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These local homes know how to make a good first impression. Let them inspire you to liven up your own entry. By Michelle Thomas
Architect Christopher Cahill at the grand entrance of his Wesley Heights home. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Modern Warmth

This contemporary wooden plank door, on a Bethesda home by Rill Architects, hits the sweet spot between modern and traditional. Choose these streamlined pieces to capture the vibe:

The Serralunga "Kabin" planter, at ($295).
The Salsbury Industries standard mailbox, at ($80).
"Petaluma" lanterns, at Crate & Barrel ($40-$129).

Updated Traditional

Photograph by Jim Darling Photography.

A splash of cool, crisp blue keeps this Alexandria Colonial by SBK Architecture and SLD Interiors from turning basic. Go for classic accents with a homey feel to get the look:

"Madera" lantern sconce, at Restoration Hardware ($189).
Architectural Mailboxes antique brass house numbers, at Lowe's ($13).
Shine Company cedar barrel planters, at ($197-set of four).

Mod Moment

Photograph by Ty Cole.

Architect Wakako Tokunaga introduced a mod burst of color at a client's home in Silver Spring. Replicate the sunshiney sensibility with cheerful accessories:

"Papaja" plant pot, at Ikea ($1.99).
Richard Schultz "Fresh Air" chair, at ($732).
Raw-aluminum house numbers, at CB2 ($10).

This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 01:45 PM/ET, 09/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
These ten faceted finds make a subtle impact with jewel-like shapes. By Michelle Thomas

After a year-plus of bold chevrons, busy triangles, and geometric prints galore, it's understandable if you're feeling a bit of pattern overload. But there's a new, gentler way to get in on some geo goodness: These sculpted interpretations of stone and faceted jewel shapes take a more nuanced approach to the look, especially when done in sophisticated hues of black, white, and metallic. Try the trend in lamp form—we love this budget buy from Nate Berkus's stellar Target collection and this Land of Nod version, great for kids' and grown-ups' rooms alike—introduce the look in a colorful accent table, or start small with a stoneware vase. Here, see ten of our favorite faceted finds, from chic clocks to petite paperweights.

Above, clockwise: Triangle-rim platter, $50 at Saturday; Forecast ceiling lamp in chrome, $365 at HD Buttercup; Geo gold stool, $695 at Jayson Home; Magical Thinking Geo curtain tieback, $14 at Urban Outfitters; Faceted vases, $15 to $60 at Dwell Studio.

Below, clockwise: Drea lamp, $900 at Arteriors; Gami rose-gold candleholder, $9.95 at CB2; LEFF Amsterdam Scope clock, $129 at Lux Modern; Marble and wood octahedron paperweight, $20 at West Elm; Kelly Lamb serving bowl, $220 at Lux Modern.


For more great home-decor finds, follow Open House on Twitter at @openhouse.

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Posted at 12:36 PM/ET, 09/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Super-sophisticated interiors are the draw at this $5.95 million five-bedroom. By Michelle Thomas

At $5.95 million, we’re not joking when we call this a fantasy home—one peek at the interior will tell you why we love it. Positioned at the end of a private lane in McLean, this five-bedroom was restored under the supervision of award-winning designer Darryl Carter, who set it up in his signature neutral aesthetic. The result? A stunning modern-traditional home that highlights Carter’s tastefully dramatic flourishes, including deeply hued wood floors, plenty of clean, crisp white, and exquisite architectural detailing—elaborate wall paneling in the office, the family room’s arched French doors, and a marble-and-white bath. Naturally, the Carter-selected furniture is practically design perfection, too. Beyond that, it’s also got manicured grounds, a beautiful pool, a charming guesthouse, an outdoor pavilion, and a private putting green.

Take a look below, then go to TTR Sotheby’s to get the full scoop.

Find Michelle Thomas on Twitter at @michellethomas4.

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Posted at 11:30 AM/ET, 08/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Designer Marika Meyer and architect David Benton share their favorite hues. By Michelle Thomas
Marika Meyer’s room for the 2012 Design House used shades of gray on the walls, ceiling, and trims.

Gray. So neutral, it seems like a simple paint choice—until you realize just how many shades there are. Green-tinged grays. Blue-hued ones. Grays that turn lavender in dim light. Grays that most closely resemble a prison wall. And so on—the truth is, there are too many to count. So how do you pick the perfect one for your space? We checked in with two local pros for some expert guidance on how to select the right gray, for both inside and outside your home.

