Where We Live

Bethesda Enclave Built for Gardeners, Social Butterflies

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By Ann Cameron Siegal
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, April 26, 2008

In 2001, Paul and Laurie Wilner left what they described as a "typical Colonial on three-quarters of an acre near Great Falls" for a community of 104 contemporary houses without lawns or basements two miles from downtown Bethesda.

Drumaldry, one of several spellings for the Scots-Gaelic expression meaning "elder's ridge," was built in the 1970s. The three- and four-bedroom houses have stained cedar siding and cedar shake shingles. Each is surrounded by six-foot-high brick walls. Individual gates lead to cozy outdoor courtyards. Doorways open to bright, angular multilevel interiors.

"It reminded me of something you'd find in Florida or California," Laurie Wilner said. "It's not a gated community, but it has that enclave feeling."

Leni Preston, a five-year resident who serves on the community's architectural committee, said Drumaldry's designer, Nicholas A. Pappas, was a contemporary of her father, Grosvenor Chapman, a local architect and historic preservationist.

Preston said Pappas, who later served as an architect for Colonial Williamsburg before retiring to Florida, told her he was inspired by an inner sense, not by California modern.

Each house has a two-car garage, with the space in one model so large that it was described in the community's original brochure as big enough for five Volkswagens. Some houses have two-story fireplaces. Some have sunken courtyards. Most have several vaulted ceilings; usually one is redwood.

A subdued color palette of natural hues has developed over time. "One of the original exterior colors included purple," Wilner said, "but no longer."

The homeowners association is wrestling with the challenge of preserving architectural integrity while allowing for current technologies that would be less costly and demand less maintenance, she said.

The courtyards within showcase the creativity of residents who enhance these small private spaces. Japanese gardens, fishponds, fountains, hammocks and swimming pools are tucked away, out of sight.

Behind the solid gate at Doni and Phil Schambra's house, there is a plethora of greenery and seasonal color hugging a meandering brick garden walkway. A wall of Leyland cypress softens the brick backdrop to the pool and patio. Japanese maples and weeping cherries dot other courtyards.

A dainty decorative iron gate gives a glimpse into the terraced garden Jacqueline Milne is fine-tuning. She and her husband, both scientists at the National Institutes of Health, bought their Drumaldry house sight unseen in 2000 while they were living overseas, largely because it was within walking distance of their labs.

To Milne, the walls create a setting much like the classic English gardens back home. "From every window, you can look out on a garden," she said. She recalled a favorite book, "The Jewel Box Garden," by Thomas Hobbs.


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© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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