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Simple Dwelling – House & Design Mag

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A design team merges accessibility and warm, modern style in a custom Bethesda abode

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

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

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

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

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

An opportunity arose to acquire a property nearby and demolish its existing, outdated dwelling.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Home Automation: htarchitects.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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