Your home’s exterior environment should reflect your life indoors and your style, whether you lean sophisticated and chic or simply want a place where the kids can kick around a soccer ball or play fetch with Fido. The three plots shown here do exactly that. One is a poolside setting straight out of the 1960s. Another, a classic Queen Anne abode, comes complete with a private putting green. The last is a contemporary resort-inspired retreat. And they’re all unique, providing one-of-a-kind experiences perfectly suited to the sunny autumn days that lie ahead.
Anthony and Elizabeth Wilder’s Bethesda home feels like it was plucked out of 1960s Palm Springs, California, with a deck and poolside scene painting the backdrop to a Slim Aarons portrait. That was the vibe they were after when the couple, who run Cabin John-based Anthony Wilder Design/Build, embarked on their renovation project.
“We didn’t want to detract from what we feel is a beautifully designed home,” says Elizabeth, president of the company. “We wanted the renovation to enhance it rather than take away from it.”
The Wilders purchased the circa 1960s home, across from Congressional Country Club, in 2014 but didn’t embark on any major changes until 2020, amid the pandemic.
“We used our team’s downtime to finish off the house,” says Anthony, founder and lead architectural designer. “We reinvented it.”
The Wilders started by redoing the deck. “The deck that was added before we were there was not in the original design,” Elizabeth says. “We wanted to give it that midcentury look.”
More to the point, they wanted easier deck-to-pool access for their three dogs (an Australian shepherd/rottweiler mix named Izzy, and two Great Pyrenees/Bernese mountain dog mixes, Conrad and Lulu) and four grandchildren (their two sons are in their 40s), all of whom love to splash in the water.
“When you’re designing a house with a pool, you want it to be visually connected to the inside,” Anthony says. “A lot of people have pools that are far from the house, and they rarely use them because you can’t see the children. It’s unnerving.”
Anthony solved that problem by designing a staircase that leads from the deck, with its sliding glass doors, to the pool. The deck is made with low-maintenance ipe wood decking with Azek trim boards for longevity. The setup is a hit.
“I don’t think we realized how integral the stairs would be,” Elizabeth says. “We do a lot of entertaining, and the staircase ends up being nice amphitheater-style seating.” In addition to the informal seating—plus a bench/storage box the Wilders brought from their previous home and retrofitted for the spa—the couple also outfitted the deck with various furnishings. The sofas are by Philippe Starck, and the gray coffee table is by an Italian designer. The Wilders obtained that table—and the two patio chairs by the spa—from a client who was moving.
In addition to the deck, a small flagstone patio was added adjacent to the pool to provide more space for seating (via three lounges by CB2 plus an Ikea umbrella).
Another component: Upgrading the cracked tennis court. Tilford Jones, who’s a friend of the Wilders and also president and CEO of Rockville-based Sport Systems, did the new court, which features blue outlines to tie in with the pool and lines for pickleball and tennis. A gated fence prevents the pups from chasing balls across the court.
So what’s it like to work on your own home versus a client’s? “Once you get into a house, your objective changes: It becomes subjective,” Anthony says. Adds Elizabeth: “It was good perspective: Designing your own home is emotional.”
But when the home was completed in the fall of 2021, it was picture-perfect and timeless—setting the scene for years to come.
The elegant Chevy Chase Village home of Keeley and Britt Snider, a stay-at-home mom and a principal at D.C.-based real estate company Redbrick LMD, has a secret. The charming Queen Anne-style home has a putting green in the backyard—a draw for kids and adults alike.
“Britt loves to golf,” Keeley says. “The putting green was just an idea at first, but then we realized we could make it happen.”
The couple tapped Joseph Richardson, founding principal of Arlington, Virginia-based Richardson & Associates Landscape Architecture, to redesign their backyard—one component of an interior and exterior renovation of the historically designated, circa 1890s abode. (They also worked with general contractor Structure, GTM Architects and Chick Landscaping.) The project sought to preserve the aesthetic while also bringing the home up to date for Keeley, 45, Britt, 47, their daughters, ages 14, 12 and 2, and their dog—a parti-colored Yorkie named Birdie.
“A lot of what we did had to conform to the general design of the neighborhood,” says Richardson, who completed the project in the summer of 2021. “And we embraced that.”
The putting green, for example, simply blends in with the rest of the lawn; it features a synthetic turf designed to mimic authentic greens. Real grass surrounds the play space. “It’s almost indistinguishable,” Richardson says. “There’s no visual seam, really.”
The lawn is an important element for the family—their oldest daughter is a lacrosse player, and she and her sister enjoy knocking around a soccer ball. Of course, Birdie loves it, too.