For interiors:

Designer Marika Meyer suggests starting out by considering what type of feel you want in your space. Do you want warm or cool? Is the room traditional or modern? 

“Cooler shades of gray in eggshell and in a high-gloss finish exude a contemporary feel, while warmer gray tones in a flat finish provide a more traditional and transitional application,” she says. And don’t limit yourself to walls: “Gray looks great on walls, but also on ceilings and trim, and is a great color choice for furniture, such as a vintage midcentury-modern cocktail table in high-gloss gray that I recently purchased. It can be paired with a broad spectrum of accent colors.”

Ready to get started? Here are five of Meyer’s go-to hues:

From left: Benjamin Moore OC-52 Gray Owl; Farrow and Ball Hardwick White; Benjamin Moore OC-30 Gray Mist; Farrow and Ball Lamp Room Gray; Benjamin Moore 1548 Classic Gray. 

For exteriors:

Of course, painting isn’t reserved exclusively for your home’s rooms. Architect David Benton of Rill Architects offers this bit of advice on how to choose the right hue for your home’s facade: “Selecting grays for the exterior really depends on the style of the house. Darker grays work well for trim and door colors, while a lighter shade would work for the body of the exterior. Gray becomes a neutral where you can play up any trim or door color such as a bright green, red, or the blue we used on the front door of the DC Design House this year (C2 BD-24 Pond Shimmer). Red and gray is a classic combination.”

If you want a green undertone, Benton suggests such shades as the taupey Benjamin Moore Gloucester Sage or the lighter Revere Pewter, a versatile shade that works well for the body of a home, trim, or interiors. For trim, try Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray to impart a subtle historic vibe—versus the crisp newness of a bright white—or China White, an off-white with gray undertones. For accents, shutters, or the front door, go for a deep charcoal, such as the dark blue-toned Benjamin Moore Gravel Gray­ or the rich Iron Mountain.

From left: (All Benjamin Moore) HC-100 Gloucester Sage; DC-172 Revere Pewter; 2127-30 Gravel Gray; HC-173 Edgecomb Gray; 2134-30 Iron Mountain.


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Design Tips From the Pros: How to Choose the “Right” White Paint

Design Decoder: Recreate This Mondrian-Inspired Home

Annie Elliott of Bossy Color Tells Us Her Favorite Paint Pairs

Posted at 01:47 PM/ET, 07/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Heirloom furniture mixes with a colorful palette in this 140-year-old home. By Michelle Thomas
All photographs by Angie Seckinger.

This week’s waterfront house—a 140-year-old farmhouse in the Eastern Shore farming community of Trappe—offers a completely different vibe than our previous two modern designs. The owner enlisted Washington-based interior designer Kelley Proxmire to transform the place from a weekend and summer home into her full-time residence—and to help merge the heirloom furniture and accessories from her former Washington home into their new, more casual setting. Proxmire repurposed the inherited pieces into the new space in different ways and added a few of her signature touches, such as painted ceilings (high-gloss green in the bedroom, lighter green in the living area, and pale blue on the porch) and textured and patterned wallpapers. A palette of greens, oranges, and blues combine with playful signs to infuse a touch of cheerful charm to a relaxed, homey design. Take a virtual tour of the home in the slideshow.

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Posted at 12:25 PM/ET, 05/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
This interior design startup was founded by two Washington natives. By Michelle Thomas
Havenly founders and Potomac natives Emily Motayed, left, and Lee Mayer.

When it comes to decorating woes, Potomac natives Lee Mayer and Emily Motayed have been there. Shortly after the sisters each moved into a new home—for Mayer, a house in Denver; for Motayed, a New York apartment—Mayer was lamenting that interior designers just weren’t interested in working with her. Her budget wasn’t big enough. They all charged huge fees, or expected her to shell out loads of cash for the goods to fulfill their decor plans. And, just like that, Havenly was born. “We realized there was an opening in the market for a business that made the process of decorating a lot easier,” says Mayer. The sisters launched the Web-based start-up in October, and the biz now counts five full-time employees. 

