall on one side; on the other, two sets of built-in bunk beds create a solid unit separated by integrated steps and embellished with drawers. A conversation circle divides the two areas and pops of orange break up the neutral color scheme.

The wife “wanted to break-up the core colors of gray and white,” says LaFranchise. So throughout the house, the gray-and-white palette is punctuated by colorful accents, including turquoise in the master bedroom and shades of lavender and navy in the living area. The hues ripple across the serene flow of the interiors, reflecting the colors of the creek and the peaceful marina on view just outside.

Writer Susan Stiles Dowell is based in Baltimore. Photographer Timothy Bell works in New York and Washington, DC. 

Architecture: Tom Manion, AIA, Manion & Associates Architects, P.C., Bethesda, Maryland. Interior Design: Skip Sroka, ASID, principal, and Antonella Cestone LaFranchise, project designer, Sroka Design, Inc., Washington, DC. Builder: John Riley, Riley Custom Homes & Renovations, Annapolis, Maryland.

A Classic Reborn Magical isn’t too fabulous a word to describe architect Christian Zapatka’s transformation of an 8,000-square-foot, 1970s colonial-style house in Potomac. The clients, a successful entrepreneur, and his wife wanted to enlarge the family home they loved, infusing it with more natural light and style—but not the ostentation of a mammoth remodel.

Zapatka preserved the original house’s core within a sleek, stucco-clad expansion that more than doubled its size. “As the plans grew,” he says, “I kept a template firmly in mind: Let there be no huge spaces or scale to confront. We want to meander pleasantly through a cherished family home.” His genius was in avoiding the pitfalls of what has become an architectural anathema: the McMansion. Big houses need not be formidable or formulaic, as illustrated by Zapatka’s sensitive handling of this one.

The wife had previously worked with Washington, DC, designer Frank Babb Randolph, refining rooms in the original house. He sourced art and updated their furniture, finding unique pieces that wouldn’t go out of style. When the husband suggested that a master suite in a new first-floor addition might work wonders for his ailing knee, Randolph proposed Christian Zapatka for the design—beginning a five-year process during which the modest master-bedroom addition grew into a three-story wing housing a family room, playroom, gym, spa, movie theater, large master and guest suites—and even a subterranean half-basketball court.

When Zapatka first walked through the front door, he quickly began suggesting options that ranged from tearing the house down to building anew on another lot. When the couple, who have four children, concluded that they loved their wooded, two-and-a-half-acre property too much to leave it, an intense discussion ensued about ways to expand the existing home. The wife declared, “Don’t change the layout of the old house! We’re comfortable and it has a great flow.”

Heeding her words, Zapatka says he “massaged the existing kernel of the house” in his design of an addition that extends along its north side, perpendicular to the original structure. He preserved the smaller scale of the original house from the front by siting the bulk of the expansion so it extends down an adjacent slope. An entry courtyard nestles in front, with Belgian pavers that lend it a European feel.

Resurrecting a sketch he’d made of a marble fountain in Rome while completing a fellowship as a recipient of the coveted Rome Prize for Architecture, Zapatka commissioned a fountain to be sited along the home’s front door axis. “It plays up the sense of a palazzo,” he explains. A line of four garage bays borders the courtyard (the original garage is now a library).

In the existing structure, the living and dining rooms retained their original positions near the front entry, as did the kitchen and breakfast room to the rear. A 24-foot gallery created an axis behind the new library and facilitated the addition of a wine room. Replacing the home’s simple wooden deck, a spacious loggia now overlooks a sumptuous swimming pool and spa, outdoor kitchen, sports court and gardens, created by Washington-based landscape designer Jane MacLeish.

Zapatka overlaid the home’s brick exterior with smart neo-classical styling. Stucco sheathing, light-emitting bay windows, and European casements conform beautifully to the original symmetry while plain surfaces and flat limestone casings deliver a look more reminiscent of 1920s Vienna than 1970s suburbia. “The composition is still classical but it’s spare,” he says. It also facilitates a whole new architectural vocabulary inside, he adds, which “lets the proportions of the old house and new addition speak to each other.”

Working closely with Randolph, Zapatka devised clever modifications to join old and new elements. Heightened door frames, bleached white-oak flooring throughout and less imposing mantels “fool the eye into perceiving larger volumes in the old, low rooms,” Zapatka says. Randolph’s characteristic restraint regarding color and his choice of spare, sculptural furnishings further the “less is more” approach.

But it’s the architectural detailing that creates a cohesive style. Bolection molding around doors and windows provides a basic language of flow between rooms. Bold and minimal, “it’s a starved classicism,” Zapatka says, “the very basis of elegance.”

His classicism is the platform for some flourishes, too: The gallery’s march of pilasters ends in a rusticated Roman arch sheltering a fountain, while steel columns designed for the loggia recall a bundled-reed motif from ancient Rome. Zapatka channeled Art Deco in his reiteration of triple glass panels in doors and windows as well as in the design of the foyer’s curved staircase and distinctive steel rails.