“He’d be out there all the time if we let him,” Keeley says.
Since they’re a relatively active family, the Sniders didn’t want anything too high-maintenance in their landscaping—though Keeley has a penchant for flowering plants. “I really don’t have much of a green thumb,” she admits. “I want the yard to look beautiful, and I love hydrangeas and peonies. Joe did a great job—he has a passion for finding things that belong locally and using those selections to make your yard shine.”
Richardson and his team used a mixture of low-maintenance flora. Screening trees line the perimeter of the backyard. There are flowering shrubs—hydrangeas, rhododendrons, astilbes, catmints—and European hornbeams, a favorite of Richardson’s, which are adjacent to the garage and the driveway. “It’s a great tree,” he says. “It’s grown to have a columnar shape.” They’re typically planted in a tightly spaced row, much like Italian cypress. Here, Richardson says, “They’re uplit, and it’s a neat effect—a great backdrop to the patio.”
The patio is tucked next to the wraparound porch, adding a modern touch without taking away from the historic nature of the home. There’s a concrete gas firepit for gatherings—depending on a client’s preferences, Richardson suggests gas over wood because of its convenience—as well as a teak dining set and lounge chairs by Kingsley Bate. A standalone Weber grill, rather than a built-in outdoor kitchen, allows for casual cooking. “Unless you’re passionate about cooking and going to use [an outdoor kitchen] a lot, it doesn’t always make sense to invest the kind of money it takes to build one,” Richardson says.
The family makes use of the entire space, from entertaining on the patio to honing their golf skills on the putting green. “We love being out in the backyard whenever weather allows,” Keeley says. “We wanted it to feel very indoor/outdoor—comfortable, welcoming and like our door is always open.”
For Lan and Mike Rosenblatt, both 55, dreaming up their new home in Bethesda was an extension of their jobs in the hotel industry: They hoped their dwelling would feel like a contemporary mountain lodge.
“I wanted the woods and that tree house feeling,” says Lan, who, along with Mike, co-founded Acacia Hospitality. Her vision was accomplished by Bethesda-based Sandy Spring Builders and Mark Kaufman, principal of Bethesda-based GTM Architects, in the summer of 2020 on a 2.2-acre plot the Rosenblatts had purchased two years earlier while living in Atlanta. (The couple had previously resided in the area.)
Today, the contemporary manse sits off busy Bradley Boulevard, but you would never know it. The home is away from the street and backs up to a conservation area, and is practically transparent from the front to the back, with a gorgeous two-story wall of windows and interior bridge that look out on the backyard and forest beyond.
“All you see are trees,” says Ray Sobrino, president of Sandy Spring Builders.
The exterior and interior of the house feel like a continuation of one another, creating an indoor/outdoor vibe that’s perfect for a couple who loves to entertain, cook and sip wine—one of their favorite ways to unwind—amid a natural setting.
“They wanted spaces that were different rooms within the outside of the house,” Sobrino says. The porch, which has retractable screening, features the same Italian flooring that’s found in the adjacent kitchen—Cotto d’Este, a durable indoor-outdoor porcelain paver. The exterior stone is “blazed,” meaning it has a rougher, more slip-resistant finish; the interior has a natural finish. A set of sliding glass doors sits between the porch and kitchen, and connects the spaces when open. Directly next to the porch is a step down into the outdoor grilling area. The charcoal Big Green Egg smoker and Alfresco gas grill are built into stone, with granite counter tops. A set of CB2 Breton chairs surrounds a gas firepit.
“From those areas, the Zen-inspired pool becomes the center point—and also the next room,” Sobrino notes. “It’s a lot of outdoor scenes within a small area that [offer] a different experience.” The pool is a marvel, jutting away from the house. “The first time Mark presented [the idea] to me, I had to sit with it a little bit,” says Lan, who originally thought the pool would be parallel with the double-height windows. “But the more I thought about it, I really liked it.”
Another unique component of the pool: For the first 9 feet, on the shallow end closer to the house, there’s a Baja shelf where you can set up lounge chairs. “You’re basically lying on top of the water,” Sobrino says. TimberTech decking breaks up the space between the outdoor living areas and the water.
Lan and Mike love the pool. She enjoys taking a break during the day to sit by the water for an hour or so; the first time Mike used it, he remarked that he can watch football while floating.
But perhaps it’s their golden retriever, McCrae (named after a wine from California’s Kistler Vineyards), who enjoys the entire experience the most. “She’ll bound through the pool while she’s chasing her ball,” Lan says. “She’s probably what gets us out there the most. She wants to be playing all day.”
This story appears in the September/October issue of Bethesda Magazine.