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2006 Great Home Design: Modern Design

Our favorite stores that sell edgy, sleek design.


Adlon’s refined minimalist furnishings—from B&B Italia, Germany’s Interlübke, and Italy’s Driade—stand out dramatically against the rough stone walls and concrete floors of its cavernous Georgetown showroom. Owners Mark Myers and Renato Parisotto say they will stick to just a few high-end designers so staff members can know their wares inside and out.

Displays are also limited to a palette of black, white, and gray—with a stray red lacquered headboard—in keeping with the stark, modern style. (Everything can be customized with brighter hues). On prices, the sky may be the limit: Sofas generally run between $5,000 and $8,000 but can go as high as $13,000.

Adlon, 1028 33rd St., Georgetown; 202-337-0810;


Apartment Zero was an early comer to the contemporary-design scene when it opened in 1999. The 2,700-square-foot shop doubles as a gallery for local designers and artists, who can make custom pieces.

Red walls present the perfect backdrop for innovative American, Canadian, and Dutch designers. The pieces are sophisticated, but some tend more toward comfort and fun than the more refined European makers. Home accessories both fine and funky help shoppers complete a room—along with three on-staff interior-decor experts.

Apartment Zero, 406 Seventh St. NW; 202-628-4067;


Contemporaria’s collection—in which sofas are priced as high as $20,000—is fittingly showcased by top architect David Jameson, whose concrete skateboard-ramplike entrance provides an edgy setting for all that museum-quality design.

Flos lights shine on the best of Italy’s makers—Minotti, Molteni, Cappellini, MDF Italia—as well as on original art and photography. Since moving to Cady’s Alley after six years in Bethesda, the store has branched out to include kitchens by Italian cabinetmaker Elmar Cucine. The minimalist Keramik dining table with a scratch-resistant ceramic top is a bestseller at around $3,600, as is the low-slung Minotti Hamilton sofa at $7,350.

Contemporaria, 3303 Cady’s Alley, Georgetown; 202-338-0193;


This mega-chain now has two Washington showrooms, attesting to its draw among all the new DC loft-dwellers looking for relatively affordable, contemporary furnishings.

Modern-design connoisseurs sniff at what they call the “DWRing” of the industry—objecting to the store’s knockoffs of classics from the likes of Eames and Knoll. But plenty of consumers are happy with the look-alikes. Popular sellers among the more than 1,000 designs include the cool but cozy Womb chair and ottoman ($2,945).

Impulse buyers can delight in quick delivery from DWR, which ships most items within 24 hours.

Design Within Reach, 3307 Cady’s Alley, Georgetown, 202-339-9480; 1838 Columbia Rd., NW, 202-265-5640; 4828 St. Elmo Ave., Bethesda, 301-215-7200;


This French company has been around for 146 years, but it stays on the cutting edge of style.

Ligne Roset is well known for architectural storage units and low-slung beds, but the bestsellers in its gorgeous Cady’s Alley showroom are sofa beds—rarities among high-end modernists. LR offers six models.

Designers Didier Gomez, Peter Maly, Pascal Mourgue, and others create playful, irreverent pieces using materials such as glass, ceramic, and plastic. While the quality is high, prices are competitive: A sofa averages about $2,500, the Smala sleeper sofa around $4,000. Delivery can take more than three months since most items are made to order. Decisions can take time too, with more than 350 fabric choices.

Ligne Roset, 3306 M St., Georgetown; 202-333-6390;


Launched in 1990, Mobili cornered the then-small market for fine modern furniture with European flair. It is surviving the recent surge of competition by offering top lines and a range of styles and prices.

The organic Flexform sofa rings up at nearly $20,000, while the Cattelan Smart Table—a mod glass-topped dining table with sliding leafs—is a bestseller at $3,000.

The styles are both lean and whimsical, the materials mostly glass, steel, leather, and sophisticated plastics. Designs hail from such big names as Peter Maly, Philippe Starck, and Flou (fabulous beds) but also include hard-to-find makers like 30-year-old Swiss manufacturer De Sede.

Mobili has just opened its doors to . . . doors. The showroom shows off a few of Longhi’s beautifully crafted doors, and more models can be ordered.

Mobili, 2201 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-337-2100;


Wild colors—fuchsia walls!—showcase a collection of fun and fresh contemporary furnishings. Lamps with feet and other whimsical pieces mingle with Euro-sleek seating by Germany’s Rolf Benz and Canada’s Periphere.

Mod Décor may be less sophisticated than its urbane competitors in DC, but its wild side appeals to young professionals moving into all those new Gaithersburg condos. It carries lesser-known but interesting designers, and that keeps prices moderate.

Many of the sofas are cleverly convertible, turning from couches to day beds or sleepers, and can fit smaller spaces. Everything can be customized in a wide selection of sizes and upholsteries, and the free design advice will help with those decisions.

