A Revamped 1930s Continental-Style Bethesda Home


Traditional Blue Master Bedroom Vignette

Proxmire’s signature use of symmetrically ordered vignettes reappears in the master bedroom, with brackets from J. Brown & Co. and side chairs clad in a Peter Fasano fabric found at John Rosselli & Associates.

Blue Tradtional Master Bedroom

Fine Art Finishes custom striated the master bedroom walls and painted an antique armoire cream to match the bureau, side table and two French chairs from Julia Gray. The custom bed linens are from Susan Steele Embroidery.

Traditional Garden Terrace

The side garden’s walled entry, capped with an old limestone garden ornament, leads to the terrace. A vintage Brown Jordan wrought-iron table and chairs offer a secluded spot in which to dine alfresco.

Traditional Terrace and Landscape

Build firm Bowa set the rear porch addition on a brick foundation, white-washed to match the rest of the home. The late landscape architect Michael Bartlett designed the outdoor space.

Traditional Blue Sun Room

When Proxmire renovated the sun room, she removed a dropped ceiling to find the top half of an arched Palladian window but left the flagstone floor and black metal casements intact. The sofa and chairs are upholstered in Kravet fabrics, and the coffee table is a one-of-a-kind Eastern antique.

Traditional Black & White Kitchen

Black granite countertops and custom Roman shades made of Brunschwig & Fils fabric by J.K. Drapery update the kitchen, which was last remodeled over 20 years ago by the home’s previous owners.

Black and White Traditional Kitchen

A black and white color scheme in the kitchen emphasizes the old world timbering in the ceiling. The existing plain wood floor was kicked up a notch with a large scale parquet design by Fine Art Finishes.

Yellow and Black Traditional Dining Room

Stark’s Stratford carpet enhances the black and yellow theme in the dining room, reflected in the mirrored front of a vintage Baker console. Proxmire had the bird prints matted in black and discovered the antique porcelain blackamoor lamps in Ohio.

Eclectic Yellow Dining Room

When not in use, Proxmire drapes the dining table with a custom-made skirt of zebra print fabric from Scalamandré and centers it beneath the room’s Julia Gray chandelier. The English Regency chairs are reproductions from Baker.

Yellow Traditional Living Room

Shelves painted in Farrow & Ball’s Citron hue showcase century old blue and white porcelain in the living room. The sofa, upholstered in a Brunschwig & Fils fabric, is from Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman. It faces a coffee table available through Donghia.

Eclectic Yellow Living Room

A Stark rug creates continuity in the expansive living room.

Designer Kelley Proxmire never met the italian count who built this house in 1934. A doctor who married the scion of a prominent Washington, D.C., family, he adapted the romantic style of his European homeland to what was then unpaved countryside just past Westmoreland Circle in Bethesda.

But when Proxmire and her husband, Ted, moved just down the street nearly 30 years later, it was clear that she and the nobleman shared the same love for the hipped-roof elegance of the home’s Continental-style architecture. “The driveway was cobblestone, the roof was made of slate, and the windows were these romantic old-fashioned casements,” says Proxmire. “A beautiful archway led through a courtyard to the front door. I’d never before seen a house like it, and I haven’t since.”

Proxmire received an intimate tour of the home from her new neighbors and instantly fell for the way the house was designed, with its principal rooms—including the living room, dining room and kitchen—placed on the second floor. Known as a piano nobile, this main-living level has large rooms with views of the property’s lush gardens. Below that at street level is the entry floor, where Proxmire installed her design practice after she and Ted bought the house years later.

Proxmire quickly made reinterpreting the interiors a top-of-the-list priority. “The challenge was to honor its European roots while creating a more traditional American-style environment for my family,” says the designer, who started by revamping the entry-floor sun room with custom cabinetry for a television and storage. “That’s when I noticed that the top of a Palladian window visible from outside the house couldn’t be seen from inside the room. I had the ceiling removed and, suddenly, there was the complete lead-paned window—and the original lofty ceiling!”

Proxmire next eliminated the sun room’s fountain, backed by a wall of tile depicting a Renaissance work by Raphael; she saved a portion of the tableau and moved it to the foyer, taking note of its vibrant primary colors. “The house is gorgeously light filled,” she says, “and the energy of the Renaissance colors that the count introduced with those tiles is absolutely right for its rooms.”

Known for her proclivity for bold color, Proxmire set about devising an appropriately hued palette to connect the seven rooms found on the primary living level. She started with her favorite cobalt-blue-and-white pairing, then added a graphic black to call out the kitchen’s original half-timbered ceiling beams. “I pondered how the rooms could easily flow from one to another, and that’s when I hit on introducing yellow,” Proxmire explains. “Farrow & Ball’s Citron balances the strong blue that I love so much.”

Thus, the dining room walls glow with the striking shade, and the color is seen again on the interior shelves of a large-scale bookcase in the living room to set off Proxmire’s collection of blue-and-white porcelain. She chose fabrics that utilize a variety of patterns in blue and yellow to further interconnect the rooms. Accessories also deftly weave together her chosen hues. “Kelley can immediately visualize how furnishings will compose a room,” Ted says, “but the right accents, like her blue-and-white dishes, really make a space.”

A main-floor enclosed porch that the couple had built after they moved in overlooks the back garden and is Ted’s favorite retreat. Its golden wicker furniture and grid of contemporary windows update the period look of the interior architecture, and blue-and-white-patterned slipcovers and pillows remain a strong design element.

Proxmire, however, claims the master suite as her most-loved spot. A romantic space under the eaves at the top of the house, the room has angled walls striated a robin’s-egg blue, a soft departure from the more dramatic shades found elsewhere in the house. “I paint-matched a Peter Fasano fabric I found years ago to get the color,” she says. “Here, I aimed for a pastel mood, but one with a little more depth.”

Indeed, it is the varying degrees of color found throughout the house that realize a fresh American-style aesthetic while still honoring its European influences. Says Proxmire: “I love the beauty—and the power—of color.”