DE­SIGN ARMY’S POWER COU­PLE, 8M

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Tropical Sunday - BY JURA KON­CIUS The Wash­ing­ton Post

Pum Le­febure wears mostly black and white be­cause, she says, “it’s clean and sim­ple, time­less and su­per chic.”

For the same rea­sons, the chief cre­ative of­fi­cer of De­sign Army, a graphic de­sign and brand­ing firm, sticks with a sim­i­lar strat­egy in the home she shares with hus­band Jake, De­sign Army’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, and daugh­ter So­phie, 14. Their airy four-level, 5,000-square-foot cus­tom house is clean and min­i­mal­ist, a mix­ture of old and new, se­ri­ous and play­ful.

It’s par­tially a re­ac­tion to the Le­febu­res’ work life, which is full of col­or­ful vis­ual sto­ries and brand­ing cam­paigns for high-pro­file clients. (A re­cent short film pro­duced for Ci­tyCen­terDC fea- tured Wash­ing­ton Bal­let dancers dressed in dizzy­ing neon suits and dresses.)

“I deal with color all day long; our work is so col­or­ful that at home I want a clean pal­ette,” says Pum, 43, a na­tive of Thai­land.

Jake and Pum work as a team 24/7. In the of­fice and at home, he’s the prac­ti­cal busi­ness guy, and she takes the lead on de­sign.

“Some cou­ples sep­a­rate work and home, but for us it’s about in­te­grat­ing them and blend­ing them and mak­ing sure our house is at least vis­ually sep­a­rate from work,” Pum says. They recharge from their high­speed work­days in calm and quiet.

“With black and white, you can’t go wrong,” says Jake, 45. “It’s time­less. You can swap out things. Even our Christ­mas tree is black and white.” So is Luna, their French bull­dog.

Pum and Jake’s dra­matic house in the north­east quad­rant of town, where they have lived since 2014, was de­signed by Stu­dio Twenty Seven Ar­chi­tec­ture. A “float­ing” steel stair­case down the mid­dle con­nects the floors; a back wall of al­most to­tal glass al­lows lots of light. In­side, Pum worked with Wash­ing­ton in­te­rior de­signer Dar­ryl Carter, a kin­dred spirit and fel­low risk-taker who shares Pum’s love of old paint­ings, Paris flea mar­ket finds, well-edited rooms and neu­tral pal­ettes. The in­te­ri­ors are painted white; Ben­jamin Moore’s Boni­fant White was ap­plied af­ter Carter had the walls coated with a tex­tured fin­ish to add char­ac­ter. Her­ring­bone floors are stained ebony.

“Pum grav­i­tates to­ward things that are very high­style,” Carter says. “It’s very Euro­pean the way she gath­ers the things that ap­peal to her.” De­spite the two-color pol­icy, there are sub­tle splashes of other hues, such as the pale pink in Pum’s top-floor of­fice and the yel­low in Jake’s den on the lower level.

The in­te­ri­ors are full of clever jux­ta­po­si­tions: modern and an­tique, lux­u­ri­ous and ev­ery­day, smooth and tex­tured. Take the open shelv­ing in the kitchen stacked with all­white dishes: milky Astier de Vil­latte plat­ters hand­made in Paris mix with unglazed off-the-rack Crate and Bar­rel Mercer plates. The liv­ing room has an Usona bench carved from a chunk of cedar, a cream and white cowhide rug and two 1950s leather sling chairs de­signed by Brazil­ian ar­chi­tect Paulo Men­des da Rocha. In the guest room, a pair of 19th­cen­tury Aus­trian beds in a white painted fin­ish are set off by a wo­ven re­cy­cledleather rug from Gar­net Hill.

“At home, I want that homey feel­ing,” Pum says. “I had the idea that I wanted modern, but not a com­pletely cold look.” The house has lots of old French por­traits as well as bold ex­pres­sion­ist paint­ings, and metal con­tem­po­rary light­ing mixed with ro­man­tic an­tique Euro­pean ceil­ing fix­tures and sconces, some lit by can­dles. Pum trav­els ex­ten­sively for work; she loves shop­ping wher­ever she is, es­pe­cially in France.

The Le­febu­res met in 1996 at a de­sign stu­dio and married in 2001. Two years later, they started De­sign Army, which now has a staff of 21 and clients in­clud­ing Pep­siCo, the Ritz-Carl­ton, Adobe and Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional.