Another classical touch is an oval recess within a tray ceiling in the master bedroom. Randolph, who masterminded the room’s color scheme, describes its icy blue as “receding into the ceiling’s Baroque blue sky…you almost want cherubs up there.”

In striving for simplicity, Zapatka’s elegant design created a great deal more.

Writer Susan Stiles Dowell is based in Monkton, Maryland. Gordon Beall is a photographer in Bethesda.

ARCHITECTURE: CHRISTIAN ZAPATKA, AIA, FAAR, Christian Zapatka Architect, LLC, Washington, DC. INTERIOR DESIGN: FRANK BABB RANDOLPH, Frank Babb Randolph, Washington, DC. RENOVATION CONTRACTOR: OC Builders, McLean, Virginia. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: JANE MACLEISH, Jane MacLeish, Washington, DC.



Architecture: Christian Zapatka Architect, LLC; christianzapatka.com. Interior Design: Frank Babb Randolph Interior Design; 202-944-2120. Landscape Design: Jane MacLeish Landscapes; janemacleish.com. Builder: OC Builders; 703- 454-8499. 

THROUGHOUT  Windows & Exterior Doors: tradewoodindustries.com. Flooring: majesticwoodfloors.net. Home Automation: imsva.com. Interior Doors: trustile.com.

COURTYARD  Steelwork: Eric Hermansen, Lars, Inc.; handcraftedstair.com. Fountain Fabrication: rugostone.com. Stone Paving: stoneworksinc.us.

ENTRY HALL  Stair-Rail Fabrication: handcraftedstair.com. Console: centuryfurniture.com. Console Paint Treatment: lenorewinters.com. Vintage Mirror: 1stdibs.com/dealers/david-bell.

DINING ROOM  Silver-Leaf Ceiling: lenorewinters.com. Table: keithfritz.com. Chairs: Frank Babb Randolph for davidiatesta.com.

LIVING ROOM  Mantel: chesneys.com. Club Chairs: jlambeth.com. Silver-Leaf Coffee Tables: century
furniture.com. Artwork: Owners’ collection.

GALLERY  Carved 19th-century Face & Basin: 1stdibs.com/dealers/david-bell. Decorative Paint: lenorewinters.com. Sconces: niermannweeks.com.

LIBRARY  French Jacobean-style Wing Chairs: dessinfournir.com. Armchairs: davidiatesta.com. Millwork: Winchester Woodworking; 540-667-1700.

WINE ROOM  Stone Wall & Flooring: rugostone.com. Millwork: oldtownwoodworking.com.

SUNROOM  Vintage Bamboo Brighton Pavilion Chairs: 1stdibs.com/dealers/david-bell. Bridge Table: Frank Babb Randolph for davidiatesta.com.

LOGGIA  Rail Fabrication: handcraftedstair.com. Furniture: janusetcie.com. Lanterns: niermannweeks.com.

MASTER BEDROOM  1920s Mantel: chesneys.com. Mirrors: Frank Babb Randolph for davidiatesta.com.  Chandelier: niermannweeks.com. Ceiling-Paint Treatment: lenorewinters.com.
Painting & Club Chairs: Owners’ collection.

Spa  Furniture: janusetcie.com. Tile: waterworks.com.

MASTER BATH  Tile & Fixtures: waterworks.com. Millwork: Winchester Woodworking; 540-667-1700.

Casual Chic Ryland Witt still remembers visiting the rambler in Richmond as a seven-year-old. It was her older cousins’ house and, unlike Witt’s own home, it didn’t have a formal dining room. “They liked casual dining in one room overlooking the backyard,” says Witt, who found her cousins’ lifestyle fun and freeing. “They spent most of their time in that big room connected to the kitchen.”

Now an interior designer, Witt had recently completed work on a center-hall colonial for clients Dan and Amy Ludwin when the couple spotted the 1950s rancher for sale and told her they were intrigued enough to consider a move. They liked the house’s nonconformist spirit, the idea of living on one floor and especially the backyard swimming pool, visible from that big room. Could Witt take a look? They wondered if she could undo some of the additions that were choking its circulation and reconnect the house to its mid-century modern origins.

Dan, a Richmond financial advisor, and Amy, a stay-at-home mom, bet on Witt’s enthusiasm and discovered a meeting of minds: They all loved the idea of living without a formal dining room. The couple bought the house with the idea of renovating right away. Witt contacted local architect John Voight to take a look. Trained in the impeccable proportions and cohesive style of Virginia’s traditional housing stock, Voight recognized the need to integrate the abode’s flesh-colored brick into a neighborhood dominated by stately homes of red and lime-washed brick. “Off-white exteriors with taupe trim knit its disparate sections together and better assimilate the house into the neighborhood,” he says.

