Home Design with Laura Evans
The Fox 5 TV anchor enlivens a new home with fresh paint and fine art
Laura Evans and her husband, lobbyist Mike Manatos, were happy in the Huntington Terrace home they shared with their three young children. But in 2011, Manatos’ brother told them that his neighbors wanted to downsize and were looking to sell their contemporary split-level in Bethesda’s Lynbrook neighborhood. Evans, the 5 p.m. news anchor and consumer reporter for Fox 5 DC, remembers going to see the home reluctantly. “I had no interest,” she says.
Artist Doug Schneider’s “Ghost” decoupage dominates the family room of Fox 5 TV anchor Laura Evans’ Bethesda home, where she is pictured with (left to right) Lucas, Drew, husband, Mike, and Sienna. Credit: Michael Ventura
That all changed when she saw the spacious rooms and the wooded backyard that was visible through a two-story wall of windows in the family room. The owners loved the idea of passing along their home—where they’d lived since the ’70s and raised two sons—to a young family. “They loved this home,” Evans says. “It was meaningful for them to leave it in good hands.”
But the 1950s-era house wasn’t quite ready for prime time. There was a dated half wall of glass blocks separating the dining and living rooms, as well as old tile covering the risers of the stairs. The light-colored hardwood floors didn’t feel right, either, and a living room window was inexplicably covered by heavy-duty trash bags and hidden behind a piece of fabric.
“What I wanted to do when we moved in was make the biggest splash with the least amount of money,” Evans says. For help with the interior, she called on her friend and Fox 5 colleague Will Thomas, the 11 p.m. news anchor. “Will and I had worked together on my old house, and Will has a good eye for these things,” Evans says.
Thomas first stopped by to see the house before Evans and Manatos moved in. The couple was planning to have the floors stained a darker color, and Thomas immediately recognized that the glass-block wall and another awkward wall should come down before the flooring people reached those sections of the house. “If you wait to take it down, you can’t patch the floor to be the same color,” Thomas says.
In the living room hangs “Serenity,” an oversize painting of a Buddha figure by Vietnamese artist Le Nhu Ha.
The result is a serene, free-flowing space connecting the living and dining areas. Thomas also helped Evans pick a bold color palette for the rest of the house. “The quickest way to make an impact—and to do it somewhat economically—is with paint,” he says.
A secretary passed down from Mike Manatos’ grandmother stands in the dining room; “Late for Church,” by Bay Area artist Jim Gingerich, hangs beside the window.
In the foyer, living room and dining area, Evans and Thomas chose gray to match the darkest veins of the existing marble tile in the entry. “A lot of times, the dark colors can really give you a lot of ‘wow’ factor,” Thomas says.
The same applies to the outside of the house, where Evans called on Amy Tulacro of Bethesda-based Tulacro Development to revamp the façade. “We went really dark with the trim,” Tulacro says. “Because we weren’t changing the [light gray] house color, we wanted some differentiation.” Tulacro also suggested that Evans replace the three garage doors with opaque glass and a dark metal grid. The effect modernizes the exterior and lightens the visual weight of the doors.
When Evans first saw the home, she fell in love with the floor-to-ceiling windows in the family room.
Back inside, Thomas and Evans decided on a pale, yellowish green for the walls of the family room—a fun, vibrant backdrop for the space where everyone spends most of their time.
Because they weren’t ready to splurge on new furniture, Evans shopped retailers such as HomeGoods, overstock.com and Pottery Barn for a rug and for colorful pillows and throws to splash across the two sofas and love seat.
Her biggest investment is the art, which was amassed with guidance from Evans’ father, San Francisco contemporary art dealer Larry Evans. From a gallery wall of family photographs in the family room to more valuable paintings in the living and dining rooms, and a dramatic sculpture in the entry, artwork can be found in every room of the house. “I feel like it makes the house feel more lived in, more warm,” Evans says. One of her favorite pieces is “Serenity,” an oversize painting of a Buddha figure by Vietnamese artist Le Nhu Ha—a 40th birthday present from her father.
A sculpture by Kevin Christenson, one of Evans’ high school friends, anchors the home’s foyer. Evans recently featured zigzag studio’s deer pillow (shown in the foreground) on her “Laura’s Likes” segment on Fox 5.
She also owns several collage-like decoupage paintings by San Francisco artist Douglas Schneider, whom her father also represents. A painting that Schneider gave Evans on her 30th birthday is displayed prominently over the dining room sideboard. It includes grapes, because Evans grew up in California; sheet music, because she’s played piano all her life; row houses, which signify neighborhoods in D.C.; and a photo of her as a young girl on a swim team. “I think people are afraid of art, but when you know a little bit more about the artist and what they put into it, it becomes more meaningful to you,” she says.
Also meaningful are the images that cover the bright red walls of the office Evans shares with her husband. One large frame contains photographs of Manatos family members, who have been in the lobbying business since the Kennedy administration, posing with presidents and congressmen. Another frame contains the front page of The Washington Post on the day after Sept. 11, 2001, when Evans was among the first reporters to arrive at the Pentagon.
The room had been painted red by the previous owners. “There’s something about a red room I find very cozy, warm and invigorating,” Evans says. “I’ve had one in each of the last three homes I’ve owned, so it fit perfectly into my scheme when we bought the home.”
Another perfect fit: The house had a zip line out back that the kids—Sienna, 9, Drew, 7, and Lucas, 5—now use all the time, especially with their three cousins who live across the street. Manatos’ parents also just moved in two doors down. “It’s a big fat Greek village,” Evans says, “and we love it!”
The home office displays framed photos from presidential administrations during which members of the Manatos family have served as staff and lobbyists.
Evans plans to make further design tweaks in the future, but the house already works well for the family. With its floor-to-ceiling windows facing the woods, she says, it’s the first home she’s owned on the East Coast that reminds her of growing up out West: “I’m from California, and this is like being in Tahoe.”
Jennifer Sergent is a home and design writer based in Arlington. To comment on this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.