This office in an early-20th-century Georgetown house takes over what was once a sitting room off the master bedroom. Here’s how architect David Jones created a modern and functional space that’s respectful of the home’s character.
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Photograph by Gordon Beall.
This article appears in the March 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
City dwellers know the drill: One price of urban living is the inevitable lack of space—or the actual price of paying for more room. That’s why it’s so important to maximize space-saving and storage-containing in every inch of your teensy home. Click through the slideshow for ten furniture buys designed to stay small, do double-duty, and stash all your stuff.
When Beth Stewart set out to redecorate her Logan Circle loft, she knew she needed help. She had a clear idea of the style she wanted to go for—assertive yet feminine—but the space presented some unusual challenges. The walls were white cement blocks, for one. The living room was a double-height space, but the bedrooms were much more petite. And huge, red-framed windows were the dominating feature. “They’re a great example of why I needed a designer. I see red windows, and my pedestrian instinct is to match them. I would have ended up with a nautical-themed apartment,” says Stewart. Enter designer Marika Meyer. “One of Marika’s great insights was to say, ‘No, we’ll just treat them as a neutral,’” Stewart explains.
Meyer also sourced items that would introduce additional pops of color and warm up the all-white space. She found a vintage armchair, which she had custom painted and reupholstered in a bold fuchsia velvet that reflects the hue of the window frames while neither matching nor clashing. She added a clear Lucite cocktail table to help retain a sense of space. It was important to Stewart that she keep some of her existing furniture, so the beige sectional and her ivory dining chairs stayed. Then the pair started sprinkling in some major statement pieces: Down came the boring track lighting, replaced by an oversize chandelier. A glam white lacquer table creates a dramatic moment just inside the door.
Upstairs, the bedroom offered similar challenges. “When I walked into this space, it just felt cold. And it was July,” says Meyer. “The concrete walls, all the windows—all those great interesting assets, but for the bedroom it was too severe. So it was about softening.” Panels of patterned curtains introduced texture and color to the room, and a linen-upholstered bed frame made the space feel inviting and soothing.
Click through the slideshow for a more detailed glimpse at this home.
It’s arguably the most epic before-and-after project in town. And this Saturday, the curious will get a shot at scoping the raw “before” space of the 2014 DC Design House, which will open briefly to the public for the annual Bare Bones Tour. The next time it opens, get ready for a serious reveal.
The fundraising design project—which began in 2008 to benefit the Children’s National Health System—will spotlight local designers transforming 29 spaces in this year’s nearly 8,000-square-foot home, a stone estate in Forest Hills that was built in 1929 and originally owned by the founder of the Madison Hotel, Marshall B. Coyne, who was an avid collector of artwork, French furniture, and historical documents. The home was donated by Coyne’s granddaughter Suzi Wilczynski, who currently owns the property. “This year’s house had a great history, with 60 years in the same family,” says Susan Hays Long, the chair and board member of the DC Design House. “How amazing it is to have the DC Design House at Marshall Coyne’s home, the home he lived in before he moved to his 30th Street house, which was filled with his collections. We love a home with local history, mystery, or something unique. That works for our search process.”
The six-bedroom home also retains many of its original features, such as crown molding, wood floors, and custom cabinetry. The age of this year’s host site makes it a more challenging project than last year’s showhouse, which was a new construction—this year, the project required renovation and earlier involvement from the designers, says DC Design House cofounder Skip Singleton.
Keep reading to get a first look at the raw space, along with some of the designer’s inspirations, renderings and proposed designs—then head to the showhouse on Saturday for a complete view of the home before its transformation is revealed April 13.
2014 DC Design House. 4600 Linnean Ave., NW. Bare Bones Tour Saturday 11 to 3. $5 or free with the purchase of a $25 ticket to be used during the complete home’s monthlong run.
