The Washington Post
Kalorama home transports you to another time
Rod Bernstein was rifling through the attic of his house in D.C.’S Kalorama neighborhood when, from under a floorboard, he pulled out a note. It was written on White House stationery.
This four-bed, five-bath house once belonged to Thomas “Mack” Mclarty, President Bill Clinton’s first chief of staff. At least once during his presidency, Clinton gave a speech at a Democratic fundraiser there. The note, which was handwritten but lacked a signature, accompanied the delivery of documents.
“That house, you know, there’s a surprise around every corner,” Bernstein said.
Mclarty is not the only prominent Washingtonian who has lived in the house. Endicott Peabody, a former Massachusetts governor, lived there before it was sold in 1975 to Robin B. Martin, who served as staff assistant to President Gerald Ford.
“I’m very lucky to be a custodian of a house like that, because you get to be a part of that chain,” Bernstein said. “It’s nice to know, unlike a new house, nobody’s ever going to tear that house down. Right? You can’t replicate that. That house is going to be around probably for as long as there’s a Washington.”
Bernstein and his wife, Meryl, honeymooned in Japan after their wedding in 2013. They toured the house when they returned and were struck by a “Japanese-style” recreation room that opens to a terrace and a garden behind the house.
“It was just an amazing sense of tranquility when you walked into that room in the back,” Bernstein said.
The couple enlarged the kitchen, added a parking spot behind the house and removed some wall-to-wall carpeting, but their biggest effect was the addition of wallpaper in nearly every room.
“We had a designer who kept bringing us the most beautiful wallpapers, and we loved them all, so we just didn’t know where to stop,” Bernstein said.
The 1927 house is detached on three sides and has four levels. The brick facade has French doors (wrapped in a limestone surround) that open to a greenand-gold-walled foyer. To the right, a library has built-in wooden cabinetry and a fireplace. This floor also has a powder room (or half-bath) and the recreation room that first caught the Bernsteins’ attention.
The second floor has most of the house’s living areas, including formal dining and living rooms, each with a fireplace. The living room has glass-paneled French doors leading to the stairs. The kitchen, also on this level, has a center island and a butler’s pantry with an additional dishwasher and sink as well as storage.
Adjacent to the kitchen are a breakfast room and a family room, both with access to a balcony.
On the third floor, the primary bedroom has an en suite bathroom and a walk-in closet. A second bedroom (or an office) has two walk-in closets, and there is a dressing room with shelving that is attached to a bathroom but not the primary bedroom. The fourth floor has two bedrooms that share a bathroom.
The house has a two-car garage, and there are two additional parking spots. Rear and side gardens are fenced and have mature trees. “It’s quiet from an auditory perspective, but it’s also quiet from an emotional perspective,” Bernstein said. “It’s a romantic house. … If you sit down in one of the nicely appointed rooms and you have a glass of wine, you’re transported to another time or a commercial or a movie. … All of a sudden, you feel romantic, like the main character in a movie.”