January 6, 2012 10:49 pm

Pizza and politerati

Juleanna Glover designed her house to withstand a constant stream of parties for Washington’s A-list

Juleanna Glover’s house in Washington DC is the definition of a multi-use space. Between parties for the politerati, dinners for business honchos and impromptu dance shows by gaggles of children, versatility is the order of the day.

“Everything about this house is made to have red wine spilled on it or be danced on,” says Glover, 42, a lobbyist (she prefers the term “corporate consultant”) with strong ties to the Republican party, who hosts some of the US capital’s most glamorous cocktail parties.

The main floor of her 1911 Georgian house in Washington’s chichi Kalorama neighbourhood could belong to any of the embassies that line her street: the chandeliers, the moulded ceilings, the mahogany dining table, the heavy drapes. But the shrieks of an indeterminate number of children signal that this is also a family house.

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Glover was press secretary to Dick Cheney while he was vice-president and has worked for other Republican party luminaries including Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who flirted with senatorial and presidential bids, and Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard.

She advised businessman Steve Forbes during his 2000 presidential campaign and John McCain in 2008, and is now backing Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and ambassador to China, in his bid to win the 2012 GOP nomination. But her full-time job is at the lobbying firm the Ashcroft Group, established by John Ashcroft, George W. Bush’s first attorney-general and a key proponent of the Patriot Act introduced after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Her clients at the Ashcroft Group, where she is a founding principal, include Blackwater, the controversial private security contractor hired to support the US invasion of Iraq, a Lebanese bank accused of links to money launderers, and other companies with “law enforcement challenges”. However, as we speak, Glover is sitting in her spacious white kitchen, unfazed that she does not know quite how many – “between 12 and 30” – people will descend on her house for dinner the following night.

The front foyer

The front foyer

During the interview, visitors arrive to see her new baby Leopold, her son with partner Christopher Reiter, owner of the upscale Washington furniture store Muléh. Meanwhile, her two daughters and son from her previous marriage tumble downstairs with friends in tow.

Glover bought the house, with its 10 bedrooms and seven bathrooms, in 2002 with her then-husband, the lobbyist Jeffrey Weiss, from the “remarkable” Gertie d’Amecourt, a well-known society hostess who turned 100 last year. It had not been renovated in years so they set to getting the main floor “in order”, stripping paint and redoing the floors.

The original kitchen was downstairs, with a staircase up to a small serving area on the main floor. That was all ripped out and is now a large white space with stainless steel appliances and a huge island in the centre. It is the centre of family life, the scene of “pizza night” – the children make their own – and the gravitational centre of many of the parties they throw. “We can pack 25 people in here now and people always congregate in the kitchen,” Glover says.

The refitted kitchen, the centre of family life

The refitted kitchen, the centre of family life

Much of the main living space remains in its original format, although Reiter is gradually adding his modern touch to the furnishings. The traditional chandelier hanging over the dark mahogany table in the dining room will soon be installed with a “terrifyingly avant garde” six-foot-long lampshade, Glover says.

The historic status of the house restricts them from making dramatic changes. “You can’t even change a window around here,” Glover says, referring to her street, which she shares with the residence of the Libyan ambassador, which has flags of liberated Libya flying from the upstairs windows.

Books by acquaintances are arranged in piles

Books by acquaintances are arranged in piles on the advice of an interior decorator friend

The main front room has not yet been “Muléh-ed,” as Glover puts it, although two modern stools sit next to the plain brown couches. The books, many of them by Glover’s acquaintances, are arranged in piles on the advice of an interior decorator friend. A painting she picked up from an antique shop in Georgetown hangs opposite a black-and-red triptych showing dark trees, a work she bought from the artist. “I really like them but everyone tells me I have horrible taste in art,” she says.

A mirrored side table was picked up in a consignment store, while the sturdy coffee table in the centre of the room is surprisingly tattered. “Life is complicated enough. We don’t want to be worried about ruining the furniture,” she says. Despite the stately rooms and the artwork-as-lighting, functionality is key: the main floor is covered in commercial-grade carpet, able to withstand a constant stream of dinner parties and drinks events.

‘Artwork-as-lighting’ on the main floor of the house

‘Artwork-as-lighting’ on the main floor of the house

The lobbying business is all about who you know, and Glover’s parties attract lots of Republicans but also Democrats, journalists and think-tank types. She often packs 220 people into her house, throwing soirées for causes such as Vital Voices Global Partnership, an organisation providing mentoring for women leaders around the world, or book parties for the likes of Dana Milbank, the Washington Post columnist, or Fred Thompson, the former Republican senator.

She recently held a dinner party for 45 Chinese chief executives – “I think we had 4 per cent of China’s GDP in here” – who were visiting Washington. Through her firm, Glover arranged for them to meet John Bryson, the new commerce secretary, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Despite her Republican credentials, Glover says she likes to create a “formidable bipartisan embrace” in her house. “There is such good that can come out of cross-pollination, not just on the war on terror but on any public policy issue. It might sound Pollyanna-ish but it’s what I believe.”

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Favourite things

wooden wall clock

Near the back of the entrance hall hangs a coloured photograph of Glover’s great-great-great-grandmother, Catherine Bradford Auston. “I got this from my grandmother, my father’s mother, who is a genealogist, and has looked into things back to the Magna Carta. It’s come down through the family.”

Also in the entrance hall is a wooden wall clock that belonged to her mother, who bought it in Thailand. Glover’s father was a Green Beret in Vietnam and her mother moved to Bangkok to be near him. Glover was born in Bangkok, and the clock’s chimes were the soundtrack of her childhood but not of her own children’s. While her mother always kept the clock wound up, Glover often forgets. “My mother is a much more punctilious woman than me,” she says.

Anna Fifield is the FT’s US political correspondent

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