Photo courtesy of Stu Estler Photography.


Outdoor Refuge

After 20 years of living in a townhouse in Rockville and eventually searching for the perfect location to build a house, Leslie Kaufmann and Mark Koenig found an ideal lot on Grosvenor Lane in Bethesda. Their contemporary home, completed in 2014, includes a large backyard with carefully designed outdoor living space, where they often host guests. With a saltwater pool, screened porch and fancy gas grill, their house is usually the venue of choice for Thanksgiving dinners, birthday parties and bridal showers.

“We both love to cook and entertain, so we are always trying new recipes and feeding people,” Kaufmann says.

As guests step through the front door, their eyes go straight to the backyard. Beyond the sliding glass doors in the living room is a spacious patio and swimming pool, along with a 10-foot-tall contemporary cast bronze sculpture the couple commissioned. Natural light streams into the house, and the off-white floor tiles inside match the stone out back to create a continuous and inviting flow.

“What’s amazing is when you are back here, you don’t think you are just off of Old Georgetown Road,” Kaufmann says. “We created a very private sanctuary.”

In the center of the patio is a stone island for cooking, and Koenig—known for his curry soy flank steak and slow-grilled turkey burgers—is typically the outdoor chef. His commercial-grade Twin Eagles grill features what grill lovers often want—night lights, a searing station and a rotisserie. The island also has a stainless steel warming drawer, storage cabinets, a built-in trash compactor and a paper towel dispenser. A large granite countertop occupies the perimeter, a good spot for food trays and for guests to keep Koenig company and serve as taste testers. Next to the grill is the herb garden, where the couple grows basil, oregano and thyme. They also have four 10-by-10-foot raised beds for growing vegetables.


“Being able to clip fresh herbs for immediate use elevates food’s flavor beyond anything found in a spice rack,” Koenig says.

In creating their indoor and outdoor spaces, the couple enlisted the architectural help of Studio Z Design Concepts in Bethesda. Koenig and Kaufmann selected all the finishes and colors, filling the house and outdoor living area with much of the modern furniture and many of the fabrics they sell through their business, Leslie Kaufmann Associates. Just beyond the indoor kitchen is a custom-built screened porch with plenty of room to sit and relax. There’s a modular sofa, a dining table for eight and a smaller seating area with four chairs. All of the outdoor furniture came from Valencia, Spain, and was made by Andreu World, which is known for outfitting luxury hotels and resorts.

The couple designed the backyard without any grass. “At one point in my life I lived on a farm in Virginia and I had 3 acres. I’m over cutting grass and spending my weekend on a lawn mower,” Koenig says. But the pool and hot tub were a must. “The great reward for making it home on a hot summer day is to put my trunks on, flop in there and do 30 or 40 laps,” he says.


Jokes his wife: “He likes to eat a lot, so he has to swim.”

Caralee Adams is a freelance writer in Bethesda.