Our favorite rooms of the 2011 DC Design House

April 6, 2011

A 1925 Tudor with a beamed ballroom and outdoor dance floor is dressed up for a party again. The fourth annual DC Design House, which has become the blue-chip showcase for local interior designers, opens for business April 9 in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Northwest Washington.

Twenty designers had one month to redecorate the sprawling six-bedroom, 71 / 2-bath fieldstone house surrounded by more than an acre of formal boxwood gardens, a koi pond, a carriage house and a Beverly Hills-style 40-by-60-foot swimming pool.

The property, for sale for $4.9 million, was built for George N. Everett, a vice president of the late Washington department store Woodward & Lothrop. (See if you can spot the Woodward & Lothrop name stamped on some window hardware.) It was bought in 1947 by George and Janice Wasserman, noted philanthropists who ran an appliance business. He died in 1975, and she died in 2008, leaving a house reflecting decorating styles from the 1950s on.

The Design House, which will be open through May 8, raises money for Children’s National Medical Center. We asked nine of the designers questions we thought you might have when touring the rooms.


-Designer Iantha Carley: Master bedroom and dressing room-
First thing you picked out: The David Hicks lime green fabric. I’ve always loved this pattern. It’s fresh and fun.

Describe the style: Transitional with an edge.

Favorite element: One of my favorites is the table in the dressing area. I had a carpenter build a six-foot Parsons-style table, and we applied mirror on top of it.

Did the 1920s Tudor architecture influence you? It did. I’m a big sucker for English design. They’re not afraid to mix different colors and patterns, and they don’t strive for perfection.

Biggest design challenge: The nine-foot-long window that doesn’t have a pretty view. It looks out to the HVAC unit. I installed full-length plantation shutters that obscure the view even when they’re open.

Best design tip: In smaller spaces, [such as] a walk-in closet or powder room, you should go crazy with wallpaper. You can use bolder patterns or colors, because you’re not in the space for long periods of time, so it won’t overwhelm you.

Anything eco-friendly in this room? The taupey-gray wall-to-wall carpet is made from recycled water bottles.

Favorite room besides your own: I have two. Patrick Sutton’s [living room] because it feels so cozy and warm, and David Mitchell’s [gentleman’s bedroom] because it’s just perfect.


-Designer Patrick Sutton: Living room-
How did the 1920s Tudor architecture influence you? The physical shape of this room influenced my decision-making. It’s a grand, lofty cathedral-ceilinged, beamed space with four sets of doors. It probably was a ballroom. I had to make it seem less cavernous and make it more comfortable for a family with several furniture groupings. I hate the term “great room.” This is a modern living room.

Favorite element: It’s the concrete fireplace we unearthed under 20 layers of paint. The original fireplace had been painted many times in white, battleship gray and dark gray. We got down to the original concrete and burnished it with steel wool to give it a refined grayish patina, and then waxed it.

Least expensive accessory: The used books we get for $20 by the foot at the Book Escape in Baltimore. We do a little trick with them and take off the dust jackets. It makes them look older and classic.

What’s on the floor? This is a really fun woven jute we got from Greenspring Carpet Source. It’s trimmed in suede. When you have a big room, that kind of chunkiness does two things: It helps negotiate the scale of the room and makes it feel more relaxed.

Favorite room besides your own: Camille Saum’s dining room. She brought energy and vibrancy to it.


-Designer David Mitchell: Gentleman’s bedroom-
How many show houses have you done?Fourteen.

Describe the style: Modern American rustic.

First thing you picked out: The antique bird prints. I bought them two years ago in Hudson, N.Y.

Did the 1920s Tudor architecture influence you?Yes. It’s why we decided to do the show house. The low ceilings and cottage feel work well with this kind of room. It’s intimate and cozy. You don’t need a lot of stuff to fill the space.

What do you covet for your own home?
The garden cart with the zinc top. It’s definitely going to be the coffee table in my living room.

Best design tip: Edit. Edit. Edit. Less is more.

Biggest design challenge: The AC unit. I decided to not overtreat it. I framed a piece of nylon screen to place in front of it. A high-back chair sits in front of the screen.

What will look dated 10 years from now? Maybe the industrial pieces.

Favorite room besides your own: Liz Levin’s entry and hallway. A hallway is a non-forgiving space. Her design is really smart, and she chose really good art.


-Designer Erin Paige Pitts: Pool room-
How many show houses have you done? This is my first.

First thing you picked out: The swings, because they made the room feel like a porch, which this house doesn’t have.

Describe the style:Elegant coastal.

Biggest design challenge: The original brown-pink terrazzo floors. I had them faux-painted and hand-stenciled with a graphic and wood-grain pattern.

What do you covet for your own home? The Murano glass vase.

Best design tip:If you have a lackluster and dreary space, use reflective white paint (this one is 40 percent sheen), draperies that don’t cover any part of the windows and add reflective surfaces for the maximum light.

