Colman, a designer, says all the different styles gave her creative license inside the house. “You don’t feel obligated to honor any kind of covenant or any sort of design since everyone along the way has left their mark,” she says. “It frees you up to do interesting things.”
Colman’s solution for a house big on charm but skimpy on space: Give each room a jolt of personality. Or as she calls it, “a big wow factor.” She created comfortable spaces for her family of four with dramatic surprises throughout: Snakeskin print vinyl wallpaper on the kitchen walls and ceiling; an oversize pink wing chair in her daughter’s tiny bedroom; and an army of painted Chinese chests bought during a year living in Beijing. They add warmth and badly needed storage. Look around and you’ll see her bold brush strokes everywhere: an antelope head from eBay, black-and-white awning stripe wallpaper in the powder room and instead of flowers, a vase of kale on the bar.
Colman, 44, and her husband, Richard, 52, a partner in Well Oiled Wine Co., a Leesburg wine importer, son Kane, 12, and daughter Elizabeth, 7, moved to Georgetown from Waterford in 2011. They loved country life. But when Kane was accepted to the McLean School in Potomac, they knew they had to move closer to the school.
They searched for a small house in Georgetown, knowing space would be sacrificed for location. “I wanted something unusual, not the standard townhouse,” Colman says. She had grown up in Georgetown and her parents still live there. By chance, an intriguing little house she had passed by for years was on the market. “I was always curious about the place. When I got inside, I was shocked to see the fantastic double height living room.” The square footage was less than half of their Waterford place, but it had all the proper rooms: The first floor had a foyer, living room, den, dining room, kitchen and powder room; upstairs were three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
They bought it.
Colman had used neutral colors for walls, furniture and floors in her old house, and went with the same plan. “I call my style neutral-with-artifacts,” she says. Walls were painted Benjamin Moore Dove Wing and Farrow & Ball Charleston Gray. Cream and taupe sofas and chairs were regrouped. Beige and brown herringbone sisal rugs in the major rooms tie the spaces together. With two kids and a dog, the textured weave and pattern make spills and accidents less obvious.