Contemporary Interior Design
The Architect's House
Deborah Kalkstein walked into a 1970’s era contemporary in Potomac, Maryland and had a vision. “I wasn’t even interested in looking at the house. I was running an errand with the real estate agent but when I saw the front hall, I called my husband and told him I’d found it,” she says. Kalkstein who is an, architect, furniture designer and entrepreneur convinced her husband, Carlos Bachrach, an economist, that the house was the answer to their new home search.
Before making the move from Bethesda, Maryland in 1998, windows were carved into blank walls, carpets were torn asunder, hardwood was laid, and brick was slathered over with concrete. “In Peru, that’s how we build, brick is a substrate” says Kalkstein, who learned to draw at her uncle’s Marcos’ knee. Growing up around one of Lima’s designers and studying in Peru immersed Kalkstein in interior design, an approach that differs from how architects are trained in the states.
But different approaches are part of the package. “My ideal house would be a factory,” says Kalkstein, “I would love to live in an industrial loft.” That deconstructive aesthetic starts in a foyer defined by unfinished concrete adorned with an oversized mirror and wall sconces formed from crinkled metal mesh.
Behind the welcoming space, is a gathering area for the family and a place to entertain guests. Kalkstein, a lover of all things creative, removed a railing and designed a niche for displaying art. She opened up the interior wall to the dining room, but left the unfinished studs exposed. “I don’t mind materials behaving the way the way they are supposed to,” she says.
The feast-sized dining room is configured around two glass-topped tables slid together. Although Kalkstein designed furniture as principal of her firm, Modulo, she now prefers to hand-pick her pieces from the best makers in the world. Personal faves can be seen in
her store in Georgetown.
Clerestory windows illuminate the dining area and walls which are dominated by another Kalkstein passion. “I like strong art,” says Kalkstein, “for a long time I had walls full of art and no furniture.” She talks being an expectant mother and sitting on cushions on the floor. “I was seven months pregnant and I couldn’t stand up from the cushion and my husband said, “honey, it’s time to buy a sofa.”
The house now has plenty of furniture dotted with the superstars of modern including Mies van der Rohe and Breuer. Kalkstein carries the same design palette into her living room which is reached by strolling down the hallway that closed the deal for buying the house. A large expanse of horizontal space, naturally lit, leading the eye forward.
In the living room there’s more of the same. Simple, industrial-based materials, modern classic furniture and big art including a giant painting of kings, dictators and Disney creatures. Like many pieces in Kalkstein’s collection, this one has a story. The painting depicts the artist’s, mother shaking hands with Juan Carlos, the ex-king of Spain, and the artist’s grandfather shaking hands with Francisco Franco while Mickey Mouse traces the scene.
Kalkstein spied the painting at an opening while her husband was parking the car and immediately opened negotiations. “The guy doing the show wanted a sofa from my store,” she says with a laugh, “and I wanted the painting, I didn’t even know what it cost.” By the time her husband found a spot, it was a done deal. “When he came in I said, ‘do you like this painting?’ But it was already too late,” she says.
The living room also benefited from windows added by the homeowner and a small wet bar that received a Kalkstein makeover. For the job she chose the most industrial material she could find –
hot rolled steel.
“I went out to the steel company with all these measurements and had them cut it for me – they kept saying, ‘what are you doing this for?’” Kalkstein took the pieces and attached them to the surfaces of the wet bar, leaving the fasteners exposed.
The family’s private areas of the house are defined by a change in flooring. Natural oak lies underfoot out in public but the hallway and bedroom floors are painted black. Dark undertones define the powder room in the form of slate tile run from the floor onto the walls. The fixtures are white, the mirror is large and there’s more art.
One bedroom in the home was converted into a child’s study so Mom can keep an eye on the kids while they’re using the computer. Each child got to pick their own room color, orange for Kevin, pink for Camille. The master bedroom is a minimalist study in black and white as the furniture store owner rejects the notion of a conventional bed. “I sell furniture and sleep on the floor,” she says, “I like the idea of sleeping low, like the Japanese on a mat. It’s very serene.” A concrete desk anchors one corner of the room.
Even with the myriad challenges of being a wife, mother, merchant, and designer Kalkstein does do down-time, usually within the heavily textured walls of her home. “We’re very home orientated, she says.” “We’re here a lot. I love it here at night with the fire going and a glass of wine.” The kitchen, master bath, and basement are next on the list at the architect’s house, stay tuned.
For more stuff on
contemporary interior design.