OUTDOOR DESIGN - Transformed Narrow Yard Into A Tropical Oasis

 Transforming Candy Crowley's narrow yard into a tropical oasis.

For CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, decorating is all about capturing her memories. “I put things around my house from places I’ve been or from a person I love,” she says on a tour of her Bethesda home. 

Artfully arranged throughout her overhauled 1950s rambler are souvenirs collected on trips covering politicians as well as treasured family heirlooms. Nearly every eclectic item elicits a story from Crowley, who bought the house in 1993, six years after moving from 

Dahlias, sweet potato vines and elephant ears cascade over the pool, where Crowley swims her daily laps.

 “was carried around for weeks.” 

Pointing to the terracotta statues of soldiers in her dining and living rooms, she explains, “I saw the originals on a China trip I took with [President Ronald] Reagan. I bought the fake ones on a trip to China with [President Bill] Clinton.” On the living-room mantelpiece, a quirky red pitcher purchased in South Carolina during the 2000 presidential primary 

The ornate Asian screen next to the fireplace was passed down from her grandparents and an antique trunk came from her great-grandmother. Crowley’s brother Howard Alt, who is in the furniture business, directed her purchase of leather club chairs in the family room and a toile-upholstered settee in the living room.
“There isn’t a place in my house where I can’t remember someone or somewhere,” says the reporter.

In the dining room, a wall of windows overlooks the pool and fountain.

Renovations continue outdoors where a flat patch of grass in the backyard has been transformed into a luxuriant garden. In designing the narrow space, Tom Mannion of Tom Mannion Landscape Design in Arlington, Virginia, took his inspiration from Crowley’s reporting trips during the 2000 presidential election. “She spent a lot of time in Florida and she really liked the tropical gardens there,” recalls Mannion. “So we introduced lush foliage and summer annuals that have a tropical edge.”

The Asian screen in the living room was handed down by Crowley's grandparents.

Set within a retaining wall alongside the pool is a fountain inscribed with the yin-yang symbol to reflect Crowley’s interest in Asian design. Dahlias, sweet potato vines and elephant ears spill over the wall to soften the stonework with color and texture. 

Crowley has dubbed her bedroom walls "Gephardt" blue.

This outdoor space is easily reached through sliding doors opening from the kitchen. To update the cooking space, Crowley called upon Hemingway Home Improvement’s Scott Churilla, a childhood friend of her son Jonathan, and Studio Z Design Concepts, both of Bethesda.

“We tried to give her a look that exemplifies her style, which mixes modern, Asian and collected pieces from around the world,” says Churilla.

The bathroom's spacious vanity and soaking tub.

Handsomely remodeled with dark-stained wood cabinets, granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances, the kitchen opens to the dining room where a wall of windows provides views of the garden and pool fountain.

Crowley says her favorite room is her corner bedroom where the walls are painted in what she calls “Dick Gephardt blue,” named for the former Missouri congressman and leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. “His office was so gorgeous and had this color on the wall so I copied it,” she recalls. 

In the adjacent bathroom, the shower and soaking tub are decorated with purple mosaic tiles, some seemingly placed at random.  “I don’t like stuff that’s too planned or neat,” says Crowley. “If it makes me happy, I put it there. What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s okay to be your own stylist.” 

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