SELLER: Wayne L. and (Janet) Lea Berman
LOCATION: Washington, D.C.
SIZE: 13,000 square feet (give or take), 4-8 bedrooms (depending on what one counts as a bedroom), 6 (or 7) full and 2 (or three) half bathrooms.
YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Thanks to a virtual leg up from friendly informant Lil’ Debbie Doesdeecee we’ve come to learn that an impressively pedigreed Washington, D.C. mansion once owned by somewhat reclusive centenarian socialite, philanthropist, and accomplished horticulture autodidact Rachel Lambert Mellon—otherwise known as Bunny Mellon—has popped up on the market with a muscular price tag of 20,000,000 dangling chads.
Marketing materials provided to Your Mama by Lil’ Debbie reveals the distinguished and hulking 13,000-or-so square foot red brick Georgian mansion was designed by architect Nathan C. Wyeth, built in 1930 and for nearly six decades housed a portion of the “legendary art collection” of the above mentioned Miz Mellon and her now-deceased thoroughbred racehorse-minded banking heir and prolific philanthropist hubby Paul Mellon. Mister Wyeth, for those who do not recognize the name, once worked for the esteemed Carrere & Hastings firm and is perhaps best known as the man who designed the first Oval Office for President William Howard Taft in 1909.
Public property records we peeped reveal the meticulously maintained mansion is currently owned (and presumably occupied) by a couple of heavy hitting politicos: Republican power player and hyper-influential lobbyist Wayne L. Berman and his wife Lea, the one-time Chief of Staff for former V.P. Dick Cheney’s wife Lynne and the former Social Secretary and Special Assistant to the President under George W. Bush. Property records show the political power pair paid $4,836,000 for the imposing and essentially symmetrical residence in the last days of 2001.
Current listing information and a quick perusal of the floor plan included with marketing materials (above) indicates the house stands four floors above ground (plus a small basement with laundry facility) and contains 20-plus rooms (depending on what one counts as a rooms), 7 fireplaces, several staircases, one elevator and an attached (front-facing) two-car garage with direct entry to the service stair hall on the entrance level.
Listing information presents the palatial abode as having 6 bedrooms and 6 full and 2 half bathrooms. However, depending on which rooms get counted or pressed into use at bedrooms, Your Mama’s calculations suggest there 4 bedroom suites appropriate for owners, family and guests and another 4-7 rooms that could be suitable for for use as bedrooms by less favored family members and guests and/or a handful of live-in domestic staff.
On the entry level, an inverted cross-shaped reception hall has a fireplace, seating niches and ample room for party guests to mill around and sip champers and high balls. Two walk-in coat closets off the reception hall ensure plenty of coat hanging space for cold-weather gatherings and a wide stair case winds up to the main level living and entertaining areas.
In addition to a study just off the reception hall, the floor plan shows the mansion’s street entrance level includes three adjacent rooms marked on the floor plan as offices (each with window and closet), a fourth and larger room on the opposite side of the house behind the garage marked as an office and currently used—we think— as an exercise room, plus a long and narrow wine cellar and a total of 2.5 bathrooms.
We’re not sure how the huge house was configured at the time Mister and Missus Mellon maintained the mansion as a private museum space—they apparently lived in another mansion next door—but the main floor’s current floor plan allows for ballroom-scaled formal living room (with fireplace) and adjoining sitting room that stretches 43-or-so feet from the front clear through to the rear of the house. There’s also a banquet hall-sized formal dining room (with fireplace) listing information indicates can accommodate 40 diners at one time and next door to that a less formal morning room/den. An up-to-date chef-friendly kitchen offers a butler’s pantry, walk-in linen and silver storage closet, access to the backyard via that service stairs, and an adjacent office with wrap-around built-in desk. One compact (but blessedly well ventilated) half bath tucked under the stairs serves the entire floor.
A paneled library/family (with fireplace) on the second floor separates three family bedrooms (each with private en suite facility) from the vast master suite with entry vestibule (for privacy) 400-ish square foot corner bedroom (with fireplace), a pair of fitted walk-in closets. The attached master bathroom measures by our unscientific estimation around 250 square feet with twin sinks, a soaking tub that sticks out in to the center of the room like a penis-shaped peninsula, a private terlit cubby, and separate marble-tiled and double-headed shower.
A luggage room—yes, that’s right a luggage room—has built in shelving and cabinets for stashing, well, luggage, and upstairs in the partially-finished attic space there are two more storage storage rooms with built-in cabinets. Also tucked up under the eaves with dormer windows are three flexi-use rooms and one bathroom that—it is our humble and entirely meaningless opinion—would make for an almost-luxurious 2 bedroom staff suite with separate sitting room.
The back of the Mellon cum Berman manse opens up to a deep, lushly landscaped and essentially symmetrical English-style garden and terrace that overlooks the roof top and chimney stacks of the drop-dead-dee-voon Sir Edwin Lutyen-designed British Embassy.
As fascinating and well-connected as Mister and Missus Berman appear to be and as richly textured and layered as their day-core may be—there is the most amazing leopard print wall-to-wall carpeting in the master bathroom—as out ho-hum and dry-as-toast headline suggest it’s really the sober and aristocratic mansion’s previous owner Bunny Mellon and her recent and numerous real estate activities that have captured Your Mama’s admittedly single-minded attentions.
Interested kittens should stay tuned for Part II when Your Mama will discuss Miz Mellon’s recent actions to significantly decrease the size of her fat property portfolio that includes (or currently included) high-maintenance residences and estates in Paris (France), Nantucket and Cape Cod (Osterville), Antigua, New York City, and perfectly pastoral, equestrian-oriented and very upscale Upperville, Virginia where she reigns supreme over the unquestionably epic 4,000-or-so acre Oak Spring Farm.
listing photos and floor plan: TTR / Sotheby’s International Realty