Few who pass the nicely landscaped yet unremarkable town house condominium realize that on the other side of the door is a sophisticated home/gallery setting rarely seen outside of New York City. Here, in space called music room, living room or bedroom, are displayed works by such artists as Jackson Pollack, Jasper Johns and Frank Stella. The mood is cool, restrained, charged with an energy discernible to art lovers as well as lovers of interior design, who upon entering recognize that this is not a neutral background created for art but a design that stands on its own.
When the owner, who is frequently away from home, purchased his Greentree condominium just outside the Beltway, his primary concern was for the safety and display of his art collection. The globe-trotting collector chose the community of Greentree because it combined the ambience of an individual home with a guarded gatehouse and excellent security protection. His previous home had been a single-family house with generous display space indoors for paintings, and a garden where sculpture was the focal point. But Greentree is a community where buildings are clustered together to create maximum open space. For the sake of a uniform exterior appearance to keep matters simple for the grounds maintenance crews, land-use covenants at Greentree disallow the exhibition of outdoor sculpture.
For this collector, the solution was obvious: Display the works indoors.
He contacted designer Keith Gasser, principal of Jesse Benesch & Associates, who had designed his previous house. "I'm familiar with his tastes, which are inclined to classical Bauhaus modern. In fact, we used all existing, rehabbed furniture," says Mr. Gasser.
To create a background for the home/gallery setting, walls planned by the developer were removed. The interior spaces are now a flowing, gallery-like area where walls throughout are painted pearl gray, while gray Italian ceramic tile and gray custom-printed wall-to-wall carpet covers the floors. Windows are discreetly sheathed with miniblinds, admitting light without celebrating the vistas. This is a home that looks inward rather than attempting to connect with an exterior view.
To the left of the entrance, a John McCracken serigraph dominates the music room, so called because of the hi-fi equipment hidden behind sleek black lacquered cabinet doors. The cabinet, once white, has been lacquered black and topped with black granite. Twin lamps by Richard Sonneman flank the cabinet. Built-in speakers are barely discernible over the lamps.
The kitchen, originally planned by the developer as an interior windowless room, is now open to the living/dining areas. This is a relaxed, light-admitting arrangement punctuated by industrial-style lighting fixtures balanced by touches of stainless steel in the refrigerator panels and coffee table.
Upstairs walls were removed, turning three bedrooms into two and creating an open formal gallery space with a visual connection to the music room below. This arrangement turns the stairway into a sculptural element, an angular interior seashell. Displayed in the gallery are sculptures by John Ferguson and paintings by Clifford Chieffo and Gene Davis.
The master bedroom, screened from the upstairs gallery by a single display wall, is furnished with an Italian leather platform bed from Pace. The display wall features a recent Frank Stella painting. Above the bed as well as in the gallery, a modular lighting system by Lightolier lends a strong industrial/sculptural quality, which would have been overwhelming downstairs, but is effective when hung from the second floor's cathedral ceiling.
It is such meticulous attention to detail that creates a balance between art, and the art of interior design.