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A Conversation With Country Mouse, Simon Jacobsen

September 30, 2020

Since the 1970's when I first set eyes on Hugh’s Georgetown 'Tuscan Villa' remodel on Q Street, I've been in love with Jacobsen Architecture


Late last year, Simon moved his family to the country. I had a chance to sit down with the world-renowned architect to learn more about the dramatic transition.

The Piedmont (Photo by: Jacobsen Architecture) The Piedmont

DISH: You’ve resided and had your architecture practice in Georgetown for the past 54 years. Now that it’s been almost a year since you traded in your navy blazer for overalls and moved to Delaplane, Virginia, how does it feel?


SJ: This is a very special part of the world. Its rolling hills and green pastures are very reminiscent of Vermont. It is peaceful and quiet and our closest neighbor is 1/8 of a mile away. The air is sweet and smells of flowers and not a Metro bus. Birds are always singing and there are no gunshots or sirens. Madame, I do not wear overalls. A jaunt through town will often reveal more Guccis per capita than Washington.

(Photo by: Simon Jacobsen)

DISH: What a perfect time to practice social distancing. What’s it been like for you and your family to shelter in place in the country?


SJ: It was not by design that we moved out here just before the pandemic struck and the economy went into a slide. Ruth and I have always admired our friends who had pastures in the country and took up residence there.


We came to a point last year where we just asked ourselves, “If not now, then when?” At the time we were not even certain if this would only be a weekend estate, but we purchased Margo and put our toes in the water, and then we decided to stay and stay for good. We enrolled our son in school in The Plains and our 18-year old daughter shot off to college in Virginia. (In state tuition is something new to me now and I like it.)

(Photo by: Simon Jacobsen)

DISH: I may have lost count, but I think you have four ducks, two turkeys and a wrangled calf his mother wasn’t keen about. For a minute there, also seven rescued kittens. What’s it like on the ark?


SJ: For awhile it was like that. Every time time we would take our country walks down a peaceful lane, we came home with some animal in tow that needed attention. The count so far has been four baby ground hogs, nine abandoned kittens, four ducks, two white turkeys, a Black Angus calf. All have been repatriated to the mothers or to good homes except for the fowl. They are just too funny to watch and have become family.

(Photo by: Simon Jacobsen)

DISH: We’re all working from home at the moment. Any adjustments now that you are truly remote?


SJ: I have to admit, it was very strange at first and slightly panicky as this was something new to me and everyone else, however, the business stays in operation and my weekly trips across the country have stopped, and it is for the better. I never thought it could be this way; it’s easier and not so chaotic. 


Zoom meetings, texts and calls with clients and staff seem normal now, and I am not worried about getting mugged. 


The first order of business was to install a whole house generator as the power goes off without reason and no real anticipation of a return to normalcy can be expected. This is country life for sure and looks remote but really, it isn’t. 


Everything we need is 5-10-20 minutes away such as excellent restaurants, grocery stores, etc. The area has some of the best specialty food stores like artisan butchers, bakeries and organic produce all within arms reach. Driving to these places is half the fun as it so beautiful. 


Our neighbors are fantastic and there is a feeling of fellowship with each other out here. We do need each other because small problems can become bigger ones right quick. But the funny thing is, many of the people here are either Washingtonians, or DC expats. Many still commute into town for their businesses. Several are members of The Metropolitan Club. This particular area makes for a quick and reasonable trip into Washington because our proximity to I-66. Fifty-five minutes on a good day.


Business has been exceptionally surprising. Jacobsen Architecture will be opening an office in Middleburg and Los Angeles. Our Washington HQ will remain.

(Photo by: Simon Jacobsen)

DISH: Can you tell us a little about the history of your homestead. Have you made any design changes since you moved in?


SJ: The house is a series of white gabled country vernacular forms all joined together at different times starting in 1941 and is very “Jacobsen” in nature. It was an active horse farm prior and has stables and barns and substantial grounds and a pond that is stocked with Large Mouth Bass. It has an elegant pool over looking the pond. That is where we quarantined over the summer.


The house needs some minor adjustments which we are drawing now (I know an architect who works for free in this case.)

(Photo by: Simon Jacobsen)

DISH: What surprised you the most in making a dramatic lifestyle change?


SJ: The biggest surprise was how much we love it out here. Ruth is from a small agricultural town in Washington State so this is close to her heart. The children and I had no real experience in the country unless it was a rental house in the South of France. I realized that we had always wanted to live like this. Fifty-five years of living in Georgetown and other cities had blinded me to the possibility of something else.


DISH: Porsche or John Deere?


SJ: This is fancy horse country so you will see on the highway an assortment of combines, tractors pulling hay mixed in with Bentleys, Teslas, etc.

(Photo by: Simon Jacobsen)

DISH: Maybe it's not the best time to ask, but what do you miss most about DC?


SJ: We have many friends in Washington that we miss, but the virus has sent us all indoors or apart, so we could not have seen them safely anyway. I do miss my old haunts such as The Prime Rib, Martin’s, Milano, La Chaumiere. We will be back as Covid will not last forever. 


Like a sick friend, I just hope they can hold on until we do.

(Photo by: Simon Jacobsen)

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Le Labo: A Scent Sensation

September 27, 2020

Any parfumerie that invites you to discover your signature fragrance by answering a Proust questionaire has got my attention. Le Labo was founded in 2006 in New York City by Eddie Roschi and Fabrice Penot, and sold to Estee Lauder in 2014.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

Recently opened at 3005 M Street in Georgetown, the brand is known for its unique, signature fragrances (Santal 33 being the most popular). Le Labo also carries candles, and hair, face, body and grooming products. Each scent is handmade in the shop's laboratory, using vegan ingredients and natural oils. Fragrances are compounded at the time of purchase with the client's name printed on the labels of the boxes and the perfume bottles. 

(Photo by: lelabofragrances.com)

Le Labo produces 18 fragrances and 9 ambient room scents. The formulations do not include animal products, paraben, preservatives or coloration, and are not tested on animals.


Using a standard naming convention for each of their scents, each fragrance is named after the primary scent note and given a number, which indicates the composition's total ingredient count.


My personal favorite is home fragrance Calone 17. Described as "light, the sea, and its breeze brought to your living room. Marine notes are mixed with geranium and amber for a striking result that transforms your house into a sea cottage. The scent is so evocative, you may forget you’re not just a few steps away from the salt-tinged waters of Anse de Grande Saline in St. Barth’s."  

There are 13 City Exclusive scents which are available only at specific locations. For example, Vanille 44 is sold in Paris and Gaiac 10 in Tokyo.


During September only, these exclusive scents are available for purchase at the Georgetown location.

3005 M Street NW (Photo by: Judith Beermann) 3005 M Street NW

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Levain Bakery Open Now in Georgetown

September 17, 2020

Victor greeting guests (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Victor greeting guests

Iconic Levain Bakery has opened at 3131 M Street with an exclusive cookie collaboration with DC pastry chef Paola Velez, benefitting Horton’s Kids. 


The opening marks the beloved brand’s first retail bakery outside of New York. “Georgetown is a fantastic neighborhood with no shortage of amazing bakeries and sweet shops; D.C. clearly has a big sweet tooth and we’re honored to help satisfy it,” say Levain Bakery co-founders Pam Weekes and Connie McDonald. “We’ve fallen in love with Georgetown as we have snacked and explored our way around the neighborhood. We’re eager to share cookie joy with our new neighbors.” 

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

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