News & Politics

Natural Beauty

With the right design and materials, decorating is easy—you won’t even need paint

“Tree loft” is how Travis Price describes the four-story home he hung with cables and weights on a hillside overlooking Rock Creek Park.

The open floor plan and immense windows deliver a soaring feel. Although spacious and modern, the space has what Price calls “fullness” rather than the emptiness of some urban lofts.

Price, an architect who teaches at Catholic University and just published the book The Archaeology of Tomorrow, says the home is the culmination of three decades of study: “I finally crystallized my philosophy in having a house that is modern in every aspect and as natural as the day is long.”

Price’s key principle, “honesty in architecture,” holds that a structure’s space and materials should eliminate the need for most decoration. In his house, there is no drywall—or need to paint it. The walls are paneled in golden-brown plywood with irregular grain. “No need for pictures,” says Price.

The bones of the house—heating ducts and columns—are exposed. The metal did require paint for protection, so Price chose the maroon of the rust-proofing primer on the columns. The aqua on the stairs was chosen to evoke water and sky.

Price lets nature do most of the decorating by bringing it inside—literally in one corner, where instead of chopping down a tree, a wedge was cut in a windowed wall to accommodate it. Decks are flush to the floors to bring the outdoors closer, while low couches and a detached fireplace give the living room a camping-in-the-woods feel.

All four walls of the master bedroom are windows, and the pleated fabrics on the bedspread and lamp echo the bark on the surrounding trees.

Most of the year, leaves provide protection from daytime glare and peeping toms, but in winter insulated curtains can be drawn. “When all else fails, we buy colorful underwear,” says Price.

The balconied space over the living room is also positioned to screen views from inside the house. It serves as a study and a dressing room and could become a bedroom one day. Flexibility should be part of any floor plan, according to Price, who says sometimes just rearranging things can eliminate the need for renovation.

“People come to me and say ‘We need an addition,’ but they’ve just not arranged furniture right,” he says. “I’ve lost a lot of jobs just by moving things around.”

Not everything is raw and earthy. Price added splashes of color in the kitchen barstools and benches. “I’m not a nature freak,” he says. “I wear neon. I’m all for raw color when it works.”


Living-room sofa:
Elixir in leather from Roche Bobois, Northwest DC; 202-686-5667; Around $12,500.

Living-room table:
low table by Cappellini from Contemporaria, Northwest DC; 202-338-0193; Around $1,600.

Bedspread: pleated duvet by Mary Lee from Muléh, Northwest DC; 202-667-3440; Queen, $375.

Design: Travis Price, 202-965-7000;

Travis Price suggests not trying to copy a look from a magazine literally. Instead, ask yourself why it appeals to you, and then try to replicate the feeling.