Successive additions over half a century had made the interiors choppy. “A single room had as many as four doorways, allowing little wall space for furniture,” Voight recalls. “The resulting circulation through the main rooms was confusing.” Collaborating with builder Tony Pitts, he got rid of remnants of past renovations by re-engineering roof trusses and reconfiguring portions of bearing walls. “As a team, we rescued the floor plan for better circulation and furnishing plans that could reuse furniture from their former home,” the architect says.

The cleaned-up floor plan dramatically impacted the back of the house. A circular layout finally linked all the rooms, but a connection to the backyard was needed. “How could we stop dead at that one back door?” Witt remembers thinking. “Dan and Amy wanted access to the pool, the terrace and the beautiful double lot. They knew this house would be great for parties, so we developed that outside dimension.” Three sets of French doors replaced picture windows to open up the rear elevation.

This new orientation toward the pool and backyard cleared the way for Witt to create interiors in sync with the mid-century modern home. A wet bar between the family room and former breakfast room off the kitchen was a retro touch. The breakfast room—the same space Witt remembered from childhood—became a hybrid space she describes as “not a dining, living or sunroom, but all of the above. The mix of chairs and a sofa around a trestle table can be used for dining but also rearranged for other occasions. It’s now known as the lounge.”

Witt worked to ensure that each room would be fun as well as functional. “The mid-century modern aesthetic supports this creative mix,” she says. “It advocates rethinking materials, design approaches and room orientations for fresh solutions.” When Witt spotted a dynamic but expensive fabric she and Amy liked for the living room chairs, the designer limited its use to cushions that enliven neutral linen upholstery. “The dual treatment is fun and the green pattern brings the eye out to the backyard,” she says.

The Ludwins’ wish to decorate with furniture from their former house instigated unexpected, dramatic color shifts from room to room. The family room and wet bar’s dark walls, taken from a favorite flame-stitch club chair, provide a stark contrast to the light neutrals in sunny rooms elsewhere. But the integration is deft, different and, above all, casual.

The Ludwins measure the success of Witt’s work by how they feel. “It’s easy to live here, and so welcoming to our friends,” says Amy. “My 21-year-old daughter saw it for the first time and said, ‘This is so cool!’ That’s when I knew it was perfect.”

Writer Susan Stiles Dowell is based in Monkton, Maryland. Gordon Gregory is a Richmond-based photographer.

RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE: JOHN K. VOIGHT, John K. Voight Architects, Charlottesville, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: RYLAND WITT, Ryland Witt Interior Design, Richmond, Virginia. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: RUSSELL COMBS, Russell Combs Design, LLC, Richmond, Virginia. BUILDER: TONY PITTS, Pitts & Associates, Inc., Manakin-Sabot, Virginia.



THROUGHOUT  Millwork: pittsassociatesinc.com.

POOL & PATIO  Chaises, Patio Furniture, Dining Table & Umbrella: rh.com. Dining Chairs: target.com.

ENTRY HALL  Console Table: Custom through rylandwitt.com. Mirror: thecuriousorangestore.com. Lamp on Console: kennyballantiques.com.

LOUNGE  Banquette Sofa & Host Chairs: Custom through rylandwitt.com. Dining Table: rh.com. Lucite Chairs: Owners’ collection. Rug: fibreworks.com.

WET BAR  Wall Covering: phillipjeffries.com. Cabinetry: pittsassociatesinc.com. Countertop: Carrara marble through pittsassociatesinc.com.

FAMILY ROOM  Sectional, Fabric & Throw Pillows: Custom through rylandwitt.com. Coffee Table: worlds-away.com. Club Chair: Owners’ collection. Chair Fabric: fschumacher.com. Floor Lamp in Corner: arteriorshome.com. Mirror over Sectional: madegoods.com. Rug: Custom through rylandwitt.com

LIVING ROOM  Club Chairs: Custom through rylandwitt.com. Club Chair Fabric: beaconhilldesign.com. Coffee Table: worlds-away.com. Rug: fibreworks.com. Brass Lights above Shelves: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Art over Mantel: carolyncarr.com. Ceramic Ware on Shelves: Owners’ collection.

Rocky Mountain High Designer Kristin Peake experienced Colorado for the first time when she descended in a small plane into mile-and-a-half-high Aspen. Its eponymous poplar trees quaked golden in the October sunshine, and the surrounding Rockies loomed snow-dusted against a deep blue sky. “It took my breath away,” Peake recalls. “Aspen is majestic.” Though she doesn’t ski, she nevertheless imagined a skier’s rush on a run down the mountain.

She was en route to the vacation home of her client, the CEO of a Virginia investment management firm, to brainstorm the redesign of its interiors, and she was thrilled. “The house was built in 2005 in the indigenous lodge style and decorated by the owner’s former wife,” Peake says. “Its bones and its lot were magnificent, but nearly a decade later, the furnishings and finishes weren’t up to snuff.” The designer had previously reinvented the interiors of this client’s Virginia home—a major project initiated after a whirlwind collaboration with his children to redecorate their own bedrooms.

