Christine and Uli Werner's Potomac home is a sharp departure from the area's traditional architecture
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANTOINE SCHNECK WRITTEN AND STYLED BY CORINNE BENSAHEL
Sophie Prévost and Robert Cole are partners - in life and in work, for better or for worse. At the head office of ColePrévost, the husband and wife architect and interior design team take on resolutely contemporary projects, for example, the modern Potomac, Md., home of Christine and Uli Werner seen on these pages.
The Werners - who moved to the U.S. with their two children from Germany when Uli was named vice president for government relations for software company SAP - bought the 1960s traditional home, set on a wooded hill sloping down to a lake, with an eye toward revamping it with a modern but warm treatment. They ended up tearing down the house however, and building a uniquely contemporary structure on the original foundation. With the mix of wood and steel, the massive oak front door (which pivots from the center) and the special laminating treatment done to one of the living room walls, Cole's admiration for American architect Frank Lloyd Wright is evident.
"We wanted to give it a fluidity of circulation and respect their wish to separate the public area of the house from the private," said Cole, who received a degree from the London School of Architecture. "Two distinct wings are joined by the kitchen passage, which is the centerpiece of the entire house. Enormous bay windows were custom-made with some degree of difficulty, since the American standard of width is eight feet and is less flexible than that of Europeaneducated architects."
All the same, the mezzanine opening up into the salon ends in a corridor of glass, assuring a full view of comings and goings between the kitchen, living room and the pool. The Werners can keep an eye on the children while they play in the family room without leaving the kitchen's work area.
Above all, the space is open. The flooring, done in grey stone all the way from the terrace to the entrance of the living room, perfectly accentuates the fluidity the owners hold so dear. Three bedrooms - all in a row, much like at a motel - are accessible by two doors, permitting the children to reach their rooms by way of an outside floating
teakwood deck as well as by the inside hallway. Cole pushed for this wing to be set off at a 120 degree angle: an unusual choice, but one which parallels the street and sets the master bedroom in a lush canopy of weeping willows.
Prévost - with plenty of help from Christine Werner - chose all European furnishings. There is a Philippe Starck sofa as deep as a bed for TV watching, the kitchen is filled with Italian cabinetry and stainless steel appliances, and the dining room chandelier combines traditional crystal drops with halogen spotlights. Another interesting detail is the absence of curtains. The only window coverings hang in the windows facing the road and in the guest suite - otherwise, walls of glass are left unadorned to take advantage of natural light and beautiful hillside views.
Just one more modern twist in traditional Potomac. But in the end, who's counting?