Faces Of the Future

By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2007

See these fresh faces? They represent a new crop of talent on Washington's design scene. They have worked at some of the coolest shops and showrooms in town. They've interned with local decorators, networked within the design community and started their own companies and Web sites. They, and other young practitioners like them, will be setting design directions here in the years to come.

We wanted to know more about them, and to introduce them to you. They are Sally Steponkus, Liz Levin, Andrew Law and Raji Radhakrishnan. Below, hey tell us about what drew them to careers in design, show off some of their best professional work and give us a glimpse inside their own homes. Even better, they share ideas, advice and a few favorite sources.

Time was, a generation or so ago, when the fortress of interior design was accessible only to those who could afford to work with a professional decorator. High-fashion furnishings, fabrics and accessories were sold "to the trade" and were largely unavailable to the general public.

Things have changed. Smartly targeted home furnishings chains, online shopping and round-the-clock cable home shows have blown design doors wide open, giving consumers more options and more confidence. Nearly anything can be found with a few clicks of the mouse or remote. But this avalanche of access can make design decisions ever more daunting, and professional advice even more welcome.

So keep an eye on these young professionals. And keep reading, as we take a continuing look at the fresh faces in design in the months ahead.

Sally Steponkus

"I love color and pattern."

Age: 30

Background: First design job at Robert Allen's fabric showroom at the Washington Design Center. Apprenticed with local designers Lavinia Lemon and Kelley Proxmire. Started her own company three years ago.

Style: Classic lines with updated, colorful fabrics. Example: a traditional, skirted club chair with English arms, upholstered in a light aqua linen with contrasting cording.

Approach to design: To convey a client's personality. "Houses I do don't look like me; they look like my client."

The most important thing a designer can do for clients: Help them define their personal style and edit their choices.

Trends she likes: Outdoor fabrics so fabulous they can be brought indoors.

Trends she doesn't like:"Shag is back, and I'm not happy about it."

Favorite design books:"Modern Glamour," by Kelly Wearstler; "New American Glamour," by Jamie Drake; "Decorating Is Fun!," by Dorothy Draper.

Favorite shops: In Washington, John Rosselli and Sixteen Fifty Nine in Georgetown; in Bethesda, Ella Scott Design; in New York, Treillage.

Favorite chain stores: Crate and Barrel for accessories; Kellogg Collection for table lamps; Target for kids' bedrooms; Restoration Hardware for bathroom hardware, lighting and medicine cabinets.

Favorite shelter magazines: Domino ("It's me -- in glossy") and Veranda.

Favorite paint color: Powder Blue from Farrow & Ball.

Go-to item:"Brompton" and "Maile," two leaf-print fabrics by Peter Fasano, for upholstery and draperies. The simple patterns work well with traditional and contemporary interiors.

Recent house splurge: Custom-colored wallpaper by Peter Fasano.

Recent inexpensive purchase: Victoria Hagan Catherine lamp from Target for the front hall ($79).

What she would do with $1,000: Buy West Elm bookcases in white lacquer and "fabulous, bright and graphic" custom pillows.

General design tip: Invest in window treatments. "I don't think a room is finished until it has window treatments, whether they're curtain panels, woven wood Roman shades or just valances. They truly complete a room and make a huge difference."

Sally Steponkus Interiors, Washington 202-237-9872


Liz Levin

"Think like a c ollector, not a decorator."

Age: 31

Background: Interned with local designer Kelley Proxmire and the fabric company Scalamandre. Worked as in-house designer at Vastu on 14th Street NW.

Style: Warm and livable modern (not cold and sleek) with something unexpected thrown in. Example: an elegant console and custom silk draperies next to an inexpensive green lamp with a bright orange shade.

Earliest design interest: Styling -- and restyling -- her Barbie Dream House, down to pasting plastic food on the dinner plates.

Favorite designers: David Hicks, Kelly Wearstler.

Trends she likes : Mingling high and low. "Mixing price points is the mark of a good designer. You don't have to spend top dollar to get good design."

Favorite shops: In Washington, And Beige and Random Harvest Studio, and upperGeorgetown, especially Cherry Antiques and Sixteen Fifty Nine, for accessories and inspiration; in New York, ABC Carpet & Home.

Favorite chain storeCrate and Barrel for accessories: "A lot of style for the buck."

