November-December 2018 | Home & Garden

Fresh Start

A young couple tore down a rambler and built a new home in Chevy Chase for their growing family

Michael and Roanna Kessler and their kids, (from left) Noah, Henry and Leo, at their Chevy Chase home. Photo by Michael Ventura.


The Kesslers’ rambler (left) was replaced with a Craftsman-style home (above). Courtesy of the Kesslers.

Location meant everything to Roanna and Michael Kessler. That’s why, despite knowing they’d eventually have to remodel or rebuild to accommodate their growing family, the couple bought a dated, dark and small rambler in Chevy Chase West near Norwood Park in 2013. Now, the Kesslers have three boys: Henry, 7, Noah, 3, and Leo, born earlier this year.

“We chose this area for its walkability and to be close to my family,” says Roanna, who grew up in Fairfax, Virginia, after an early childhood in Queens, New York. She and Michael—both doctors—met in New York City during their medical training.

“The final straw came when the basement flooded for the second time,” Roanna says of the rambler. “We had to take out the old carpet and found mold under it. That got us to pull the trigger. We decided to tear down and build a new house.”

In 2016, the Kesslers retained Bethesda-based Castlewood Builders, partly because it’s a one-stop design-build firm and partly because they were familiar with the company’s work through friends. They wanted to build a four-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot Craftsman-style house on their lot. The Kesslers moved to an apartment at nearby Wisconsin Place until the house was completed in 2017.


Left: The Kesslers’ Craftsman-style home. Photo by Michael Ventura. Right: A circular West Elm mirror with an antique finish hangs above an Interlude console in the foyer. The front door pops in an unexpected yellow, which works well with the home’s gray exterior. Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg.


“Roanna found me on Houzz,” says Bethesda-based Sandra Meyer, the owner of Ella Scott Design, who came on board six months before ground was broken. Roanna had been browsing the architecture and design website when she spotted a dining room designed by Meyer that featured curved-back klismos dining chairs in a Romo cut-velvet fabric. “After we met,” Meyer says, “it became clear that I was a good match for Roanna and Mike’s aesthetic.”

Meyer helped choose finishes, cabinetry, colors, lighting and furnishings for the new home. The most important things on the Kesslers’ wish list included a home office that felt like a library, a grand dining room for entertaining and a luxurious master bedroom retreat.

“They wanted to create a comfortable home that the family could grow into,” Meyer says. “But they also wanted the house to have stylish spaces with an eclectic, ‘grown-up’ feel.”

Roanna also wanted interesting details throughout the home, noting that she’s “very detail-oriented, not cookie-cutter about things.”


The chevron-patterned, gray-washed buffet is by Brownstone Upholstery. Above it, open shelves hold a mix of conversation starters, including the homeowners’ inherited and collected pieces. The parquet floor and custom dining table pay homage to the Kesslers’ love of wood and detail. Four Hands chairs are covered in a Romo fabric with nailhead trim. The Sputnik-style light fixture from Oly Studio adds a midcentury vibe.


“One of the things I recall growing up in Queens was our old dining room,” Roanna says. “We lived in a historic home, and that floor had beautiful inlays.”

The Kesslers’ parquet floor in the new dining room features pale ash border inlays worked into its dark-stained oak boards. This special floor defines the space, while also injecting touches of craftsmanship and timelessness into the new home. Other details include the tray ceiling in the master bedroom and the combination of painted and cerused oak custom cabinetry in the home office.

“We wanted it to have an Old World library feel,” Meyer says of the office. “We wrapped the space in a sophisticated blue-green, and added a wall of cabinetry, with a ladder that slides over the entry’s glass-paned French doors.”


Benjamin Moore’s Amazon Green coats the walls and ceiling moldings in the home office. The desk by Julian Chichester combines feminine and masculine lines in its sculptural form. The floor lamp is from Visual Comfort. Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg.


A multiarmed light fixture adds a contemporary twist to the classic room, where the Kesslers like to work when they’re home. “It’s a wonderful adult space,” Roanna says. “When I’m in there, it feels peaceful, and I get things done.”