By Kathy Orton,
“I used to call it the house in the sky,” Kate Novak said of the penthouse at the Residences at Harbourside in Georgetown.
When her husband, Alan Novak, purchased the property, he planned to erect two office buildings there. He asked Arthur Cotton Moore, who was the architect for the Washington Harbour complex, to design them.
But Kate, who is from Sweden, had other ideas. She knew that country was looking for a new home for its embassy around that time.
“I simply said to him, teasingly, ‘You just will have to change your plans and make a proposal to the Swedish ambassador,’ ” she said. “ ‘And let me just remind you, darling husband, we do not want your building. We would like a Swedish building.’ ”
House of Sweden, designed by Swedish architects Gert Wingardh and Tomas Hansen, now occupies one of two buildings. The other houses the Residences at Harbourside, a luxury condominium complex. Moore altered his design for this building so that it would complement the Swedish-designed building next door.
Completed in 2008, the six-story building has just six residences, including this two-level penthouse that was the Novaks’ home.
“Since I knew the developer, I had the chance to pick one I would dream about purchasing,” Kate said. “I felt the space was so interesting. I was in a hard hat, literally up there with the builders, as the building went up because I wanted to really know where the light hit. I wanted to wake up with the morning sun, and I wanted to live with a view.”
Kate worked with architect Richard Williams to design the space.
“I liked Richard,” she said. “We worked extremely well together. He’s much more into modern furnishings than I am.”
The dining room, which can seat up to 18, opens above to the second floor, giving it a nearly 20-foot ceiling.
A private elevator leads to the 6,000-square-foot penthouse, which lives more like a suburban home than an urban condo. A long entry hall leads to a library and two bedrooms on the right. The kitchen, dining and living rooms are on the left, with the owner’s suite tucked along the far left side. The dining room, which can seat up to 18, opens above to the second floor, giving it a nearly 20-foot ceiling. The living room has a gas fireplace.
The penthouse has walls of glass on two sides, providing natural light and sweeping views of the Potomac River, the Kennedy Center, Roosevelt Island and the Washington Monument. Nearly every room has a view, and most rooms open to terraces. Between the two levels, the terraces span 3,400 square feet. The upper terrace has a heated pool.
The second level has another kitchen, a bedroom, an exercise room and a sauna. An elevator inside the apartment runs between the two floors. The unit comes with two parking spaces in the secure garage.
“I always felt that that place had joy built into the walls,” Kate said. “I get sunsets every night that just make my spirits rise.”
The sauna is on the second level.
The upper terrace has a heated pool.
Alan had his offices in the building, which made for an easy commute.
“I can only tell you the joy of him working two floors below and coming up for lunch,” Kate said. “We enjoyed that space. I loved just getting everybody there. . . . This was such a great way to be, the age we were, and to be able to share this with everyone we cared for and were interested in.”
But then Alan Novak, the real estate developer and venture capitalist, died in 2018.
“When Alan died, I just felt” there were too many memories, Kate said. “I put the apartment up for sale, and it’s really because I don’t want to be alone there.”
The four-bedroom, five-bathroom penthouse is listed at $12 million. Condo fees are $5,643 monthly.
The view from the terraces includes the Potomac River, the Kennedy Center, Roosevelt Island and the Washington Monument.
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