For Purcellville Designer, an Extreme Makeover

Purcellville interior designer Kate Dieterich, right, and Vicki Buswell prepare a house in McLean for a magazine photo shoot.
Purcellville interior designer Kate Dieterich, right, and Vicki Buswell prepare a house in McLean for a magazine photo shoot. (By James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)
By Julia Feldmeier
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 23, 2006

Kate Dieterich does not look at all scruffy, as she has warned. The 39-year-old interior designer works and lives in Purcellville, but today she is in McLean, preparing a client's stately home for a Southern Living magazine photo shoot.

Dieterich had said she would be in jeans and boots, gear suitable for directing carpenters and upholsterers. Knockabout clothes.

This is a half-truth. She is wearing jeans, of a slim, designer cut. But she is also wearing a dazzle of turquoise: a turquoise turtleneck sweater, a turquoise suede jacket, turquoise jewelry -- all of which, fittingly, accentuates her blue eyes. Her jeans are fastened with an enormous silver Western belt buckle.

And she is barefoot, her toenails painted crisp pink.

Right away, we've learned two things about Dieterich: She has high standards of style, and she is a feet-planted-firmly kind of gal.

Both qualities, it turns out, served her well when "This Old House" came calling.

The PBS television show rolled into the District early last month to renovate a 130-year-old rowhouse in the Shaw neighborhood, and the crew needed an interior designer to see through the finishing touches. The show found Dieterich through the local chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.

Dieterich is "very down to earth, and it made her so easy to work with," Deborah Hood, producer of "This Old House," said by phone from Boston.

"Even with all the chaos, nothing could stop her. She was just rock solid," Hood said. "She just got her work done and did an amazing job in a short period of time."

Indeed, Dieterich had just 10 days to furnish and decorate the house -- from scratch. (The three episodes featuring Dieterich began airing last weekend.)

Typically, "This Old House" projects involve renovating homes that are owned by individuals. In this case, the rowhouse was owned by Mi Casa Inc., a D.C. nonprofit group that buys buildings at below-market rates and sells them to middle- and low-income families.

The arrangement presented Dieterich with an unusual challenge: no homeowner to work with, no furniture to fill the house, no fabric to dictate color schemes.


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