“Everything you’ve done wows me,” the delighted father proclaimed when he saw the fruits of her creative efforts. He then asked Peake to lend her style and vision to his Colorado home “and make it new, too.”

The owner had requested that she stick to a few parameters—but no budget—while exploring ideas to transform the vacation house. “He wanted me to use his collection of rugs and tap into local Aspen art and craftwork,” Peake relates. “The rooms had to function for the year-round vacations he spends there with his children and his friends, as well as for entertaining on any occasion.”

The designer was relentless in her weeklong exploration. She noted how the existing furniture plans were oriented to the views; slept in three bedrooms to assess their levels of comfort; and critiqued the practical flow of the home’s two main levels.

Overall, she decided she needed to imbue the house with more of the remarkable aura of Aspen. “I took hikes every day to enjoy the beauty and filled a legal pad with notes about the house,” Peake recalls. “I knew, bottom line, that the spaces had to breathe—like the great outdoors.”

With its perch on a steep mountainside, the back of the house opens to magnificent views on the first floor and lower level. The walk-in ground floor houses the main living areas, the billiard room, and a guest suite, while the lower level contains four bedrooms and informal lounging areas. Working within the existing floor plan, Peake maximized the rooms’ airy exposures, mostly limiting her changes to the cosmetic. “Ideally, I would have renovated the kitchen and all the bathrooms,” she says, “but getting permits for renovation in Aspen, especially during the ski season, would have been too time-consuming.” The one exception was the powder room, which Peake revamped with a poured-concrete countertop and custom vanity.

She began the 12-week transformation in March 2014, following the winter ski season, first by initiating fresh finishes. The lodge-style oak plank walls throughout the house, which had turned orange from years of oxidation, were restored and stabilized in their original brown hue by  DC-based Swatch Room, whose artisans flew to Aspen to work on this and many other aspects of the project, from re-facing the kitchen cabinets to fabricating custom lighting, furniture and architectural elements.

Throughout the home, a few industrial materials were added to play off the pervasive rusticity: a flashy corrugated-metal ceiling reflects light in the foyer and metal étagères provide an alternative to solid furniture against wood walls. Peake based her color scheme on the dominant shades in the client’s rug collection, staying neutral to avoid competition with the serene views. She pored over thousands of potential fabric swatches in her Maryland studio for upholstery choices and shipped a selection to Colorado to determine what would work with the rugs.

Once she’d finished the basics, Peake indulged a few of the creative touches her client loves. She worked with a Maryland artisan to design one-of-a-kind ceiling-light fixtures from old tractor parts, and bar stools from tractor seats. Rather than displaying artwork in empty passageways, she affixed it to floor-to-ceiling reclaimed barn wood boards, overlapped for texture. In the billiard room, she created an industrial-looking ledge of hammered metal to hold three heavy works of art; it looked so good she repeated the ledge at regular intervals for a corrugated effect on every wall of the room.

But Peake’s most inspired move was hanging a ski-lift chair in the stairwell. The day she led the owner through the finished house, the chair seemed to emerge from a blown-up photograph of a mountain lift scene behind it. He was totally wowed. And Peake had gone a step further: The mountain in the photo is Highland Bowl, the peak on which the house is located. It was the final touch for the home of avid skiers—and the perfect way to capture the spirit and beauty of Aspen.

Susan Stiles Dowell is a writer in Monkton, Maryland. Photographer David O. Marlow is based in Aspen, Colorado.

INTERIOR DESIGN: Kristin Peake, Kristin Peake Interiors, Rockville, Maryland. CONSTRUCTION: Craig Barnes, C. Barnes Construction. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Julie Hoffner, Elite Land Design, Carbondale, Colorado.



Decorative Painting, updating and refinishing the interior woodwork and wall finishes: Maggie O’Neill and Warren Weixler, SwatchRoom.

Lighting Design, custom ski fixturesSwatchRoom.

Light Fixtures: James Kerns; corehaus.com

Upholstery: Colleen Fawley, The Home Stitchery.

Woodwork: Steve Anderson, Aspen Custom Woodworking, Inc.

Metal Work: Stuart Edgerly, Myers & Company Architectural Metals; 970-927-4761


Simple Roots Architect Mark Buchanan remembers tramping through a barn and wandering around a pond, fields and outbuildings on his client’s horse farm near Middleburg when he first visited to absorb what he describes as “the spirit of the place.” He took it all in, from vistas of open fields to the lone gravestone of a horse in a pasture, before eventually reaching an empty cottage in the shade of a wood.

“It was a summer day, and I caught my breath on the west-facing porch of a cottage,” he recalls. “I could see the sun lowering over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I fell asleep!” When he woke, marveling at the cottage’s aura of serenity, he thought, “Old and lost in the past—this is something worth preserving.”

