WNBA’s Crystal Langhorne demonstrates flair for decoration at D.C. townhouse

Warm wheat-colored walls envelop you as you walk through the door of Crystal Langhorne’s home in Northeast Washington. Your eye is drawn to the espresso-painted fireplace surround and bookshelves. A bold swath of crimson on the back of the shelves creates a powerful contrast.

It takes a moment for you to realize that these hues weren’t selected randomly by Langhorne. They’re Terrapin colors.

“I like gold, and I also like red and black, actually Maryland colors,” Langhorne said. “That’s what I joke about.”

The former Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, who helped lead the Maryland women’s basketball team to a national championship in 2006, has settled nicely into the home she purchased in 2009. Now an all-star forward for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics — whose home opener is Sunday against the Atlanta Dream at Verizon Center — Langhorne has turned a flair for fashion into a passion for decorating.

On the coffee table, ESPN magazine shares space with Spanish decorating magazines. The TV is as likely to be tuned to “Love It or List It” as it is “SportsCenter.”

“I’ve always liked HGTV,” she said. “Even before HGTV became popular, there was [the TLC show] ‘Trading Spaces.’ I used to watch that coming home from school.”

When Langhorne bought her 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom townhouse, she was the first owner, giving her a blank palette to work with. But before she could spend much time in it, she headed overseas.

Langhorne splits her professional basketball career between the WNBA in the summer and European teams in the fall and winter. Since leaving Maryland, she has played for teams in Lithuania, Spain and Russia. For the past two years, she has been a member of Dynamo Moscow of the Russian Premier League, along with two former Terrapin teammates, Kristi Toliver and Laura Harper. This spring, they won the EuroCup.

Decorating a home from thousands of miles away is no easy feat, but with the help of the Internet and UPS, Langhorne has adroitly decorated her place. She does most of her shopping online and schedules deliveries during her trips home.

“I had a lot of time to look, not rush and buy things,” she said. “I could look and choose what I wanted. . . . I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to do. It was mostly colors that I was thinking first.”

Langhorne loves to entertain, whether it’s having a few friends over to play board games — Taboo and Sorry are favorites — or a big team get-together such as her legendary Halloween parties. She has designed her home to accommodate gatherings of all sizes. She started in the main living area, painting the walls, fireplace and bookshelves. She was particularly pleased with how the crimson accent color on the back of the shelves turned out.

“It pops. It’s nice,” she said. “Then my TV blends in with the black so it’s not just sticking out.”

Little touches here and there — her collection of James Patterson books and basketball trophies, the peaceful Kermit statue perched on the fireplace mantel — personalize the room and show off Langhorne’s whimsical nature.

The first pieces of furniture she purchased for the room were a pair of white benches from Overstock.com, one of her favorite shopping sites. She added two chairs from J.C. Penney and a sectional couch from Macy’s. The painting on the wall came from Ikea.

“A lot of my purchases, I feel like everything doesn’t have to be super-expensive, the same with clothes,” she said. “I love HomeGoods. I don’t think enough people know about Home Goods.”

Because she doesn’t like to “dine,” as she puts it, she created an eating area in the kitchen where friends and teammates can gather. One of her teammates jokingly calls the long wooden slab that came from Ikea, the “Last Supper” table. Langhorne is very fond of the vibrant-colored painting that hangs above it.

Langhorne is fearless when it comes to using striking patterns in a small space, as evidenced by her downstairs powder room. The black-and-white wallpaper was a find at Target.

Langhorne went for glamour in her bedroom while maintaining much of her color scheme.

“I kept it pretty simple in here, not a lot of color,” she said. “It’s my bedroom. I don’t need anything crazy in here, just nice and calm.”

Using wallpaper with a velvety texture and jacquard pattern, she created a black border in the tray ceiling. She liked the wallpaper so much she wound up framing some of it and hanging it on the wall as art.

“I don’t know what made me do that. I just liked it,” she said. “When I couldn’t find anything I wanted to put in [the frame], I thought I might as well take this wallpaper, it looks nice, and I just put it in there.”

The small upholstered seat under the picture frame holds special significance for her.

“This is the first piece of furniture I put together myself,” she said. “My brother usually does a lot [putting furniture together] for me.”

The focal point of the room is a sparkling coffee glass chandelier that she found at Home Depot.

“It came in like a thousand pieces,” she said. “Me, my dad, my brother and his girlfriend, we all put it together. It took a while.”

Her best-loved piece in the room is her bed, especially the mattress. Former NBA superstar and now TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal recommended that she buy Stearns and Foster, and she’s glad she did.

“I love my bed. It’s so soft,” she said. “I really miss my bed when I go overseas.”

A painting in one of the guest bedrooms proves that Langhorne isn’t afraid to take matters into her own hands when something doesn’t quite suit her tastes. She found the artwork online but thought it needed a splash of fuchsia at the bottom to match her pillows, so she bought some paint and added it herself.

Although her career has taken her to many foreign countries, her travels haven’t influenced her decorating too much. She has picked up a few pieces that she treasures, including a clock in a guest bedroom that came from Greece.

Because of her busy career, it took about two years to get her home to where it is now. Next on the to-do list are a backsplash in the kitchen and a patio for outdoor entertaining.

Langhorne has had such fun picking out colors for her walls, selecting furniture pieces that work well together and finding the perfect pillows and paintings to complement the overall look of the home that she is looking into turning her hobby into a post-basketball career.

Maryland Coach Brenda Frese is one of those who have encouraged her. With Frese’s urging, Langhorne, who has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Maryland, has begun taking online courses in interior design. Eventually — after she earns an associate’s degree and puts in enough training hours — she would like to get her license.

“We’ll see how it goes,” she said. “Hopefully, it can turn into something. Maybe I’ll work for an interior design company when I’m done.”

Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.
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