Designer: Kelley Proxmire, Kelley Interior Design
The inspiration: Proxmire wanted to pay homage to the history and architecture of the house, incorporating the glamour and sophistication of the 1920s while creating a space that is also livable and inviting. Mixes of antiques and contrasting metallics keep the space unique and interesting; modern and colorful pieces give the space interest and an updated overall feel. She intends to retain the original crown molding and flooring. Planned design elements include a large sisal area rug layered with an Oriental rug, high-gloss lacquer gray paint with white trims, a soft blue ceiling, and silver metallic detail etched around the border of the room. The grating on the built-ins will be lined with a crisp white silk to complement the white woodwork. Overall, the room will be kept neutral and comfortable with whites, grays, silvers, and some hints of a warm gold. For furniture, Proxmire will blend a traditional look with a few unexpected, updated pieces, such as the white sofa with straight lines and two acrylic Chinese Chippendale chairs. The tables will incorporate wood, metal, and glass, while all the upholstered pieces will be a mixture of whites, grays, and splashes of gold.
Who better to take color-pairing advice from than someone who named her design company Bossy Color? Interior designer Annie Elliott recently mentioned on her blog that one of her 2014 design goals was to get a little edgy with her pairings—so we asked her to share some of her favorite unexpectedly awesome hue duos. Read on to see what she’s loving together right now, along with her paint picks, then give these color teams a try in your own home—whether you go bold by pairing paints or start small with a contrasting decor accent is up to you.
Blush + Mustard
Elliott loves the combination of blush pink with the warmth of golden yellow. “The mustard takes the sweetness out of the pink, so you can just appreciate its glow,” she says.
Navy + Chartreuse
Love navy but want to update it? Chartreuse is a fresh contrast. “The edgy greenish yellow is such a great counterpoint to navy’s conservative vibe,” says Elliott.
Blue + Black
We’re already showed you this eye-catching Elliott-designed interior from a Chevy Chase home, which pairs a vibrant cobalt blue with rich black accents. Not ready to go quite so bright? Elliot likes a darker blue with black, too.
Light Orchid + Deep Green
Here’s how Elliott recommends working in the year’s biggest hue: “If you MUST adapt the color of the year into your decor—Pantone, what did we do to deserve the curse of Radiant Orchid?—I suggest graying it down and pairing it with a green so dark it’s almost black.”
In 2008, Jennifer Bertrand won the third season of HGTV’s Design Star. Then she seemed to drop out of the spotlight entirely. The reason for her absence? Turns out Bertrand got pregnant, and her son was born with two rare malformations and major medical issues, necessitating an eventual 20 surgeries. After taking a hiatus while dealing with her son’s health problems, she’s back to design—and she’s busier than ever. These days, she’s hard at work designing an 18,000-square-foot home for the Ronald McDonald House, writing magazine articles, traveling to home shows, and serving as a spokesperson for the International Design Guild. The past several years may have been a rollercoaster, but there’s an upside: “It’s made me a better designer, because once you face real-life things, it’s really easy to pick a paint color and encourage people to take risks,” she says.
This weekend, Bertrand headlines the Capital Home & Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center, alongside Curb Appeal host John Giddings. During her appearance, Bertrand will reveal the top design mistakes and how to conquer them. Read on to find out why this pink-haired designer’s favorite paint color is white, why she won’t be using that Radiant Orchid hue anytime soon, and why the best design strategy is to just slow it down.
You work with lots of color in your designs. How do you suggest a colorphobe ease into using bold hues?
When I get free rein I tend to get a little kooky and happy, because I want you to walk into a room and have it change how you feel. But I also appreciate those people who say, “Jen, just because you sometimes have pink hair . . .” I don’t expect them to like color how I like color, but I want them to understand how to create a color story in their home, even if it’s just white and shades of linen. The thing is, you have to focus on the un-fun stuff first before you just jump in and buy a paint can and watch one TV show and say, “I’m going to tackle it this weekend”—because what happens is that your house looks schizophrenic.
