“What’s the point of having a house like this if you don’t entertain?” asks Vin Roberti as he peruses the finishing touches on the dining table in his Dumbarton Street salon — the selling point of the 1860s Greek Revival residence he has completely restored.
The room is the first thing visitors see when they enter the nearly 2,500-square-foot home that he, his wife Amy and their toddler daughter, Brette, moved into last fall.
Their Valentine’s Day dinner for 24 guests and clients (Roberti is a high-profile lobbyist) was a perfect debut for the salon, which boasts two fireplaces and a 1901 chandelier from the Waldorf-Astoria.
Architect Christian Zapatka likes the salon’s French chic. He calls the discreet portal leading to the kitchen “the Marie Antoinette door.”
Zapatka encouraged Roberti’s purchase of the home and oversaw its renovations, including the reconfiguration of the backyard, where a pristine lap pool is at the ready for the warmer months.
The house is on this year’s Georgetown House Tour, mainly because of its suitability for dinner parties — a dying custom in Georgetown, but back on the upswing, according to co-chairs Hannah Isles and Kelly Stavish. The 2018 event is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, with the Patrons Party on Wednesday, April 25.
Entertaining comes easy to the Robertis. What’s more, it’s part of their love story.
They met at a gathering hosted by fellow uber-lobbyist and entertainer par excellence Tony Podesta. Today, the two are just passing along the good vibes to others. “I often tell Tony I should send him the bills,” Roberti jokes.
He explains he wanted his house to be part of the tour to showcase the work of his friend, Zapatka, but many of its features, notably the art collection, are Roberti signatures.His love of photography is present in his other homes in Connecticut and New York, where he was appointed to the board of contemporary art museum MoMa PS1 by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2013.
Roberti proudly shows me black-and-white prints in his kitchen, and a prized photograph of Kate Moss. (I was impressed that a Washington lobbyist would even knew who Moss is, much less have a photo of her in his powder room.)
These are just a few of the surprises visitors will encounter on this year’s tour. Every home will be presented as if prepared for a dinner party, so visitors can get a sense of the Georgetown flair for “tablescaping” — setting a table to “wow” guests.
“Too matchy is boring, and not in good taste,” explains master tablescaper Marie Daage. “If you set your table to match the curtains, the flowers and the room, it’s not chic.”
I stopped by her appearance at A Mano on Wisconsin Avenue to learn more about “La haute couture de la table.”
For decades, Daage’s family has been at the center of creating hand-painted porcelain. Daage works with Limoges to design plates and dinnerware from her palette of 50 colors, which she mixes in the most original ways.
She likens tablescaping to the art of dressing: it should be personal, imaginative and fun. So you want to wear those leopard-print shoes with a green dress? Go for it, just like she whips up a tablescape with purple chargers under grey and ivory dessert dishes.
As she is inspired to dress by something she sees in a magazine or on the street, Daage takes equal inspiration for her tables from nature and the visual arts, like paintings. The trend is moving away from the classic white dishware you got for your wedding to loud and rich hues that make more of a statement than the flowers.
House Tour guests should expect every table on the tour to be not a reflection of the room or the house, but of the passions of the people who live there.
3009 Dumbarton Street
The townhouse and the adjoining townhouse at 3011 Dumbarton were built in 1869 by Claudius B. Jewell, a Georgetown merchant who died in 1912 and is buried in Oak Hill cemetery in Georgetown.
2823 Q Street
On the tour in 1954 and 1962, this Second Empire style home has been made even more charming by Ms. Boone’s clever antique store finds, like the mantels from the mid nineteenth century, the era when the house was built.
2905 Q Street
This 1890 Victorian was cherished by its previous owners who lived here for 50 years. Today it’s the happy abode of a family with young children who appreciate its contemporary adjustments, like the garden patio.
3029 Q Street
This 6,700 square foot home was one owned by the first territorial governor of the District of Columbia, who probably needed the house’s vast size and 12-foot ceilings for his 12 children. The current owners just moved in within the last two years after taking on extensive renovations to the house’s four levels and six bedrooms.
3130 P Street
Once the home of Henry Cabot Lodge, this Federal style home was on the tour twice in the 1940s, and boasts plenty of other historical owners from civic minded socialites to comedian Carol Burnett, who is rumored to have lived here briefly in the 1970s. This house dates back to before the Civil War and has retained many of its original mantels on its nine fireplaces.
3206 M Street
Built in 1796, the City Tavern Club is one of the oldest Federal buildings, which was frequented by the founding fathers in their time. Today, it’s a private club whose members celebrate its heritage, mindful that it was nearly lost. In 1959, a group of committed Georgetowners saved the house from demolition after it had fallen into disrepair. It is now on the National Register of Historical Places.
3128 P Street
This house, which underwent extensive renovations in 2012, was once owned by diplomat Averell Harriman. The land was originally deeded in 1795, and now boasts a charming garden with koi pond. The art collection includes local artists as well as those from Nantucket and South Africa.
3107 N Street
This 1870s Victorian is home to Renoir and Matisse paintings, but what you should really be impressed by are the original oak floors and 12-foot ceilings.
3216 O Street
The most well-known occupant of 3216 was, until now, the Dorothy Snead Shop, which opened at this location in 1955. Perle Mesta, Betty Fulbright and Lady Astor were among the well-heeled ladies who shopped there. Snead retired in 1982 at 86 years old. She sold the business with the stipulation that the new owner run an ad in every issue of The Georgetowner. Today, the historic building is occupied by lifestyle brand Tucknuck. The interior was redesigned by Zoë Feldman Design.
Information provided by the Georgetown House Tour.