Design & Home

These 3 Homes Prove That Small Design Changes Can Make a Big Difference

You don’t have to knock down walls to upgrade your space.

These 3 Homes Prove That Small Design Changes Can Make a Big Difference
A few easy updates transformed this Arlington condo. Photograph by Jenn Verrier Photography.

1. Condo Refresh

Arlington designer Suzanne Manlove is used to starting from scratch with clients who want a new look for their homes. But when Kevin Poortinga, a vice president at USA Today, enlisted her help for his condo near Rosslyn, she could see he’d already laid the foundation. “He has a style and a nice, architecturally put-together space,” she says. “In this case, it was about turning the volume up—giving it more personality and character so it really felt like his home.”

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All Before Photographs Courtesy of Homeowners.

After:

Photograph by Jenn Verrier Photography.

Poortinga already owned the furnishings and area rug. Manlove added needed texture to the TV wall with a natural-fiber wall covering (top left) by Arte. A chandelier (top center) by Arteriors Home in place of builder-basic track lighting was transformative. A fiddle-leaf fig (top right) in a sunny corner draws the eye up to the Sputnik chandelier—and highlights the condo’s great windows. Accent pillows (center right) by Ryan Studio amp up the original gray sectional.

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After:

Photograph by Jenn Verrier Photography.

Manlove gave definition to the kitchen by painting the bulkhead (top center) the same shade as the lower cabinets. New Bertoia stools from Design Within Reach repeat the tile’s grid pattern. The front of the island was an affordable spot for a luxe touch: faceted glass tile ($70 a square foot at Mosaic Tile) that also breaks up the sea of white.

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Photograph by Jenn Verrier Photography.

A vinyl wall covering by Phillip Jeffries, paired with valences in a Kravet fabric that hide the roller shades, makes the bedroom feel like a high-end hotel. New throw pillows from Room & Board change the whole look of the same bed and bedding.

2. Finer Dining

Walter Lukens, whose marketing company works with art museums, had fallen for the modern paintings of Brooklyn artist Alex Dodge. He and his wife, Joanne, hung two of them in their Alexandria dining room—immediately dating the traditional space. The couple had already hired decorator Iantha Carley to rethink other areas of their house, but this room hadn’t been on the list—nor was the adjacent foyer. “They had great pieces to begin with,” says Carley. “I knew the dining room just needed new chair cushions and a new chandelier.”

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After:

Photograph by Angie Seckinger.

No need to change the cool entry chandelier by the Maryland firm Niermann Weeks. Printed grasscloth wallpaper (right) by Phillip Jeffries made the entry feel new—and convinced the homeowners they could keep the existing carpet for now. Carley added a custom bolster pillow to make their existing bench more inviting.

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Photograph by Angie Seckinger.

Carley reupholstered the chairs in a graphic pattern by Lee Jofa that echoes the dots in the artwork. Modern paintings by Alex Dodge (center) demanded a new vibe in the dining room.

Photograph by Angie Seckinger.

Carley swapped out the stuffy crystal chandelier for a contemporary fixture by Emanuel Morez. Its organic shape connects well with the paintings.

3. The Living Room Goes Luxe

The owners of this Cleveland Park home intend to remodel the whole place at some point, but they didn’t want to wait to spruce up their large living room—which was showing its age after 11 years, four children, and two dogs—so they asked designer Nicole Lanteri to tide them over. “We didn’t want to put a ton of money into it,” Lanteri explains. “How do we make the room feel more modern and fresh without disrupting everything? The power of paint is always my first move.” Lanteri also “went shopping” among the existing furnishings and accessories around the rest of the house. Says homeowner Margaret Rietano: “Nicole’s got an ability to take what we had and display it in a way that’s more thoughtful and more creative.”

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Photograph by Jeff Elkins

An existing wooden chest (left) got a punch of style with about $50 worth of new CB2 accessories. Lanteri relocated a dated striped sofa from the fireplace to the far end of the room and had it reupholstered in a sophisticated navy linen by Schumacher. She also added a new acrylic coffee table (center) by Jonathan Adler and a round pedestal table (bottom right) from West Elm.

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Photograph by Jeff Elkins

A $600 cowhide from CB2—balancing one the family already had—anchors the fireplace zone. Benjamin Moore’s deep gray-blue “Flint” makes the expansive space feel more intimate—and grounds the pink drapery, which Lanteri kept. Behind the drywall, she uncovered two windows that had been concealed for years. She added new trim plus Roman shades from the Shade Store. The owners already had the armchairs (center right). Lanteri brought in furnishings from elsewhere in the house to restyle the fireplace sitting area.

This article appears in the January 2020 issue of Washingtonian.

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