So it’s really teaching people that even though you get super-psyched and excited to paint, it’s sometimes about slowing down and having a plan before you do it. Which is so boring to say, but you’ll be glad later, because you won’t be repainting.
So what is the “un-fun stuff”? How do you create that plan?
Ultimately, it’s deciding: How do you want your space to feel? People will say something like “happy and bright” or “soothing and sophisticated.” Then start grabbing paint chips you’re drawn to, and once you start laying them next to each other you’ll start seeing how one color can overshadow another.
What are your favorite paint colors right now?
You know how they always have the color of the year? [This year] it’s orchid. And I love orchid, but that makes me not want to use orchid because it’s the color of the year. I have a secret rebellion about it. Honestly, it’s more about what makes people happy. Everything that’s cool is cyclical; it’ll come back around eventually. My house is kind of like Florida-retirement-home colors—all soothing and calm, rococo ice-cream palette.
Honestly—and this sounds really lame—but I love white paint. If most everything is white, then you can change your artwork, you can lacquer a side table, and you still have this neutral base that lets you play with color but not be extreme about it.
What is the easiest way to make a big impact in your home?
The most cost-efficient one is paint. That’s kind of how I became “the paint girl.” It’s not that I’m obsessed with paint; it just was the easiest way to spend $50, put in a little sweat, and change the whole feel.
The next thing is lighting. Lighting is one of the unsung heroes of design. It’s changing the fixtures to be the proper focal point that they should be; or, if you want a cleaner look, spending the money to put in the proper cans or dimmers to create the necessary ambience.
What are your top tips for decorating on a budget?
Slow down and create a plan. What happens is that you don’t have money, so you buy lots of little things, and you end up with lots of small things and no design impact. Instead, I teach people to save up and get the thing you really need for the space instead of a bunch of tchotchkes that make you look like a hoarder. Once you have a plan and are buying things one at a time, then you can start painting, start purchasing.
And I say this from experience—I don’t try to say, “my son has a medical thing, so . . .” but when we had to focus on real-life payment stuff, then I had to figure out, “Okay, how do I get creative?” And so then it was really being patient and focusing on one room at a time.
I’m the queen of Target decor. Target has great accessories, and Marshall’s, even.
What other budget-friendly sources do you like?
Etsy is one of my all-time favorites. It’s a great way for people to have real art and support small artists, and it takes you a step above a poster or something you’d find in a big-box store.
I even use Overstock—I’m not a snob about that. Lamps Plus online has clearance open-box items that I use. I tend to love Craigslist and 1960s estate sales more, though.
At this weekend’s show, you will be sharing the top 12 design mistakes. Can you give us a sneak preview?
One thing is scale—lighting scale is commonly a big mistake. More than likely, people have the wrong-size light; they go too small in their dining room. You want the light that looks like it’s on steroids in certain spaces. It’s like the Louboutin of the home. It makes the dramatic moment.
Another common mistake is curtain height. I don’t know why they still sell them at 84 inches—because they should never be hung at 84 inches—but that’s the standard size in stores. I don’t want anyone to go below 96 inches. So if you want to save the curtains you have, just colorblock and sew on a chunk of fabric at the bottom. Then you can use your curtains but hang them at the proper height of two inches below the ceiling, which adds instant drama. It freaks people out, but then once they start seeing pictures of rooms that have that, they realize it is right. Sometimes people just need someone to tell them, “It’s going to be okay, you’re going to be fine; step back from the ledge.”
The Capital Home & Garden Show runs Friday through Sunday at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. The show will be open 10 to 9 on Friday and Saturday and 10 to 6 on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online for $7 or at the door for $10.
From bold graphic prints to sculptural shapes, modern geometric influences are a one-step wonder for adding a dose of playful pep to your home. A warning, though: One too many chevron-topped textiles and the look can shift from on-top-of-the-trend to dizzyingly over-the-top. We checked in with design pro Lori Graham for her take on how to nail the look. Read on for her expert tips, then click through the slideshow to see 14 great geometric finds.
