When a May downpour dampened Jodi Macklin’s plans to host a pre-prom dinner for her son’s senior class in her Chevy Chase backyard, the designer quickly switched gears.
She whipped out placemats, set up a buffet in the dining room and invited the 200 guests into her gracious home. “It was fast and furious,” recalls the unflappable host. Two days later when she opened her doors to a magazine photography crew, the only clue that prom night had taken place was her son Cooper napping on the screened porch.
Macklin’s house rolls with the punches—and has aged gracefully since she and her husband overhauled the tiny 1930s Colonial Revival they acquired in the coveted Somerset neighborhood 16 years ago. Though four times the size of the original, the house doesn’t overwhelm its shady lot. Inside, a clever layout with generous proportions gives it staying power. When you factor in Macklin’s design smarts, it’s no accident that the home continues to evolve.
Macklin began her career in marketing at Estée Lauder in New York. But when she moved back to her hometown of DC with husband Rodd, now CFO of a private equity firm, just before their first son was born in 1991, she had an epiphany. “I didn’t want to be at work from 9 to 7 every day,” she recalls. “I decided I was going to do what I’d always had a passion for.” She enrolled in Mount Vernon College’s interior design program, earned a degree, then landed an internship with “a great mentor,” designer David Mitchell.
By the time she and Rodd bought the Somerset property, Jodi had launched her own design firm and their fourth and final child was on the way. The couple tapped architect David Jones to design a larger residence for their growing family. Since the home was deemed historic, his plan had to build upon the original. “The question was how to make this very small house work as though it had grown over time,” Jones recalls. A large new wing containing the living and family rooms solved the dilemma by suggesting that the smaller, original wing housing the dining room and kitchen came later. Called “a Colonial Revival with finesse” by the architect, the new home boasts a slate roof and hand-troweled stucco walls that reinforce his built-over-time narrative.
From the entry, guests see straight through the foyer and rear stair hall to the garden. Stairs to the upper level run parallel to the rear wall of French doors so that, explains Jones, “the family is always looking at the beautiful backyard when going up and down the stairs.”
The interior architecture creates a perfect backdrop for Macklin’s artistry. “David nailed the proportions,” she says of the 10-foot ceilings and generous openings between rooms. “He made the house feel bigger than it is.”
Her original goal—to design a “livable, kid-friendly house”—still holds true today. “It should not feel too precious, yet it should be pretty and feel like a home,” the designer reflects.
A relaxed, understated elegance prevails in spaces where Macklin mixes classic appointments with modern furniture and art. “Traditional pieces bring a warmer feeling,” she explains. “It’s fun to have ‘found’ things that have meaning and history, mixed in with newer, more contemporary ones.
“I’m looking for beautiful lines—and I love to mix textures,” Macklin continues, pointing to her family room’s shagreen table, wooden chairs and tufted-leather ottoman. She offsets a neutral palette with pops of color in accessories, pillows and art—such as the Ellsworth Kelly painting in the living room.
Macklin likes to host intimate dinners in her “timeless” blue-and-white kitchen, originally designed by kitchen designer Jennifer Gilmer. “I wasn’t a cook,” she says, “but then my kids grew up and over the years I learned how.” She recently tapped Gilmer’s associate Meghan Browne to update the space. Browne created more storage and workspace in the form of a large, new island made of hot-rolled steel.
On holidays, when the guest list typically tops 40, Macklin sets up a buffet in the dining room, graced by a glamorous Porta Romana chandelier and geometric hide rug. “I’m really into tabletop,” she says. Macklin favors Kim Sybert linens that “go from very casual to very dressy.”
With their two oldest sons and a daughter off to college or beyond, the Macklins still have one son, Luke, at home. On an early May evening, he and his dad play catch in the yard while Macklin relaxes on the screened porch. “This is my happy space. Once everything’s green,” she says, motioning to the springtime landscape, “I feel like I’m in France.”
Meanwhile, her home is always a work in progress. A few years after they moved in, David Jones designed a free-standing office for Macklin’s growing firm, adding on a conference room later. And in the main house, she is now transforming an empty room next to the master bedroom into a luxurious bath suite and closet.
“As a designer,” Macklin says, “there’s a lot that you see that you love. You’re constantly evolving.”
Photographer Geoffrey Hodgdon is based in Deale, Maryland.
Architecture: DAVID JONES, AIA, Jones & Boer Architects, Washington, DC. Interior Design, JODI MACKLIN, Jodi Macklin Interior Design, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Builder: RICHARD ZANTZINGER, Mauck Zantzinger & Associates, Washington, DC.