“I wanted it to be from our soul,” she says of their decision not to use an interior decorator. “You make a lot of mistakes but at the end of the day you get what you want. He agrees. “She has a wonderful eye for detail, color and textures.” The couple’s DIY home decorating approach was no small task. The spacious terrace is landscaped with Japanese maples (for privacy), apple trees and flowers. Their penthouse has 6,700 square feet of indoor living space. The large windows are covered in sheer draperies. The furniture style is classic. Every room includes Asian ascents. The Cohens honeymooned in China, where they fell in love with Asian design. “The spirit of the house is Asian,” she says.
The Cohens like to share a laugh over the number of trips they made to Washington area furniture stores since marrying in 1996. Colony House, Mastercraft Interiors and Green Front Furniture are three of their favorites. They also love Upscale Resale, for antiques and used furniture. Langhart Cohen, who was raised by her mother in Chicago, says as a child she dreamed of “living in a castle or mansion” with all new things. “As a girl I wore second hand cloths.” But over the years, she learned to cherish items with history. “The funny thing is, now I like having things that have been owned by another person,” she says. One of the favorite pieces in her home is an 1863 grandfather clock, which sits in the hall outside the dining room. “It was made before the Emancipation Proclamation, so I can only imagine how many people must have had that clock.” Cohen’s favorite pieces of furniture has some history too: a black leather Eames Lounge he bought in 1966, after graduating from law school. The chair, in the corner of his home office, is where he likes to decompress and write.
The Cohens moved here five years ago, downsizing from a home in McLean. The penthouse is two condos joined together. It includes a huge living room, media room, library, solarium, dining room, home office, study/music room, home gym, 4 1/2 baths, master bedroom suite and kitchen with room for a crowd. Nearly all of their furniture was brought from their McLean property, including the white sofas and club chairs in the living room, mirrors, side tables and art.
The only room the Cohens didn’t decorate is their sleek Poggenpohl kitchen, with birdseye maple cabinets, black granite counters and stainless steel appliances. It’s an enviable space, if you’re into modern purism, which Langhart Cohen is not. “The kitchen was here when we moved in,” she says, “It just isn’t me. ” She dreams of ripping it out and replacing it with a white country kitchen. “Bill said no.”
The Cohens, who are both in their 60s, enjoy the ease and security of condo living. “This feels like a vacation, without having to pack and travel. It’s so relaxing,” says Cohen, who travels 70 percent of the year with his consulting firm, The Cohen Group. Their condo development has outdoor tennis courts, swimming pools, a steam room, masseuse and meeting rooms which can accommodate TV crews when they interview Cohen on world affairs (CNN came the day of the Washington Life Magazine interview). Their three-story McLean house was “grand” but Langhart Cohen says she felt too isolated when her husband was away. “I’ve grown up in apartments, condos or government projects so I’m accustomed to everything on one floor,” she says.
The security and convenience of the Chevy Chase condo is also ideal for entertaining heads of state, diplomats and Washington power brokers. The centerpiece of their formal dining room is a round table, which seats up to twelve. “I like a round table because no one is competing. Everyone feels equal,” explains Langhart Cohen. Just as important as the shape of the table, are the ground rules at the Cohens’ penthouse dinner parties. “I want people to know everything is off the record. This is a learning table,” she says.
Conversation at the Cohens’ can quickly turns to world events, politics and race in America (the theme of their memoir). WL interviewed the Cohens on April 4, the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Langhart Cohen was friends with King. “He was kind, wise and gentle,” she says. On the anniversary of his death “I think about my marriage to Bill and Martin’s big dream of little black girls holding hands with little white boys,” she says. “We did more than hold hands. We joined our hearts.”
The Cohens are clearly proud and appreciative of all they have accomplished, reflected in the substantial Chevy Chase condo they decorated together. “It’s serene,” he says. “I like everything here,” she says. “And when Bill comes home, I love everything.”