Here’s how it works: First, you take a quick online survey detailing your style preferences. Based on that, you’re assigned to the Havenly designer best suited to your taste. You chat with them for a bit by phone to get on the same page about the project, then they dream up two custom design concepts for your space. After a round of feedback and revisions, you end up with a final room rendering, along with a list of products and prices (though the company has partnerships with selected stores, designers are free to source from anywhere). Want to buy what they suggest? Havenly will coordinate the entire buying process for you—all for a flat fee of $185. 

Ready to see some of Havenly’s work in action? We snagged a handful of renderings from past projects. Check ’em out below.

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Posted at 03:21 PM/ET, 05/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The waterfront home is constructed from lightweight concrete. By Michelle Thomas

It might be a bit chilly and more than a bit rainy outside, but that won’t keep us from daydreaming about seaside getaways. Helping things along on this dreary afternoon? This energy-efficient waterfront home on the Chesapeake Bay, which puts a sleek, modern spin on the traditional beach house. Architecture firm Meditch Murphey used autoclaved concrete to construct the home, a lightweight material that allows for mold and heat resistance, absorbs sound, and protects against water damage. The place was built with an eco-friendly design, incorporating geothermal heating and cross-ventilation cooling, solar-power roofing, and a planted green roof that’s meant to help with on-site storm drainage. All that—and it’s a pretty cool-looking, too. Click though the slideshow to take a virtual tour of this modern design.

Posted at 12:35 PM/ET, 04/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The designer duo behind Residents Understood share their best advice. By Michelle Thomas

For a renter, certain design trends and tips can seem woefully out of reach. How can you be expected to get excited about richly patterned wallpapers when your landlord won’t even let you paint? But just because you’re stuck in a standard-issue apartment doesn’t mean your place shouldn’t feel completely like you. We checked in with interior designers Kiera Kushlan and Jessica Centella of Residents Understood to get their expert advice on how to perk up a soulless space without making any irreparable changes. Ready to upgrade? See five ways to make it happen below.

1) Invest in lighting you love. Light fixtures in rentals are rarely anything better than blah, but most overheard light fixtures can easily be taken down and new ones installed in their place. (Just put the originals in storage and remember to put them back in when it’s time to move.)

Try: Tom Dixon's glossy copper orb pendant lamp.

2) Swap out the ho-hum cabinet hardware in your kitchen and bathroom for something more personal and playful. It’s a quick fix, but it’ll help make the place feel more like your own. 

Try: Anthropologie’s pulls and knobs.

3) Remove all signs of plastic window treatments. “These are notorious for making a place feel uninviting and cold—removing or replacing these little devils is another way to instantly change the mood of an apartment,” the designers say. If the window treatments can’t be removed and stored, try covering them with fabric drapes.

Try: Nate Berkus for Target metallic window panels.

4) So you’re not allowed to paint. No worries—products such as removable wallpaper and decals are becoming more widely available. Adding a fun decal, such as polka dots, or whimsical wallpaper to your home is a guaranteed way to add flair to any lackluster room.

Try: Tempaper’s removable wallpapers or Land of Nod’s Lottie gold dot decals.

5) Got ugly floors? Cover them up! This goes for anything from seen-better-days hardwood to boring commercial-grade carpet. A good area rug goes a long way in personalizing and softening up your space.

Try: Serena & Lily’s pebble-print rug.

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Posted at 01:16 PM/ET, 04/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Forget fussy florals and toiles—modern wallpapers feature metallics, geometric patterns, and novelty prints. Local designer Zoe Feldman offers tips on incorporating them into your home. Plus—where to find some of our favorites. By Michelle Thomas
Photographs by Jeff Elkins.

Made by Osborne & Little, this vibrant wallpaper—in a print called Coquine—is one of Zoe Feldman’s favorites. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Don’t assume trim and woodwork have to be white

If you’re using a bold paper, Feldman suggests coordinating the room’s moldings, doors, and other accents with a color in the wallpaper. “The wallpaper will kind of bleed from top to bottom,” she explains.

Do embrace trends

“No one’s favorite color is beige,” Feldman says. “Have fun with paint and wallpaper that can be changed easily, and invest in furniture that’s more simple and classic.”

Don’t discount the ceiling

You can even paper only the ceiling. “You wouldn’t want a heavy pattern, but there are solid metallics that look like glazes, or amazing textures,” she says. Decorating a child’s room? Try stars.