Buchanan was scoping out Badger Hill Farm for its new owners, a CEO in the hospitality industry and his wife, who have a primary home in Bethesda. They bought the 140-acre farm, partitioned from a larger horse-breeding operation, as a getaway and place to raise the hunter-jumper breeds their two daughters have loved and ridden since childhood. They called Buchanan, who is steeped in the classical architectural tradition of the area, to help them design and build a country house on the farm. On that summer day, Buchanan thought he’d found the perfect spot in one of its several outbuildings.

“I presented them with a conceptual plan for adding onto the cottage,” Buchanan relates, “but, at their request, developed an alternative design for a new house on a hill that would maximize dramatic views of the mountains.” After careful consideration, the couple opted to build their new home around the existing cottage, originally built in the mid-1900s.

“The cottage was sheltered from the weather and framed by trees,” reasons the husband. “Why knock down an old, beautiful three-bedroom farmhouse?” What he and his wife grew to love was how the humble cottage influenced the flavor of the addition Buchanan designed, which more than doubled the original structure’s size.

Buchanan’s plan placed the addition at a right angle to the cottage; it became the new front and main volume of the house. The addition’s position on a gentle slope required a major grade elevation, which was addressed by Annapolis landscape architect Jay Graham. The owners tapped Graham to devise a comprehensive master plan for the site, which encompassed not only earthwork, but also a graceful new access road, a complex drainage system, and an environmentally smart rain garden. Like Buchanan, Graham also tuned in to the past by introducing lilac and boxwood—both of which have historic roots in Virginia Horse Country.

Sensitivity to the past was a hallmark of the project for the owners, both admirers of Thomas Jefferson’s architectural designs. The main-block addition is made of brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern. Inside, millwork and balustrades were re-scaled based on those at the University of Virginia. The formal entry and primary rooms are built on a traditional center-hall plan; the main staircase, at the far end of the center hall, provides a transition to bedrooms in the original cottage on the second floor. A skylight at the top of the stairs visually eases the adjustment from 11-foot ceiling heights in the addition to eight-foot ceiling heights in the cottage; it also bathes the deepest part of the home in light.

The owners’ desire to keep the house light drove interior designer Laura Chester’s selection of paint and fabric palettes. She noticed the application of Jefferson’s over-door transoms “to borrow lightroom to room” and stretched the effect with hues of vanilla, yellow and wheat for wall colors. The wife’s love of leafy and floral patterns, consistent through Chester’s design of two other homes for the couple, led to selections of drapery and upholstery fabrics. Chester’s familiarity with what she labels “an inherited look” inspired a layering of antiques—many of which are made of fruitwood or faded mahogany and sourced locally. Their honey tones contribute a mellow mood in rooms that function informally for extended family. “This isn’t a ‘decorated’ look, but lived-in and accumulated-looking,” Chester explains.

Recalling his own conviction that summer when he first saw the property, Buchanan explains, “Saving an old farm cottage by adding onto it helped make this new house comfortable on the land—like it’s always been here. It’s hard to believe there was any choice.”

The timeless elegance of the home’s design is a tribute to the sensitivity of its owners, architect and the entire creative team, who made it look easy. “We didn’t want a pure translation of architecture from the 1830s,” reflects the husband. “Mark helped us tweak that historical formality toward a more personal, comfortable and modern interpretation.”

Writer Susan Stiles Dowell is based in Monkton, Maryland. Gordon Beall is a photographer in Bethesda, Maryland. 

ARCHITECT: MARK BUCHANAN, AIA, Neumann Lewis Buchanan Architects, Middleburg, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: LAURA CHESTER, Laura Chester Interiors, Delaplane, Virginia. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: JAY GRAHAM, FASLA, Graham Landscape Architecture, Annapolis, Maryland. BUILDER: DARYL LANDIS, Potomac Valley Builders, Bethesda, Maryland.

Labor of Love Bethesda designer Diane Clements was finishing major projects for two couples when they suggested she meet their husbands’ boss, Bill Shaw, who was then president and CEO of Marriott International. The subsequent blind date changed her life: Then single and dedicated to work and her now-grown family, Diane was astonished by their mutual delight in each other. They fell in love, married in 2005 and started planning a home together.  “Our lives changed for the better that night,” she recalls. “I vowed that the home we made would reflect our unique happiness.”

With 20-plus years of design experience, the exuberant Mrs. Shaw had no trouble envisioning their dream home. She found a house in a leafy Potomac neighborhood 12 minutes from Marriott headquarters that, with a renovation, would meet her requirements—the most important of which was a master suite on the first floor. “It was a priority because we intended to stay here,” she says. “Our house needed to grow old with us.” But after discovering that the 1950s Colonial on the property had major issues, they decided it would be more cost-effective to tear down the original structure rather than tackle its problems, and build anew on the two-acre lot, which is crowned at the back with towering, irreplaceable old trees.

