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His daughter was an accomplished real estate developer in her own right. Michelle Smith was vice president of product design and development for Charles E. Smith Residential Realty and later Archstone-Smith, which acquired Charles E. Smith Cos. in 2001. She worked with both urban high-rise and garden apartment buildings in several markets, including D.C., Chicago, Boston and New York.
Like her parents, Smith was a philanthropist. She was president of the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation and served on numerous boards, including the Aspen Institute Board of Trustees, the Kennedy Center International Committee, the University of Maryland College Park Foundation Board of Trustees, Smithsonian American Art Museum Board of Commissioners and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center Leadership Council. The Michelle Smith Collaboratory for Visual Culture and the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, both at the University of Maryland, are named for her.
The penthouse is one of four at the 28-unit condo building. Smith hired New York interior designer David Kleinberg to help her design what was raw space when she purchased the condo from the developer in 2005. Construction took about 18 months, but, as Kleinberg said, they never entirely finished the project.
“The lovely thing about working with Michelle is that it was never completed,” he said. “Michelle was the truest form of a collector and always looking and always engaged in finding things to continue to make her home ever-changing and livable.”
The style of the home leans toward a modern aesthetic, but it is grounded in traditional.
“She also wanted it to be very clean, very edited, very strict,” he said. “Michelle had a great editor’s eye in everything.”
Because the home overlooks the Potomac River, Smith chose limestone for the floors.
“She definitely wanted stone for the floors,” Kleinberg said. “We always thought that stone floors looking out to the river just felt right.”
The subtle designs on the floor, created by Kleinberg’s office, reference stone floor patterns in a variety of settings, from Byzantine churches to contemporary buildings.
“When we agreed that it would be all stone floors, we weren’t sure how many rugs, if we were going to have rugs at all,” Kleinberg said. “We wanted to create some sort of delineation and interest between the spaces.”
Limestone wasn’t limited to the floors. It also was used in the door casings.
“They create a sense of real structure and a thickness between the spaces that you don’t always get in an apartment setting,” Kleinberg said.
The doors are made of rosewood as is the paneling in the library. The choice of wood was in part a nod to the Four Seasons restaurant in New York, designed by American architect Philip Johnson, a winner of the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize. The restaurant closed in 2019.
“We wanted something highly figured with a lot of richness,” Kleinberg said of the choice of wood.
A curved limestone staircase, with a sterling silver balustrade, leads to the upstairs, which is more informal. The family room has built-in cabinetry made of cerused oak. The wet bar has a limestone countertop. A door opens to a large private terrace with a view of the Washington Monument.
Another outdoor space is off the owner’s suite, giving the penthouse a total of 6,500 square feet of terraces.
The massive owner’s suite takes up the left side of the penthouse. Besides the bedroom, there is a sitting room, dressing room and two bathrooms.
The sale of the penthouse is bittersweet for Kleinberg. It reminds him that he won’t be working with Smith anymore.
“I miss her,” he said. “She was a really special person.”
In addition to valet parking for two cars, owners in the building have access to the amenities of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, such as in-room dining, the fitness center and the spa. The building has concierge service and a porter.
The three-bedroom, five-bathroom, 5,500-square-foot penthouse and a one-bedroom, two-bathroom, 900-square-foot apartment on the first floor are being sold together for $18 million. The monthly condo fees are $11,142.
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