Home & Style  |  Real Estate

This Stunning Northern Virginia Home Was Designed Over FaceTime

Call it socially distant interior design—the decorator and her client didn't have to meet in person.

Photos by Stacy Zarin Goldberg.

Let’s say you’re one of the few people who’ve bought a home during quarantine, and before you move in, you want to infuse it with your personal style. Meeting with an interior decorator to debate fabric swatches doesn’t exactly qualify as essential. Though it requires a lot of trust, it’s not impossible to let a professional deck out your new digs without ever meeting face-to-face.

Pamela Harvey is one of many local interior designers who’ve handled projects virtually for out-of-town clients for years. She designed this Gainesville townhouse for a couple while they lived in their second home in Florida. Though she finished it last summer, well before the coronavirus crisis, it’s an example of how more decorating might be done in a socially distanced world.

First, one of Harvey’s staffers visited the townhouse to take measurements of every room and record all the floor plans. The design team set up regular phone calls and FaceTime meetings with the clients to talk about the ways they saw themselves using each space.

After getting the homeowners’ input about the style and feel they wanted throughout the rooms, Harvey and her staff put together digital mood boards and renderings to share with them. Eventually, they compiled packets of fabric swatches, wallpaper and tile samples, paint chips, and other materials—labeled by room—and mailed them off. The clients then sorted through the choices and narrowed them down.

The couple chose furniture by looking through photo options selected by Harvey—which seems like the riskiest part. But the designer says she has ways to ensure she picks items clients will find comfortable. “We ask a lot of questions, like ‘How do you like to sit?’ ‘How do you sit in a chair?’ and ‘Who’s going to be sitting in the [different pieces of] furniture?'” she says. “If the husband’s six-foot-four and the wife is five-three, you won’t be siting the same.”

As finishes and furniture started getting installed, Harvey took videos to update the clients on the progress, and toured them through the space on FaceTime. She says she doesn’t recall using Zoom—but, of course, she would nowadays.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a possible wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia. Kashino lives in Northeast DC.