Diane relates another serendipitous encounter when she was considering how the new house should look. “I was driving on MacArthur Boulevard when I saw a stone house with Georgian architectural features,” she recalls. “The stone gave it a sense of place and dignity.” After some research, she found its architect, Geri Yantis of Sutton Yantis. Once she hired him, they toured the residence, noting the relationship of the architecture to the interiors. It was a perfect segue to what would become a close-knit working relationship.

Yantis’s plans for the new house included major massing in back so as not to overwhelm the front façade. Using a U-shaped configuration to embrace a rear courtyard with a water feature was Diane’s idea. “Views across the courtyard and into the rooms personalize the grand architecture,” she explains.

“Diane concentrated on bringing the classical elements of the architecture inside,” adds Yantis. “She wanted to integrate a coherent design for the whole house.”

The scale of the rooms affected Diane’s approach to decorating them. “I challenged myself to bring intimacy and comfort to the grandness,” she says. “The colors, fabrics and things I love had to be well-orchestrated, not overdone.” She used the subtle architectural motif of reeding (a fluted look borrowed from the detailing on her antique Swedish furniture) to set the mood. “Its simplicity is beautiful, and I wanted to incorporate it anywhere I could—so it became part of the crown molding and cabinetry in most rooms.”

A calming palette of soft blues, greens, rusts and neutrals references a landscape painting the designer found at Jean Pierre Antiques in Georgetown. The limpid riverbank scene hangs in the living room, and the deft coordination of the colors from it allows chairs to be moved between rooms—no small matter when extra seating is required during holidays for an extended family numbering 22 (she and Bill, who’s now retired, have five grown children and seven grandchildren, combined).   

When it came time to choose the furniture, Diane set aside 90 percent of the objects the couple had previously owned in favor of “design sources and antiques that are different and not expected,” she says. A first glimpse into the living room reveals her success. A John Saladino sofa was chosen for its asymmetrical arms; its blue matches the walls for an enveloping effect.

Preferring an eclectic look, Diane furnished the first-floor living, dining and family rooms in a range of periods and styles. A pair of 1960s metal wall sculptures keeps company with an 18th-century French monastery table in the dining room, where wine refrigerators are concealed behind sleek, mirrored doors. Harmonizing furniture from disparate eras are such details as the barley-twist riff on the table legs, sculptural lamps from Marston Luce Antiques and modern silver candlesticks by Ralph Lauren Home.

When she started to design her own home, Diane focused on two differing philosophies, both of which she lives by:  Buy only what you need as you go, or buy what you love and find a place for it. It’s no surprise that her art imitates her life. “Creating this house from scratch was a gigantic puzzle,” she says. “I worked with what I love because that will always find a place in my life.”

Writer Susan Stiles Dowell is based in Monkton, Maryland. John Magor is a Stafford, Virginia, photographer. 

ARCHITECTURE: GERI YANTIS, Sutton Yantis Associates Architects, Vienna, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: DIANE SHAW, Diane Shaw Interiors, Potomac, Maryland. BUILDER: Horizon Builders, Inc., Crofton, Maryland. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: AMY MILLS and GUY WILLIAMS, DCA Landscape Architects Inc., Washington, DC. LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR: Chapel Valley Landscape Company, Woodbine, Maryland.

Harbor View Photography by Thomas Arledge 

Peter Bowe cherishes a lifelong affinity for the water. As a child, he competed in Annapolis sailing regattas and as a Yale undergrad, he triumphed with an Intercollegiate National Sailing championship. His penchant for the marine world led to a desire to live as close to the water as possible. But when he and his wife, Barbara Stewart, recently moved to the Pier Homes community near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, even Bowe, the president of Ellicott Dredges, was surprised at the proximity. “Look out the windows,” he says, gesturing to the home’s position at the end of a long pier. “You could fish from just about any room in this house.”

The couple was already living on the harbor when they first spied the townhouse. Although it had languished unfinished since the economic downturn, the end unit’s potential to capture amazing harbor views and the mercurial light off the water was too tantalizing to resist. And at roughly 1,000 square feet per floor, the stacked plan of four floors culminates in a fifth-floor roof terrace that offers front-row seating for the frequent fireworks and parades of international ships on the waterfront.

When they bought the townhouse, it was an unfinished shell with builder-grade interiors that encompassed a first-floor garage, foyer and office; public rooms—including the living room, dining room and kitchen—on the second floor; a third-floor master suite; and on the fourth floor, two guest rooms, a bathroom and library. Both a stairway and an elevator access all four floors.

The couple tapped designer Dianne Rohrer to customize the space as much as the condo’s and the floor plan’s restrictions would allow. Rohrer’s design upgraded most of the home’s original interior elements to create a backdrop suitable for the owners’ collection of traditional furnishings, fabrics, rugs, and antiques, and to take advantage of the views. With help from ILEX Construction, fine millwork and custom trim and detailing were added and a blocky, unattractive staircase was replaced with a sculptural floating version. HVAC supply and return openings were reworked and two double-sided fireplaces—one in the master suite and one separating the living and dining rooms—were redesigned.

