By Georgia Shallcross
As the French say, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Dazzling changes and improvements have come to the Georgetown neighborhood, yet the soul of the charming, historic enclave is impervious to change.
This was apparent after I received a call from real estate agent extraordinaire Nancy Taylor Bubes of Washington Fine Properties. “Your old house from 22 years ago is on the market again … Stop by!” I was greeted by Nancy and her client Laurence Haim, the dashing White House correspondent for Paris-based Canal+. “J’adore Georgetown,” he declared. “It has the best of America in a European way. People really take care of their homes and the gardens are magnifique.”
Another house that had not changed hands in four decades is the N Street residence of Beverly and Leo Bernstein. New buyers Nancy and Marc Duber were welcomed by neighbors at a drinks party given by Nancy Taylor Bubes. Among the guests were mayoral candidate Councilman Jack Evans, Fran and Stuart Kenworthy, John and Kristen Cecchi and Samar and Will Langhorne. John Cecchi completed the stunning renovation for the Dubers.
On to decorate! Georgetown is known for an array of antiques and home furnishing shops, so it was a delight to chat with one of the more colorful longtime residents of Georgetown. In his trademark tangerine corduroys (“I made orange chic!”) Jean-Pierre Sarfati’s cozy shop on P Street is a place to see and be seen.
From hairdresser to the stars, including Bianca Jagger and Donna Karan, to antiquaire to the stars (Did I hear Oprah?) Jean-Pierre is passionate about bringing les arts decoratifs to Georgetown. Within minutes I left with a Louis XVI bench and a Florentine gilt box. The best of Europe in America, to be sure.
If there were a de facto Mayor of Georgetown it would certainly be the internationally acclaimed designer Frank Babb Randolph. With his distinguished movie-star looks and sartorial savvy, Frank lives in Henry Kissinger’s former home and epitomizes the timeless elegance and classicism that make Georgetown desirable. I spoke with Frank while he was in Palm Beach. “It is great to be in 82-degree weather, but I miss Georgetown. You can walk everywhere.” As co-chair of the Georgetown House Tour (the oldest house tour in America) for the past two years, Frank’s passion for “the village” is inspirational.
Georgetown’s enduring tradition of supporting local artists was in full swing at the Citizen’s Association of Georgetown annual art show at the House of Sweden. “There is much more of a buzz this year than last,” observed debonair artist Robin Hill and companion Marsha Carter. Hundreds of guests clamored to view the wonderful images in all manner of genres. Among the artists were Wendy Makins, Betsey Cooley, Diana Laurie, Sidney Lawrence, Juliet Davis and Fabiono Amin.
Upon departing I spoke with Georgetown resident Pam Peabody who looked stunning in a cerulean blue jacket and black cigarette pants. Pam had spent the holidays in Costa Rica with husband Mike, sons Payson and Carter Peabody and their darling grandchildren. (There, they spotted the newly engaged Clara Bingham). Yet it was back to business as I learned from a chat with Mike later that evening. After 17 years devoted to education (FOCUS), Mike’s new mission is campaign finance reform. We wish him success!
Breezing down the street from an art gallery opening to a new boutique hotel that is quite simply a work of art, Capella is Georgetown’s new masterpiece. “We don’t do names,” said the cosmopolitan General Manager Alex Obertop, with a gleam in his eye. Privacy and discretion are what attract a local and international clientele to this exquisite property, opened by longtime Georgetowners Bruce and Sharon Bradley. “Georgetown feels like Europe and we want to offer our patrons an experience that is nonpareil,” Obertop effused. Winston Churchill once revealed (maybe more than once) that he “cannot live without Champagne.” The old British bulldog would have loved Capella; it has the best bubbly in town.
A Washington institution that credits its longevity to being able to change is Cafe Milano. “How do you stay young!” asked Franco Nuschese, Milano’s inimitable owner. “La Prarie?” I answered in a bemused manner. Milano’s maestro wasn’t talking about me, yet the question was a perfect metaphor for the secret of Cafe Milano’s astonishing success. “Energy…We have energy. It has everything about what I love about Georgetown. I opened 22 years ago in November and we are still here!”
La plus ça change.