Home & Style

See a Tour of Tech Entrepreneur Frank Islam’s Potomac Mansion

Lots of columns, a giant koi pond, and piles of presidential memorabilia, including a knockoff Oval Office desk.

When information technology entrepreneur Frank Islam and his wife, Debbie Driesman, bought the two Potomac lots they would merge to build their new home, they let the local fire department knock down the existing houses. Just as a practice exercise.

Islam and Driesman’s 40,000-square-foot mansion, which they named Norton Manor—after the pocket of Potomac in which it’s located and, presumably, because it’s cool to give your house a name—features long colonnades, a reflecting pool, a tea house, and a 2,000-square-foot koi pond. And that’s just the exterior.

The interior is the subject of the second installment of the NowThisNews video series “DC Cribs,” a takeoff on the old MTV celebrity house porn series Cribs. (It’s also featured in a spread in the September issue of Washington Life.) Inside, Islam and Driesman, with the help of their decorator, are keen on presidential memorabilia, including busts of Washington and Lincoln, and throw pillows that are replicas of ones used in the White House.

Islam is also quite proud of the desk in his library, a replica of the one in the Oval Office crafted from timbers of the British ship HMS Resolute. The real desk, gifted by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880, was first placed in the Oval Office by President John F. Kennedy. Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford opted for other desks. President Obama uses the desk, and of the last six presidents, only George H. W. Bush declined it.

Of course, the actual Resolute desk is made from the remnants of a British ship that explored the Arctic until it got lodged in the ice and had to be abandoned. It was only recovered thanks to an American whaling ship that stumbled upon it in an ice flow. Islam and Driesman’s desk is just a very convincing knockoff. And you can get one, too. A fake Resolute desk goes for $6,495 on Amazon.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.