Paneled in mahogany, Levitt's study features built-in bookshelves and a large Palladian window.
Contemporary paintings, prints and sculptures—the result of collecting over decades—accent nearly every space of their home in the Avenel neighborhood of Potomac, Maryland. Their vivid colors and abstract shapes stand out in pale and earth-toned rooms framed by well-crafted architectural details. Just inside the entrance foyer, a quirky, steel “fantasy fowl” sculpture by Florida artist John Olsen competes for attention with the gracefully curving staircase. On a nearby wall, three elongated figures stare out from Canadian artist Helene Kronstrom’s large canvas, which was discovered on a visit to Montreal.

 Florida artist John Olsen steel sculpture and French artist Michel Boulet bright painting enliven the entry.

“All the homes in Potomac look the same. We wanted something different, a house full of character,” says Levitt on a tour of the three-level residence. “I always wanted a paneled library and a staircase with a window.” He and Bialek now enjoy those features and more in a traditional home designed by Georgetown architect Jerry Harpole. Clad in stucco and fieldstone, the “classic Americana house,” as Harpole calls it, features a wealth of elements typical of historic homes, including a welcoming front porch. “The homeowners wanted something more than the typical suburban house so we said ‘Let’s concentrate on beautiful proportions and scale to create a jewel,’” the architect says.

Columns frame the dining area from a hallway connecting the foyer and study to the family room.
Levitt and Bialek built the home in the late 1990s in anticipation of being empty nesters, once their daughter Alexa had gone off to college and their son Jeremy was in high school. “We decided to downsize and get the type of house we really wanted,” says Bialek.

The secluded dining patio was designed by Virginia-based landscape architect Scott Brinitzer.
Since the family never used the formal living space in their previous home, Harpole eliminated it from his design. Instead, he positioned a mahogany-paneled library-study for Levitt off the entrance vestibule and created a large family room at the opposite end of the house. Lined with built-in bookshelves, the study features a large Palladian window at one end and a wood-burning fireplace at the other. Hanging on one wall is an illusionary scene of bicyclists by Canadian artist Rob Gonsalves that the couple purchased for their 25th anniversary.

Brightening the dining room are colorful felt tapestries by Israeli artist Calman Shemi.
The study is connected to the family room through a hallway extending past columns framing the dining room. Inside the dining space, abstract felt tapestries by Israeli artist Calman Shemi brighten the walls to either side of a glass-topped table paired with oval-back chairs.

At Harpole’s recommendation, the homeowners tapped Rob Brown and Todd Davis of Brown Davis Interiors of Bethesda, Maryland, and Miami Beach to decorate the rooms. “They wanted a transitional, classic feeling in the furnishings, not modern but not old-fashioned,” recalls  Brown. He and Davis combined comfortable, upholstered pieces with their own furniture designs, including the dining room chairs and the family room’s sectional sofa, chairs and coffee table. They also placed the couple’s art to complement the architecture of the rooms and tied some of the paint colors to individual works hanging in the spaces. In the dining room, for example, the lavender ceiling repeats the purple hues in Shemi’s tapestries.

 Refreshing the dining nook off the family room with bold Cowtan & Tout drapes.

After living in the house for about a decade, Levitt and Bialek called on Brown and Davis to refresh several rooms with more unexpected splashes of color. “I wanted to do something different without changing the basics of the design,” says Bialek. “So we recovered the sofa in the family room, added new pillows and a rug and added more color and texture to our bedroom.”

The painting over the fireplace in the family room is by Israeli artist Yuval Mahler.
The designers reupholstered the large family room sectional in the same tan chenille as the original, while accenting the piece with fuchsia-patterned pillows. In the adjacent dining nook, they applied the same cut-velvet on the pillows to curved-back chairs and turned complementary floral cotton into draperies at the French doors leading to the rear garden. The resulting blend of hot patterns and rattan furniture creates a playful, tropical look that enlivens the otherwise subdued room. “They brought a wonderful energy to the fabrics,” says Bialek of the designers. “Since the remodeling, I’ve added more color to my home and wardrobe. It really picks you up.”


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