It was as if the house had been waiting for them all along. Tucked back onto a lushly landscaped and private piece of property on a quiet street in Bethesda, the two-story 1940s structure—with its formal living and dining rooms, storage-laden kitchen and cache of bedrooms—was just what the young couple that eventually purchased it had been looking for. Its large size and many rooms would comfortably satisfy the demands of the busy husband and wife, who frequently host guests and who also claim three children under the age of 10. But there were some challenges to be met in their almost perfect home and they called upon designer Marika Meyer to meet them.
“One of the major concerns in terms of the overall design was distinguishing between the public and private spaces,” says Meyer. “The homeowners entertain quite a bit on both large and small scales, so that was a critical consideration. At the same time, they’re raising a family, so creating a welcoming and accessible area just for them was an equally important part of the dialogue.” Also of concern: the lack of light in the front part of the house, where the entry, living room and dining room sit. “Those spaces are long and narrow, and a lot darker than the back of the house, where you transition through the butler’s pantry into the kitchen and family room,” explains the designer.
Meyer deftly addressed both design liabilities with a carefully chosen color palette that bounces from bright to neutral and back again as you move through the house. The key that pulls it all together, she says, is the vibrant textile she chose for a pair of English rolled armchairs in the living room. “It is a gorgeous tree of life-patterned linen from Martyn Lawrence Bullard for Schumacher, with all these beautiful creams and blues and reds and greens,” she says. “It gave us a great opportunity to introduce more saturated color and some of the tones and themes that exist in the private spaces.”
In the dining room, the color intensity comes—again—through fabric. In this case, a rich crimson-and-gold woven silk damask by GP & J Baker for Lee Jofa that hugs the back of the dining room chairs. “That room is your direct sight line when you come through the front door, so we made sure that it leaves you with an impression of what you’ll experience in the rest of the house,” says Meyer. A more durable, though just as glamorous, red-and-gold chevron pattern by Giati covers the seats, while two-tone walls emphasize the room’s architectural elements.
“The exterior architecture of this house reads as traditional, yet inside it has all of these wonderful details, like dropped molding and Arts and Crafts-influenced millwork, that translate as much more contemporary,” says Meyer, who counts the transitional feel among the home’s particular pluses for her clients. “They came from a much more traditional house,” she explains, “and we were able to seamlessly incorporate some of their existing pieces into this home because of its unique architectural personality.”
But it’s the couple’s personality that announces itself in the master bedroom, where a soothing blue-and-white palette and a Juliet balcony that offers sublime views of the property’s grand tree canopy beckons. “It’s inviting, calm, serene and so reflective of who they are,” says Meyer. “It’s her favorite space.” For him, that title goes to the light-filled family room. “All of the fabrics we used in there are indoor-outdoor, so even with the white sofa, we were never worried about sticky hands or spilled juice,” says Meyer. And it’s become a true haven for the family of five.
“We had just installed the custom bench in that room,” recalls Meyer. “That night I got an email: a picture of all the kids piled up on top of it, just flopping around and having so much fun. That’s when I knew that we had not only created a beautiful home for them, we had also given them a home that truly meets all of their needs. And that’s a real highlight for me.”