In 2005, they found a 1926 Amer­i­can Foursquare in Brook­land, a quiet neigh­bor­hood near their of­fice and So­phie’s school. The place was worn out, and they knew they would to­tally re­model it in a few years, as bud­get per­mit­ted. Jake be­gan gut­ting it him­self on week­ends, but they soon re­al­ized it would be bet­ter, and cheaper, to start over. In 2010, Stu­dio Twenty Seven knocked it down to the foun­da­tion and be­gan build­ing a house to bet­ter suit the fam­ily’s needs.

“It’s very strong in its state­ment and very much like they are. . . . They are very con­fi­dent in their opin­ions on de­sign and what is the essence of an idea and what is fluff,” says John Burke, an ar­chi­tect and co-founder of Stu­dio Twenty Seven.

Burke de­signed a modern fa­cade to cap­ture the de­tails and scale of the orig­i­nal 1926 house, in­clud­ing a large front porch with wide stairs and a hip roof. With ag­ing par­ents in mind, the base­ment level - which has a guest room, full bath, laun­dry room and Jake’s den - has wider doors and show­ers and sinks ac­ces­si­ble to wheel­chairs. The main floor is a vast, open space with a kitchen, din­ing and liv­ing area, plus a pow­der room. The sec­ond floor has Jake and Pum’s bed­room, So­phie’s bed­room, a guest room and two full baths. The top floor is a light­filled loft hous­ing Pum’s of­fice, an art and study

cor­ner for So­phie, and a half-bath.

“Jake and Pum never stop work­ing. It was im­por­tant that the house re­flect that life­style,” Burke says. “There has to be the abil­ity to be cre­ative in any room, whether work or play.”

Jake does most of the cook­ing, and he wanted a clean and sim­ple kitchen space with a big counter (a 15-foot ex­panse of white mar­ble) so the fam­ily can gather round. Nearby is an 11-foot-long ta­ble de­signed by Carter from 100-yearold oak, big enough for So­phie to do home­work or lay out a project. “That ta­ble is the nerve cen­ter of the house,” says Carter, who started work­ing with the Le­febu­res on the in­te­ri­ors in 2013.

Up­stairs, each bed­room evokes a dif­fer­ent feel­ing. The master bed­room has a kind of me­dieval vibe, with a grand bed sur­rounded by lux­u­ri­ous hang­ings of gray vel­vet on the in­side and white linen and wool on the out­side. “I wanted a canopy bed, so I can close the cur­tains. I feel like I’m in a tent,” Pum says.

So­phie has made her bed­room her own, string­ing lights around her bed, cov­er­ing her walls with her draw­ings and grow­ing a row of suc­cu­lents in her sunny win­dow.

The top floor is Pum’s world. Part of­fice and part art stu­dio (and oc­ca­sional mother-daugh­ter hang­out), the space is bathed in light and looks out over the trees. “Yes, it’s a lit­tle more girly here,” says

Pum, who added a few pale pink ac­cents to the room. She burns a Buly 1803 Gen­er­aux d’Em­pire scented can­dle on the 19th­cen­tury part­ner’s-style li­brary ta­ble, painted in a black gloss fin­ish, that serves as her desk. She pins pho­tos and ideas to a mood­board on the wall.

Three floors down is Jake’s den (they text each other). It’s a place to chill, and there’s a nice big sec­tional sofa with nail­head trim de­signed by Carter. “Pum picked it out, and I laid down on it to make sure it was com­fort­able,” Jake says. There are two saf­fron vel­vet mid­cen­tury modern chairs by Au­gusto Bozzi and a 19th-cen­tury paint­ing, all Pum finds from France.

The house is yet an­other col­lab­o­ra­tion for the plugged-in cou­ple, who just opened At Yolk, a 10,000square-foot arts space in the ware­house district of Hy­attsville, Mary­land.

“Our house is clean and min­i­mal, but highly de­tailed - like good de­sign,”

Jake says. “What makes Pum and I so com­pat­i­ble - and our house - is that we both have pas­sion for good de­sign. We might dis­agree on a lot of things, but good de­sign is never ar­guable.”

JOHN MCDONNELL The Wash­ing­ton Post

The master bath­room is flooded with nat­u­ral light. The resin busts in the shower are from Dar­ryl Carter De­sign and Home Bou­tique.

JOHN MCDONNELL The Wash­ing­ton Post

Pum, from left, So­phie, Luna the French bull­dog, and Jake Le­febure in their liv­ing room. The airy top-floor home of­fice of Pum Le­febure, dec­o­rated by Dar­ryl Carter, fea­tures a 19th-cen­tury part­ner's-style li­brary ta­ble painted black and an 1880s French chan­de­lier with ea­gle adorn­ments.

JOHN MCDONNELL The Wash­ing­ton Post

The back of the four-story house fea­tures lots of glass.

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