1) Keep it small: Add geometric elements with toss pillows and decorative accents, which pack a small but mighty punch. Avoid using these prints on larger upholstered pieces, which can overwhelm.
2) Stick to neutrals: But if you DO want to use a geometric pattern on a larger item, go for a neutral color such as cream or brown and make it a key statement piece in the room.
3) Play nicely: If a geometric piece is in a colorful finish, be careful that it doesn’t fight with other colors or design elements in the room, especially prints and shapes.
It’s always great to see some familiar names pop up on a national list of bests—and this time, it’s area interior designer Darryl Carter and architect Allan Greenberg, both named to Architectural Digest’s 2014 AD100, which ranks the publication’s picks for the top talents nationwide. The magazine has been compiling the list for nearly 25 years.
This is the third consecutive year that the Alexandria-based Greenberg has been placed on the list. Carter was previously included in 2012.
Read on for some high-design eye candy from the two, then head to Architectural Digest’s site to see the complete list.
The turkey may be the most important thing on your table come Thanksgiving Day, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your decor some thought, too. We checked in with local interior designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey of SCW Interiors to get some tips on how to create a festive atmosphere for giving thanks. The key? Cavin-Winfrey says the surest way to a perfect tablescape is to let your existing decor dictate your direction. “If your dining room walls are pink, then there should be a pink element to your table,” she says. But she does have one hard-and-fast rule: When it comes to your table, don’t use red. “It’s disastrous—unless it’s Valentine’s Day or Christmas,” she says.
Whether you want to go big and use ’em all or keep it simple with just one, read on for more of Cavin-Winfrey’s tips for sprucing up the Turkey Day table.
1) Placemat Photo Collage
A combination of wax paper, vibrant leaves, and old photos of dinner guests can create a table runner that inspires memories from years past. Simply press the leaves and pictures between the paper, then run it vertically down the center of the table. “Create a collage with the leaves so you’ve got a really neat patchwork,” Cavin-Winfrey says.
2) I’m Thankful for . . .
Write this phrase at the top of a note card (or buy these) and place one at each table setting in a Mason jar or dish, along with a pencil. Read them out loud and see if guests can figure out who authored each one.
3) Go for Gourds
There’s no time like Thanksgiving to load your dining room with fall’s colorful produce. Stop by your local pumpkin patch or farmstand to pick up some baby pumpkins, then arrange them on the table or in a bowl as a centerpiece. Add a few flowers for balance, and make sure to keep the arrangement low so it doesn’t block conversation.
4) Rustic Lighting
“Candlelight is always really important,” Cavin-Woodfrey says. Wrapping some straw or twigs around a candelabra will introduce rustic touches into a formal dining room setting. Apartment-bound with no woods in sight? Take the easy way out with this West Elm black aluminum faux-manzanita candelabra, $99.
Thursday night, Logan Circle’s Room & Board store hosts a book launch party to celebrate the release of design blog AphroChic’s first book, Remix: Decorating with Culture, Objects, and Soul. The bloggers behind the site, policy-attorney-turned-designer Jeanine Hays and her husband, Bryan Mason, will be on hand to chat about their aesthetic and sign books, but here’s our favorite part: Turns out Hays’s sister, Angela Hays Belt, is Room & Board’s head visual designer right here in DC. Impeccable design taste must run in their genes: Belt’s Navy Yard apartment (which she shares with her husband, Leon, a videographer and graphic designer) is one of the five homes featured in the book, and it’s chock-full of inspiring design. Keep reading to see more of the Belts’ artistic-meets-midcentury-industrial loft, then swing by the 14th Street store tonight to meet both Hays and Belt in person.
AphroChic book launch party, Thursday 6 to 8:30 PM. Presentation at 6:30 PM. 1840 14th St., NW; 202-729-8300. RSVP online.