The first thing you notice about Kiera and Michael Kushlan’s one-bedroom Kalorama co-op is how they’ve pulled it together to be both modern and classic. The second is how spacious it seems. The Kushlans, both 29, believe that what you leave out of a room is just as important as what you put in. On a limited budget, they
invested their own time and DIY skills to renovate the run-down 1920s flat. In the process, they uncovered its hidden charms and discovered a lot about themselves.
“I would much rather have a small space filled with all the things that I love than just buying furniture to fill space,” says Kiera, an interior designer who enjoys editing just as much as shopping. The Kushlans’ renovation of their 750-square-foot home unified the three rooms with white walls and new espresso wood floors. They carefully layered in a few bold patterns and colors, framed maps of places they loved and pulled in furniture they’ve reclaimed and repurposed. They used space creatively: an entrance foyer became a place to dine or work; two Ikea cabinets were transformed into a floating bar. In the bedroom, Michael built a small desktop into a window niche with a piece of plywood and iron brackets from the Brass Knob.
Their stylish co-op has become a calling card for Kiera’s design business, Residents Understood, and has created a bit of an online sensation in the blogosphere. In April, Design Sponge featured photos of the Kushlans’ apartment. In June, their place got the most votes in the Apartment Therapy Small Cool Home Contest in the “Little” division (homes under 1,000 square feet).
“We discovered we had the same kind of vision,” Michael says. “We like to have some traditional pieces but add our own twists of modern. We find things that reflect who we are and where we travel together. We both love order.”
The result is a warm retreat that’s organized. “I don’t like to have a lot of things. It makes me
anxious,” Kiera says. “My philosophy is, if I don’t love it, I don’t keep it.”
Kiera and Michael are part of the young professional crowd changing the vibe of urban Washington. Millennials are redefining not only the restaurant and bar scene, but also the look of condos and townhouses in the city’s core. “We are out of the era that people aspire to live in a McMansion somewhere in the suburbs,” Kiera says. “A lot of people my age are moving back into the city and are okay with living in real small spaces because of everything they get to experience around them.”
Kiera and Michael met at Ohio University. Michael got an MBA there and he is now a management consultant at Battle Resource Management. Kiera went on to get a masters of interior design degree at the University of Florida. In 2009, they moved to Washington and got married. Kiera worked briefly for a designer before starting her own firm in 2010 with Florida classmate Jessica Centella. “We had a targeted demographic of ages 25 to 40,” Kiera says. Most clients live in small spaces. “The name of our firm came from how we approach our projects. It’s based around the client’s wants, needs, personal aesthetic and style,” she says.