May-June 2012 | Bethesda HOME

Screen Test

Many local residents have found a way to beat the elements and enjoy outdoor living in almost every season, creating vacation-worthy spaces right at home.

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Although bugs and humid weather plague our area in the summer, we’re fortunate to have pleasant temperatures for at least eight months a year.

Many local residents have found a way to beat the elements and enjoy outdoor living in almost every season, creating vacation-worthy spaces right at home.

Whether the design is traditional or modern, large or small, screened-porch living is the life for them.

The Sanctuary

Growing up as a military kid in the Philippines, Phil Leibovitz would sit on the screened porch that wrapped around his family’s home, looking out and listening to the rainstorms. “I loved being outside but still having a warm, protected feeling,” he says.

With fond memories of life in the tropics, the CEO of Bethesda-based Sandy Spring Builders has included covered outdoor spaces in all four of the houses he has built for his family over the last 30 years. His latest custom creation, completed 3½ years ago in the Bradley Hills neighborhood of Bethesda, has the most spectacular porch yet.

“I wanted a pavilion,” Leibovitz says.

The room measures 18½ feet by 21 feet and connects to the home’s breakfast area via large sliding glass doors, but it’s very much a separate architectural element.

Although connected to the main house, the Leibovitzes' screened porch looks like a separate pavilion. Photo by Stu Estler Architect Mark Giarraputo of Studio Z Design Concepts in Bethesda designed a distinctive hipped roofline that separates the room visually from the rest of the Craftsman/shingle-style home. Inside, newly milled antique tongue-and-groove oak covers the vaulted ceiling, which soars to 18 feet at its highest point and is accented by beams crafted from salvaged barn wood. A skylight in the shape of a curvy eyebrow lets sunlight in and hot air out.

The screened room, which serves as a getaway from bugs and a shady respite from blistering heat, is a gathering place for Leibovitz, his wife, Niki, and their daughter, 23, and two sons, 21 and 18.

“It’s great for family meals, and two of our kids have summer birthdays, so we celebrate out there,” Leibovitz says.

The natural materials create the look of a rustic retreat, but the room is equipped with creature comforts such as a large ceiling fan, gas Heatilator fireplace and a built-in sound system. There’s no TV—that’s where Leibovitz draws the line.

“It’s very peaceful and I love to take naps out there,” he says. “It’s definitely my favorite spot in the house.”