“From the beginning, Peter and Barbara clearly expressed their desire for a traditional approach to the interior design,” Rohrer recalls. “Their love of the textures in the traditional design inspired original millwork detailing of varying depths to emphasize room height and bring the eye right to the view.”

When the couple bought the townhouse, the kitchen was a shell. They brought in Illinois-based DDK Kitchens to provide a layout, cabinetry and appliance suggestions and had ILEX do the installation. The bathrooms were overhauled to accommodate custom changes, including the substitution of walk-in showers for bathtubs and stone tile for drab porcelain surfaces. In the master bath, a freestanding, sculptural soaking tub shares a wall with custom built-in shelving.

Rohrer also found just enough extra square footage in the east-facing rooms to introduce a wall opening that allows light to penetrate to the west side of the space. Her design emphasizes the ways in which lights from the harbor play off the interiors. A limited color palette bounces a scrim of watery light off the walls, which contrast with the dark acacia floors for a reflecting-pool effect.

Bowe and Stewart wanted their home to relate to the water aesthetically, so Rohrer added subtle notes to achieve that connection: Peter Bowe’s sailing trophies line the shelves of the den, while the lighting in the dining room suggests ships’ lanterns. In the master suite, a custom daybed by Gutierrez Studios hangs on marine-grade ropes.

“A nautical feel was important for these clients,” says Rohrer, “but in a sensible way that they could enjoy for the rest of their lives.” Full-height custom millwork cleverly takes care of storage needs. In fact, the storage solutions incorporated throughout the house are reminiscent of the compact storage on a yacht—perfectly in keeping with this shipshape house on the harbor.

Writer Susan Stiles Dowell is based in Monkton, Maryland. Thomas Arledge is a photographer in Bethesda, Maryland.

Renovation & Interior Design: Dianne Rohrer, CID, Rohrer Studio, Baltimore, Maryland. Renovation Construction: ILEX Construction, Easton, Maryland.

Glass tower Matthew Small, an executive at the educational software firm Blackboard, Inc., couldn’t have been surer of his goals for the merger of his Penn Quarter duplex with the one he bought above it. Modern was the message and New York designer Matthew Berman of workshop/apd was the medium for delivering a fresh new look to the reorganized floors where Small, his wife and their two young sons would live.

The duplexes occupy the top four floors of a 10-story glass tower on F Street. The couple had moved into their first apartment in the building after starting their family in the Virginia suburbs. Luckily, around the time their urban, 2,250-square-foot dwelling began to grow tight, their neighbor sold them his duplex directly above. With double the living space, the couple hired workshop/apd to brainstorm the consolidation.

Berman, the principal, and co-founder of the New York interior design firm is known for his design of a loft for CNN’s Anderson Cooper as well as for winning the Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans, sponsored by Global Green and Brad Pitt to create an affordable, sustainable community after Hurricane Katrina. What earned Small’s respect, however, pre-dated Berman’s street cred: “We’ve been friends since childhood,” Small says. “I knew his talent was hard-wired when we were kids. In an introductory high school class on architecture, he designed an addition to his family’s home that his father actually built. I never forgot that.”

Berman won the condo board’s approval with a mock-up of plans for the four floors. His team worked with a local structural engineer to penetrate a post-tension concrete slab in order to join the eighth and ninth floors. The Smalls’ dream of combining the duplexes included implementing something visually beautiful as a unifying element. So Berman designed a bold sculptural staircase to span the floors, placing it against the glass front of the building where it’s visible from the street as both a landmark and a privacy scrim. “The white Corian of the rail panels is a conventional material made fresh and different with an organic pattern we cut using computer technology,” says Berman. “The pattern casts shadows inside the condo that are different day and night.”

Finding expressive new uses for standard building materials is one of the firm’s trademarks. For the Smalls, Berman’s team selected a medley of natural materials as building blocks for organizing and simplifying the layouts on the four floors. The blackened steel that encases the elevator entries on two floors echoes the window frames and surrounds a fireplace in one of the living areas. Cerused white oak, plain-sawn to show the grain, gives the floors a light, reflective flair while extending up one wall of the narrow entry passage. In the master suite, built-in cabinets are made of straighter-grained, rift-sawn white oak for a quieter mood.

A major objective in the process of combining the two duplexes was incorporating organic elements in a modern way.

—Matt Berman

“A major objective in the process of combining the duplexes was incorporating organic elements in a modern way,” Berman says. Everywhere, durable finishes were chosen to make life easier with two growing boys: Caesarstone for the kitchen counters; outdoor fabric on the family area’s sectional sofa; and a live-edge plank-top table extension to the kitchen island. In the boys’ quarters on the eighth floor, a retractable wall with a blackboard finish provides the option of extra bedroom space for guests in the playroom.

