If you haven’t picked up the latest Washingtonian yet, I hope you will, especially if you live in a small space. I got to work with their team to produce a package on small-space living, which includes a profile about my friend, designer Tricia Huntley and a chic little flat she designed for her client, a political consultant, in Georgetown.
This profile was one of three—editor Marisa Kashino and writer Hayley Garrison Phillips also profiled some tiny-but-terrific interiors in other parts of DC. Here, Huntley proves that size doesn’t have to stifle style.
I didn’t have enough room to tell the whole story about this condo in the magazine, so I’ll expand upon it here. Tricia had to edit her client’s belongings from a penthouse elsewhere in Georgetown because this one is a bit smaller but with a very different layout. “Some things had to go,” she said. “When you have a small space, you can’t clutter it up with a lot of stuff.”
This new space—her client’s first purchase after decades of renting—also represented an opportunity to amp up the look. “She’s fun, southern and sassy,” Huntley said. “Before, she was definitely clinging to her more traditional roots. At this point, she was taking a step further.”
One of the great things about this condo was the fact that it has a proper foyer, where the client was finally able to hang a vintage Brutalist chandelier by Curtis Jere that she’d scored at a consignment shop in Richmond. A painting she found at Jean Pierre Antiques in Georgetown also sets the tone.
Before she placed any furniture, Tricia first lightened everything, from the floor finish to the walls and ceilings to the kitchen cabinets. When every plane is the same color value, she said—whether it’s paint, wallpaper, floor or tile finish—”the angles disappear, and it starts feeling like a bigger space.”
The view above is when you turn the corner from the foyer. Although the owner has got her girly streak, she grew up in the south, Huntley says, and she loves to hunt.
Furnishing a small space is all about compromise, and the owner wanted to keep her beloved Lucite-base dining table from Mecox Gardens in New York and Danish teak dining chairs from ModHaus.com, even though it meant giving up an extra chair in the living area. The pink impressionist rendering of a famous Ronald Reagan photograph was a custom work by an artist Tricia found on Etsy, and the chandelier is from West Elm.
The rug, Barcelona chair and sofa came from the former apartment, but Tricia reupholstered the sofa from a traditional beige herringbone to a patterned cotton that looks like wood grain. The rug was perfect, she said, because “I like when it’s engaging multiple pieces at one time.” As for the faceted brass coffee table from Mecox, “We needed something smaller, oval-shaped, and this is just her.”
The niche was perfect for this white cabinet, which offers needed storage. It’s got mass, like the coffee table, but nicely balances the leggy furnishings.
Tricia used her client’s existing four-poster bed in the new bedroom. Even though it’s big, she says, the fact that it’s airy underneath means it doesn’t take up too much visual space. It also gave her a chance to use this amazing squiggly-pattern sisal rug by Stark. “I believe in grounded glamour. I need texture as a counterpoint to polish, and polish as a counterpoint to texture,” she said. The polish comes from the shiny floral wallpaper by Neisha Crosland. “It’s a print, but it’s tonal, and when you catch it in the light, it’s really dreamy, really beautiful.” Clearly!
The owner told me she replaced all the builder-grade doors in the condo with substantial, solid-core varieties. In the bedroom, she was inspired by Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope character in “Scandal” to put mirrors on her closet doors, just like Olivia’s fictional DC boudoir.
The vintage chair, furthermore, got rock-star treatment with a new finish and charcoal-green pleather upholstery. This is a perfect example of how you can completely revamp a piece of furniture with paint and fabric. Tricia sent me the dainty “before” picture from when the chair occupied her client’s former living room:
“I love taking something and turning it completely on its head,” she said. The drama continues into the master bathroom:
“We wanted it to look kind of sexy—she wanted a glam, sexy side to it,” Tricia said. Plus, because she owns a lot of artwork that boasts pastel colors, “I like to create a counterpoint to that with darker, moodier colors.” Hence, the lacquered chocolate walls.
And here’s another small-space tip when it comes to art: “You can’t think conventionally and put it all in the living room. You have to start embracing things like artwork in the bathrooms, artwork in fun little spots. It doesn’t matter if you’re stepping into the tub or sitting on the sofa.” In other words, art is fabulous to look at, no matter where you put it.
For nearly six months of the year, this condo doubles in size, thanks to the garden terrace straight out the back:
“This is five times the size” of her tiny balcony at the old place, Tricia said. French doors from the master bedroom and living/dining area open out to it.
This outdoor space is 525 square feet, while the interiors take up 1,290 square feet. What an incredible refuge to come home to for a busy consultant who is traveling constantly—and doesn’t need the upkeep of a full Georgetown town house.
The March issue of Washingtonian should be on the stands any day now—and it’s got lots more resources for people trying to navigate their own small spaces, including a shopping directory, designer tips, and a list of professional organizers.