Looking for a fun outing this fall?
The DC Design House opens to the public on Saturday and runs through Oct. 29. This $10.28 million home has a ballroom in the basement, so they’re also using it as a venue for several events throughout the month.
I’m excited to be the moderator for a series of weekly panel discussions called “Meet the Pros,” where I’ll be talking with interior designers, architects, builders and kitchen/bath designers about their professions and how they work with clients. If any of you out there are considering any form of renovation in your home, I would love to see you at one of these Wednesday events in October. You can find all the information right here.
Now, on to some examples of the incredible design talent at work in this house. I have to admit, my expectations were pretty low, considering the before pictures I posted after the designers were announced. But the rooms are surprisingly smaller than I had envisioned, or perhaps it was just a testament to the designers who made the rooms feel more cozy and comfortable through their decorating.
“I thought, how do you make it contemporary and how do you make it relatable?” Susan told me. She designed a table much more to scale than was there before, and used her metallic grasscloth wallpaper pattern on the walls. I adore the vintage chairs — they’re like lounge chairs, inviting you to stay for a while.
Cindy McClure and Jenna David married the architecture of this gallery to the blue and cream accents in the onyx floors. I love how they enhanced the groin vaults with nail heads.
Mary was inspired by the VERY BUSY onyx floor in this powder room, which seemed pretty awful in the before picture. But here, it gleams like jewelry, as Mary intended. She told me that her design associate, Ryan van Sickel, suggested they use the film “Nocturnal Animals,” directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, as the basis for their approach. “If you’re a fan of Tom Ford, you can really see the genius behind every shot. Everything has something to do to play into the story line,” she says. Her story line here is along the lines of Disco Glam. “It reminds me of David Bowie and the ’70s phase.”
Designer Kelley Proxmire told me she wasn’t a fan of all the dark wood in this library, which she was not allowed to change. “We put as much light as we could in here and used lighter fabrics,” she says. Not only that, but she scoured around for 500 leather-bound books—and painted them all in shades of blue. On top of that, her team painted gold details and Kelley’s fleur-de-lys logo on every spine. Just amazing. She even dealt with a “bookshelf” that was just a flat panel within the same arched trim as the other “real” bookcases. You can see it above, to the left of the doorway.
To balance everything out, she asked the ladies at Twin Diamond Studios to go faux — that shelf full of books and accessories is a trompe l’oeil:
“When I walked in, I said, ‘You gotta be kidding me!'” Lorna says of all the heavy, dark-wood built ins on one side of the room. She wasn’t allowed to alter them, so she balanced the room by painting the window trim in mocha. Then she put light backing on the shelves, so the light and dark elements play nice together. From there, she says, “The room really became a modern take on Spanish and Italian country homes.” The walls are painted to look like shimmery Venetian plaster, and the modern art mingles with gilded antique altar seats (in the rear corner), which read as sculpture with the modern furnishings.
This room resonated with me more than any other, because my mother had a huge collection of Hermes scarves, and I know she would have adored Marika’s work here, treating them as they works of art that they are. “It feels very approachable but elegant,” Marika says. She paid between $90 and $200 for each scarf, and then put them in inexpensive frames. For a wall this enormous—21 by 12 feet—the solution is actually much cheaper than commissioning one huge piece of art.
This is an amazing feat: For two years in a row now, Josh’s space has made the cover of the Local Living section in the Washington Post when Jura Koncius does her annual story on the design house. The mesmerizing photography of women wearing 19th-century Dutch bonnets really makes this room. And not only that, Josh tells me he asked Lisa Tureson of Studio Artistica to faux-paint a pecky-cypress ceiling, just like you see in the great Addison Mizner homes in Palm Beach and Miami. It’s actually painted on adhesive material, which was then applied to the ceiling when complete. “Think about this as adult stickers!” he says. What a fantastic job.
Susan and Todd designed this sunny space to be whimsical and child-friendly, where kids’ artwork hangs playfully over valuable Chinese porcelain vases. Their store, Home on Cameron, is next door to an antique shop called A Galerie in Old Town Alexandria, so the bright space is grounded with warm antique objects. “I don’t think people respect antiques anymore,” Susan says. “Even in a modern or whimsical setting like this, they deserve a place.”
I honestly didn’t think this gaping space could be tamed, but Samantha did it! And so beautifully, I might add. In the before pictures, it seemed sad—and huge—but Samantha toned it down with soft colors and fabrics, using the existing mosaic tiles as the basis for a color scheme. Now I love the tile where it didn’t seem so hot before; the feminine and floral window treatments by Vervain are soft and friendly, along with the transitional lighting; and the parquet-topped table by Century reads as elegant country.
Samantha enlisted Stuart Kitchens, which designed the space for the original owner, for advice. She didn’t altar any cabinets but did things like put fabric inside glass doors, along with fabric behind mesh on the island, to break up all the wood:
She squared the round columns, and painted the “crown” over the island, which takes the eye upward. Everything she did was cosmetic. “It was a ‘make it work’ moment, as Tim Gunn would say,” she says. “This is what I do. People own kitchens, they own furniture—you have to work with what they have. It has to be livable.”
I can NOT get over the colors in this room. And along with the rug, it’s seriously conjuring the 80’s, but in a good way! Same thing here:
Camille and Caryn independently created spaces that feature pastels on steroids. I just have not seen these combinations in a long, long time. “I knew I wanted rose quartz on the wall. It speaks to me,” Camille said of her palette choice. Caryn, who’s a textile designer as well as an interior designer, used many of her own patterns, both on the furnishings and on the walls. “I wanted it to feel like anyone who was traditional or modern could appreciate the space.” Both of these rooms gave me “wow this is odd but so completely fabulous” moment. You gotta check ’em out for yourselves.
One of my favorite rooms (although it’s hard to choose in this house) was this bedroom:
Keira used the square dentils in the room’s molding as the starting point for a geometrical design—in the bed, the throw pillows and the accent tables. She created a muse for this room, a worldly woman named Sloane who needed a soothing respite at home. “I wanted something that was simple and calm, but had depth.” Indeed—I could linger here all day long.
In design, you can never overlook even the most utilitarian spaces, and Paula Grace really upped the ante here with glamorous cabinet hardware and herringbone marble tile. “I wanted to make this room functional—and very pretty!” she says. My favorite thing here is the adorable pet bed—what a great place to curl up for your furry friend.
I’m ending here, but this is by no means the end of the spaces you’ll see in this house. For a $35 ticket, you’ll spend a lovely afternoon strolling through room after room of beauty and drama, and the proceeds benefit Children’s National Medical System.
For more vignettes from the house, you can also check my Instagram feed—enjoy!