The Washington Post

A fully reimagined rowhouse’s deft balance of old and new


Before he could even consider interior renovation­s, Jackson says the home was beset with structural issues. Years of flooding severely damaged its foundation, requiring months of extensive repairs.

“When the crew pulled up the floors, we saw quickly that the joists were rotted out,” he says. Contractor­s eventually had to excavate beneath the kitchen and dining rooms to a depth of about three feet to raise the back side of the home and repair the foundation.

“Only after pulling up the floors could we see that the foundation walls were so badly eroded that they were only an inch of brick in places.”

Repairing the home’s elaborate plaster crown moldings in the living room and hallway also presented challenges. Rather than simply replacing them with wood moldings — which would have been the easiest route — he sought to restore them.

“The surviving plaster was pretty stunning,” Jackson says. Craftsmen spent weeks slowly filling in and rebuilding the ridges and textures of the molding, he says.

“In some places, chunks were missing; in other places, several feet of molding was missing entirely,” he says. “The process of building up the plaster and shaping it by hand was extraordin­ary, and the beauty of the detailing and the curved lines could not have been duplicated using either wood or foam moldings.”

Jackson enlisted North Bethesda, Md., interior designer Lorna Gross to help overhaul the property’s interiors.

A New York native who was raised in Louisiana, Gross eventually opened her practice in the D.C. area, where she quickly acquired a reputation for designing homes that comfortabl­y marry history with modernity.

Gross says when the collaborat­ion with Jackson began — mapping out how each floor of the five-story building would be revamped — she quickly realized his depth of knowledge of architectu­re and home design went well beyond her usual clients.

“He came to the process with a full understand­ing of what it would take to realize his ideas for the project,” says Gross. “He had some pretty unique ideas from the outset, but he wasn’t afraid or intimidate­d to work together in making that happen.”

Those unique ideas included an unconventi­onal interior scheme for the home’s first level: Jackson wanted the entire floor to resemble a bespoke train car on the Orient Express.

He says the idea was inspired by his days living and studying in Europe in the 1980s and the trips he took on the long-distance passenger train service before it ended operation in 2009.

During its 19th-century heyday, the Orient Express traveled the length of continenta­l Europe and into western Asia, with terminal stations in Paris, London and Istanbul. Nicknamed “the king of trains, the train of kings,” the internatio­nal rail service embodied the golden age of travel and inspired authors from Graham Greene to Agatha Christie to spin tales of its celebrated passengers — both real and fictional.

“As a college kid traveling around Europe it was as legendary as it was luxurious,” Jackson says. “It just radiated this kind of bygone era of luxury.”

For Gross, it presented a wel

come challenge. “I love projects that go beyond the cookie-cutter ideas of what an interior should be,” she says. “Greg offered us a real chance at creating a bit of a story with the interiors, and I embraced that from the start.”

Gross went to great lengths to achieve the look and feel of a train car from a bygone era. She had antique furnishing­s and lighting installed from the 1930s on the home’s first level, which is a long, narrow space with two fireplaces that harks back to the Art Deco period.

Interior remodeling included having walls removed just beyond the first level’s entryway, allowing visitors to see directly down a long corridor into the exterior courtyard through new steel windows and doors.

Gross chose a pair of antique chandelier­s to replicate Deco equivalent­s of the era as well as wall coverings that were used to create a warm backdrop for the blend of antique and contempora­ry furnishing­s.

The kitchen was also completely renovated and is now enveloped in Art Deco-inspired black to add a bit of drama, Gross says.

“The goal was to create some

thing unique without it coming off as kitsch,” says Gross. “It needs to feel authentic but not immediatel­y obvious.”

Jackson says he didn’t want the Orient Express motif to dominate the entire home.

He and Gross collaborat­ed to have areas of the 2,382-squarefoot residence reminiscen­t of a swank lounge, what Gross describes as “a Hollywood gentlemen’s lounge that Cary Grant might have frequented.”

The guest room also serves as a home office and media lounge and includes a blond-wood Phillip Jeffries wall covering and a 1930s walnut cocktail table.

A powder room offers a pocket of modernity among the home’s largely antique furnishing­s. Like almost every room of the house, it includes luxurious wall treatments that add a decorative flourish creating a warm atmosphere.

“I think the most important thing Lorna brought to this was a strong eye for historical detail,” says Jackson. “She really understood how to make the design a unique expression of my taste without losing any of the most important parts of the home’s history.”

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 ?? Photos by william waldron ?? TOP: The backyard was developed as an additional entertaini­ng space. BELOW: The renovated kitchen was finished in black. Expansive steel doors and windows lend the space ample natural light from the terrace beyond.
Photos by william waldron TOP: The backyard was developed as an additional entertaini­ng space. BELOW: The renovated kitchen was finished in black. Expansive steel doors and windows lend the space ample natural light from the terrace beyond.

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