How can someone on a limited budget re-create this room? Easily, with white paint, a sisal rug (a non-patterned one would work, too), regular porch swings and cushions, and off-the-rack drapery panels from West Elm or Pottery Barn.

Favorite room besides your own: I just love Nancy Colbert’s room [the library; see gallery]. It is the best of both worlds: cozy, inviting and glamorous.


-Designer Gary Lovejoy: Sunroom-
How many show houses have you done? Fifteen.

Describe the style: Warm, casual contemporary.

First thing you picked out: The Poltrona Frau white leather screen. I have always admired it, and I thought of it right away. It’s laser-cut, and it creates a beautiful pattern with the sun on it. This is the only room in the house with a wall of glass, and the screen shows off the garden behind it.

Biggest design challenge: I had so many openings in this room; there are doors on every wall. Actually there are three sets of French doors and then the wall with the sliding doors. There was no place to put a sofa. I had to figure out how to have my furniture float.

Best design tip: Paint your radiator to match your walls. In this case, I had the radiator faux-finished to match the fieldstone walls.

Favorite room besides your own: Nadia Subaran’s pool kitchen. It’s small and uncluttered. And I love the Luceplan ceiling fans.


-Designer Samantha Friedman: Teenager’s Room-
Favorite element: The fabric. It set the tone for the room.

Describe the style: Sophisticated but fun.

People would be surprised to know: The dressers used to be bright lime green.

Splurge item: The bed from Baker furniture ($12,000).

What will look dated 10 years from now? The orange might not hold up; that’s why it’s only an accent color.

Best design tip: Don’t be afraid to play with a space. There used to be a desk in the niche where the bench and swing are now.

Favorite room besides your own: Patrick Sutton’s living room. It’s just breathtaking. He did everything right.


-Designer Camille Saum: Dining Room-
Describe the style: Romantic.

First thing you picked out: The color chartreuse. I had been dying to do something in that color. I found the Schumacher fabric for the draperies and table skirt. Then I got the greenish-yellow patent leather for the Karges & Caron French-style chairs. I love those chairs. I describe them as delicious.

What’s on the floor? Yellow-and-white checkerboard paint. Painted floors are a great way to inject color into a design and are very easy care. I love the way the paint highlights the imperfections in the wood.

Did you choose anything because it was eco-friendly? The moss that’s covering the mantel. You can buy it by the box at Potomac Floral in Silver Spring. We had it hot-glue-gunned. It’s a way of bringing the outside in.

Least expensive design accessory: The tiered metal centerpiece is from Pier 1 Imports. It was $69. The Asian pears in it were 10 for $10 at Giant. The tiny wooden bowls on the table were $1.99 each at World Market.

Favorite room besides your own: Iantha Carley’s bedroom. Her wallpaper would look so good with my Anna Weatherley plates.


-Designer Nadia Subaran: Pool Kitchen-
How many show houses have you done? This is my first.

Describe the style: Modern with a retro feel. Inviting; sleek but not sterile.

Favorite element: The lighting. I love modern lighting in all its applications. It should not only provide light but also be aesthetically [pleasing]. I think it is the next layer of design. I chose a pair of Luceplan’s Blow ceiling fans because first and foremost they provide good light. Also, their clear blades do not interrupt the light.

What’s on the floor? 12-by-24-inch Kyoto anthracite rectangular field tile by Architectural Ceramics.

How can someone on a limited budget re-create this look? Don’t line your entire kitchen space with cabinets. One well-designed pantry unit will take the place of numerous wall cabinets. Consider open shelving and hanging racks, like I did in this small space. It gives it an open, airy feel.

Least expensive accessory: Ikea’s Vanlig juice glasses that were six for $3.99.

Favorite room besides your own: Lauren Liess’s hideaway [an upstairs sitting room; see gallery].


-Designer Liz Levin: Entry and stair hall-
How many show houses have you done? This is my first.

First thing you picked out: The hand-stenciled medallion wall motif, which has a slight sheen to it. This space was really dark, so I knew I had to bring in as much light as possible.

Biggest challenge: The vast expanse of wall space.

Favorite element: I have two. The hand-knotted ikat rug and the crystal chandelier in the hallway.

Describe the style: Elegant with a modern edge.

Something people would be surprised to know: The artwork in the hallway is made out of X-acto blades.

What will look dated 10 years from now? Maybe the faux-bois fabric pattern on the wing chair.

How can someone on a limited budget re-create this space? Anyone can design and cut out their own wall stencil. And ikat is very fashionable right now, so it would be easy to find a machine-made rug that has a similar feel.

Favorite room besides your own: Iantha Carley’s master bedroom. I love the mix of colors and the modern elegance. It’s a really tailored approach to a master bedroom.


If you go
The DC Design House is at 3134 Ellicott St. NW. It will be open April 9 through May 8. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $20. Find more information at www.dcdesignhouse.com.

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.
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