While the finishes maintain continuity throughout, each floor has a distinct personality that reflects its function and furnishings. Siting bedrooms on the lower floors of the glass tower saved the best views for the living and entertaining at the top. On the ninth floor, the streamlined kitchen connects seamlessly with the adjacent family living area, thanks in part to a bookcase that supports a TV on the family room side while providing a backsplash surface on the kitchen side. “We wanted to extend the living area into the kitchen for a harmonious look,” says Berman. Eames chairs, a shag rug and a sectional sofa in the family living area convey the period modern vibe that prevails throughout the home. Upholstery patterns “help diversify the space,” says Berman, “and go with everything on all four floors.” The unity of color and pattern delivers a cohesive sense of home.

The top floor’s spectacular views suggested a cool, clubby sensibility perfect for entertaining. Workshop/apd’s interior design team showcased furniture and finishes from the ’50s to the ’70s while Berman contributed his fresh take on a credenza using the same Corian panels he used on the stair rails. The mix is Mid-Century Modern—an aesthetic he has beautifully reinterpreted for the 21st century. v

Writer Susan Stiles Dowell is based in Monkton, Maryland. Donna Dotan is a photographer in New York City. 

ARCHITECTURAL & INTERIOR DESIGN: Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen, principals; Brian Thomas, senior designer; Kristyn Bock and Leslie Degler, interior designers, workshop/apd, New York, New York. CONTRACTOR: JAY EICHBERG, Eichberg Construction, Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Rustic Style In a tough situation, designer Sharon Kleinman and her client proved to be a dynamic team. After redecorating and selling two major Florida properties, the wife was refurbishing her family’s home in Georgetown and gearing up for a renovation of the farmhouse near Mount Airy, Maryland, where they spend vacations and holidays. Architectural plans for the home’s expansion were done and the roof was scheduled to be raised in a matter of months. A superlative cook of Italian heritage, the wife would finally get a kitchen big enough to accommodate the pasta-making parties she hosts with her two kids as well as a new pool out back and, most important of all, more space for entertaining extended family.

Then the unexpected happened. The real estate market crashed, and almost overnight her dream for the farmhouse expansion was no longer feasible. Budgets for both houses were impacted, and she and her husband had to make a choice. As major work was already underway on the family’s primary Washington residence, they decided to focus on its completion. Unwilling to relinquish their dream for the farmhouse entirely, however, they instead scaled back their plans.

Sharon Kleinman, who was working on both projects when the budget crunch hit, remembers how she and the wife determined to craft the farmhouse’s revision. “We focused on how to get the most out of the existing footprint,” Kleinman says. “We got creative and maximized every inch of space.”

They started in the kitchen by scrapping an architectural plan to engulf an exterior brick-walled patio. Instead, they worked within the room’s existing 1970’s-era parameters to devise a new layout and select new finishes, appliances and storage options. Paramount was the need to replace the old-fashioned table and chairs with a substantial central island and bar stools. They explored every practicality, from the addition of light-enhancing colors on the dark side of the house to the cost-cutting elimination of such details as a decorative inset for the travertine backsplash. Their efforts to scale back turned out to be just what was needed. “The simplicity we gained is right for this country house,” says the wife. Her only splurge was Cyan Design pendant lights, which were altered to fit the ceiling height over the new island.

Kleinman worked her reductive magic on the family’s main gathering room by calling in Suz Podrasky Stafford to faux-whitewash each of the fireplace’s brash red bricks. “Before that, we were going to replace the fireplace,” Kleinman says. The artist’s glazes on the room’s diagonal cedar paneling mimic weathered pasture fencing to further soften the surface. Little touches—such as a spindle-frame loveseat from Hickory Chair positioned to be seen from the back entrance—add to the spare country charm Kleinman orchestrated throughout the house.

Replacing laminate flooring with wide-oak planks maximized the effect of natural woods already in place. The previous owner, who was also the home’s builder, had incorporated an antique mantel and coat tree into two rooms for character; hardy wood surfaces on tables and antiques are their natural complement. A palette of autumnal tones offsets artwork that highlights the husband’s involvement in the local fox hunting community.

Furnishing the house proved that economizing didn’t have a down side. “Sharon helped me spend carefully so I could still bring in a ‘wow’ factor,” says the wife, who was comfortable buying the dining room’s starburst mirror if she spent less for such items as “seat cushions the kids will stain anyway.” Working with a mandate to make judicious choices gave the owners more than they believed possible. “And having a great designer,” says the wife, “was one of our wisest choices.”

Writer Susan Stiles Dowell is based in Monkton, Maryland. Gwin Hunt is a photographer in Annapolis. Gwin Hunt is an Annapolis photographer.

INTERIOR DESIGN: SHARON KLEINMAN, Transitions, Potomac, Maryland. RENOVATION CONTRACTOR: Cabin John Builders, Cabin John, Maryland. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Steve Wlodarczyk, Botanical Decorators, Olney, Maryland.


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