Mod Décor, Kentlands Shopping Center, 122 Market St., Gaithersburg; 301-948-0968;


Want to lounge around in the Ferrari of furniture? Cruise no farther than Poltrona Frau, Italy’s leading brand in luxury upholstered furniture. The nearly century-old company marries classic and kitsch with its folding Donald chair, named after the Disney character because of its ducklike profile, and the flower-inspired Ravello armchair.

There’s nothing flowery about the clean lines of the mostly steel and leather furniture. It’s serious in price—an upholstered chair averages $4,000—and its cast of designers, including star architects Frank Gehry and Richard Meier.

The buttery leather comes in luscious colors—96 of them. Poltrona Frau uses a 20-step formula for dyeing leather. Besides furnishing homes, the company has designed seating for corporate offices and for racecars—like Ferrari.

Poltrona Frau, 1010 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown; 202-333-1166;


“Contemporary” at Roche-Bobois means more voluptuous neoclassical than minimalist chic.

Its Les Contemporains line, which takes up about 80 percent of the Friendship Heights showroom, features hefty sofas and armchairs in curvy shapes. Leather, velvet, and ultrasuede fabrics come in vivid hues like red and purple.

Two other styles fill the rest of the showroom: Les Provinciales is traditional French country, while Les Voyages borrows from Japanese, Indian, and Mediterranean styles.

Mixing old with new appeals to those not ready to go to the cutting edge. Sofas average between $5,000 and $6,000; upholstered chairs run about $3,000.

Roche-Bobois, 5301 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-686-5667;


Opened in 1969, Theodore’s is one of the region’s oldest contemporary furniture retailers.

The huge selection suits American tastes more than the edgy, minimalist designs at many of the contemporary shops moving into the area. Designers like Della Robbia and American Leather rule here. The price range, like the selection, is wide. Sofas range from $1,500 to $6,000, dining tables $1,200 to $6,000. The furniture is arranged in vignettes complete with accessories to give shoppers decorating ideas.

Theodore’s, 2233 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-2300;


This collection falls solidly in the midrange, transitional category. Wood or nickel-plate bases substitute for the finely polished metals used in higher-end designs. Embellishments also look a little more mass-produced and traditional. But reasonable prices make this a good source for basic pieces that can be customized. Sofas start at $1,300, dining sets around $1,000.

Accessories show the most originality and sophistication here. Popular “rock runners,” mats made of green or gray river stones, can add some Zen to a dining table, and the moderately priced lamps range from quirky to minimalist.

Timothy Williams, 101 N. Union St., Al­­exandria; 703-739-4405;

More Good Stores for Modern Living (online-only content)
In the March issue, writer Gretchen Cook chose her favorite shops for modern furnishings. Here are other places she suggests shopping:


This newcomer—it opened in July—carries midrange, mostly Italian makes with understated style in sober colors. Unique finds include a dining table with top-stitched leather legs ($3,300) and a beautiful low-slung Gemma bed ($5,499). Anora also offers a good stock of area rugs.

Anora Home, 5252 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-363-3033;


Dar carries Compagnia del Mobile, an Italian line of high-end, sophisticated wares. The first floor is devoted to furniture, including sofas ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, while the upstairs displays designs for kitchens, bathrooms, and offices.

Dar International Furniture, 45929 Maries Rd., Sterling; 703-433-9401;


Established in 1932, Maurice Villency is one of the oldest and largest contemporary furniture retailers. It stays on the safe side of style, with simple designs and neutral colors. The randomly arranged Bethesda showroom can be confusing, but the shop offers design help and customizes everything from furniture to wallpaper to rugs.

Maurice Villency, 7016 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 240-396-0100;


This tiny showroom in the Washington Design Center is nothing to look at, but it offers licensed reproductions of modern classics by such names as Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Josef Hoffmann, Knoll, Eero Arnio, and Alvar Aalto. Look for bargains at floor-sample sales. And look for its new digs in Cady’s Alley—M2L is closing its Design Center showroom in late April, and opening in Georgetown in May.

M2L Collection, 300 D St., SW, Suite 112; 202-863-2221;


More trendy contemporary than classic modern, this collection favors heavy contours and dark hues. A few sleek chrome-and-leather pieces fill in the large, well-laid-out showroom. The neoclassic influence and lower prices appeal to young consumers in the U Street corridor.

Urban Essentials, 1330 U St., NW; 202-299-0640;


Vastu’s Zen-like approach is based on an ancient Sanskrit philosophy of arranging furniture in a manner that promotes well-being, much like Chinese Feng Shui. The collection, however, is cutting-edge. Low-slung sofas and beds mingle with funkier items. The shop is the exclusive distributor for the uber-modern maker Knoll.

Vastu, 1829 14th St., NW; 202-234-8344;

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