Do be mindful of scale

Feldman loves a busy print in a small space: “It can create a cool jewel-box effect, where you feel ensconced in the paper.”

Don’t be too matchy-matchy

Choose furniture from a different era than the wallpaper style—and vice versa. If you like a traditional floral-print paper, try pairing it with simple, clean-lined furniture. Says Feldman: “Always be playing off the contrast so you’re never creating a themed or predictable room.”

This article appears in the April 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:35 AM/ET, 04/22/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The where and when of spring’s best tours. By Michelle Thomas
This midcentury home will be one of ten on the Hollin Hills House & Garden Tour. Photographs by David Rivera.

Ah, spring. Though it’s not exactly delightful out today, sunnier times are ahead—and also tours. Lots of tours. The yearly deluge of neighborhood home and garden tours is about to hit full stride. Here’s a rundown of some of the area’s best bets. 

Old Town Historic Garden Week 

Part of the Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week, which opens more than 250 gardens and homes statewide, the Old Town-based walking tour visits five homes from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The ticket price also includes admission to three other historic properties in the area: the Carlyle House Historic Park, the Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. April 26, 10 to 4. $35 in advance, $40 day of. Alexandria Visitors Center, 221 King St., Alexandria.

Prince George’s House & Garden Pilgrimage

This year’s tour through Prince George’s County—as part of the annual Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage, which includes close to 50 private homes, gardens, farms, and historic sites in five counties—follows the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail and Byway, with a focus on the War of 1812. The stops conclude with a visit to Darnell’s Chance, an 18th-century complex listed on the National Register of Historic Places. April 26, 10 to 5. $30 in advance, $35 day of. Patuxent Riverkeeper Center, 17412 Nottingham Rd., Upper Marlboro. 

Georgetown House Tour 

See inside nine Georgetown homes during this annual tour, now in its 83rd year. Tickets include an afternoon tea at Blake Hall at St. John’s Episcopal Church, which the tour proceeds benefit. April 26, 11 to 5. $50 in advance, $55 day of. St. John’s Episcopal Church, 3240 O St., NW. 

Fairfax County: Historic Vienna 

Hosted by the Garden Club of Fairfax, this partial walking tour includes four homes and gardens in Vienna’s oldest neighborhood, Ayr Hill, and Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. April 29, 10 to 4. $25 in advance, $30 day of. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct., Vienna. 

Hollin Hills House & Garden Tour

Check out the midcentury-modern homes of this award-winning Fairfax County neighborhood in a self-guided walking tour, which visits ten Charles Goodman-designed properties and three gardens. The tour kicks off with a morning lecture on modern architecture and Goodman’s other work. May 3, noon to 6. $25 in advance, $30 day of. Hollin Meadows Elementary School, 2310 Nordok Pl., Alexandria. 

Takoma Park House and Garden Tour

Dubbed the Spirit of Holly Avenue, this three-block tour takes visitors through the evolution of the neighborhood from the 1880s through post-World War II. May 4, 1 to 5. $18 in advance, $20 day of. 7064 Eastern Ave., NW. 

Georgetown Garden Tour

For the 86th year, this tour visits nine of Georgetown’s best gardens, from high-tech modern affairs to woodsy fairy-tale versions. The tour includes an afternoon tea at Christ Church’s Keith Hall. May 10, 10 to 5. Christ Church, 31st and O sts., NW.

Del Ray House and Garden Tour 

A biennial project presented by the Del Ray Citizens Association, this year’s tour includes homes ranging from a 1940s rowhouse to a green design that incorporates one of the neighborhood’s only in-ground pools. May 10, 11 to 5. $20 in advance, $25 after May 1. Del Ray Farmers Market, Mount Vernon and Oxford aves., Alexandria. 

Capitol Hill Restoration Society House & Garden Tour 

This is Capitol Hill’s largest and oldest fundraiser, now in its 57th year, and this year the tour highlights four Civil War-era frame houses—a departure from the neighborhood's more prevelant Victorian homes—and a garden that features a fully stocked koi pond.  May 10, 4 to 7, and May 11, noon to 5. $25. Hill Center, 901 Pennsylvania Ave., SE.

Posted at 03:13 PM/ET, 04/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()