Favorite shelter magazines: Elle Decor and Domino.

Favorite paint colors: Barely Beige and Manchester Tan; for drama in small areas, Soot, a deep midnight blue (at Benjamin Moore).

Go-to items: Solid linen fabrics, drum pendants, ceramic gourd lamps, glass coffee tables. And Lucite waterfall tables: "They always add a nice modern twist."

Recent house splurge: Kelly Wearstler's "Imperial Trellis" wallpaper in Alabaster for the powder room.

Recent inexpensive purchase : Blue throw pillows from West Elm ($34 each).

What she would do with $1,000: Buy fabric for the nursery. (Her first baby is due in November.)

How a designer can help: Craft a vision of what the clients want from a room, whatever the sources of inspiration. One client included a dress from Anthropologie.

On the cost of design help:"It's not the cheapest option, and we're not advertising as such. It can save you if it can help you avoid making mistakes and buying things that don't work."

General design tip : Choose your largest, most permanent elements -- such as sofas and tiles -- in neutral colors. "Then you can accessorize and paint more colorfully and change it easily if you tire of it."

Liz Levin Interiors, Washington, 202-333-5386 www.lizlevininteriors.com

Raji Radhakrishnan

"Keep things simple so the special things shine."


Background: Born in southern India. Moved to the United States in 1993, holds an MBA fromAmerican University. Planning an online shop -- Maison et Toi -- featuring 20th-century decorative arts to launch later this year.

Design beginnings: Built her own furniture when she was 15 and spent breaks during business school at Washington Design Center.

Biggest influences: Albert Hadley and Muriel Brandolini.

Recent favorite writings:"The Royal Academy Lectures," by Sir John Soane.

Style: Traditional to modern. "My goal is to bring the sides together. I want a unified space."

Trends she likes: A beautiful sculptural piece, such as a lamp, table or chair, juxtaposed against soft upholstery. "It's comfort for the eye, as opposed to comfort for the body. It creates good balance in a room."

How design has changed: High-end items are more accessible; exclusivity really is not exclusive anymore.

Favorite shops: In Washington, Gore Dean for antiques, Bulthaup Kitchen, Apartment Zero. In New York, Amy Perlin Antiques, Maison Gerard, Liz O'Brien for vintage modern.

Favorite chain stores:Crate and Barrel for kitchenware Restoration Hardware are for classic bath fixtures.

Go-to items: Sculptural lighting, especially in black or pure white. "It's a great way to punctuate a room."

s Calming Cream and Donald Kaufman's DKC8, a white with tints of yellow and green: "It's a bit warm and a bit cool."

Favorite shelter magazines : House & Garden and Metropolitan Home.

Recent house splurge : An original Lichtenstein painting. (Advice to parents with young children: Invest in art rather than expensive furniture. Children can't reach art.)

Recent inexpensive purchase : White waffle dish towels from Crate and Barrel ($10.95 for a set of four).

What she would do with $1,000 : Buy a reproduction John Prouvé Potence wall-mounted lamp.

General design tip : First rule: patience. Try to live in an empty or near-empty house before making decisions about it, to see how you want the space to work for you. "For example: I'd like to put my keys here; I'd like to face this way when I eat."

Raji RM & Associates, Brambleton, 703-542-7889 www.rajirm.com

Andrew Law

"I like the layers of design to unfold as you spend time in a room."


Background: Worked at an antiques store during college in Charleston, S.C. MFA from George Washington University. Design department at Kellogg Collection. Started his own business in 2000.

Style: Clean, confident and timeless: "A well-edited mix of antiques and contemporary furnishings, with a tremendous attention to detail."

Biggest influences: Traveling and Jeffersonian architecture, Monticello and Poplar Forest in particular.

Favorite contemporary designers: Stephen Sills/James Huniford and Rose Tarlow.

Favorite design book:"The Elements of Style: A Practical Encyclopedia of Interior Architectural Details From 1485 to the Present," by Stephen Calloway.

Trends he likes: A well-designed space for casual entertaining that can double as a family room. Furnishings typically include deep, comfortable seating; a game table (for homework projects or card games); custom cabinetry to conceal media components and storage.

Design turnoff: The "great" room, because it often has disproportionately high ceilings, looks tacked on and bears no resemblance to the rest of the house.

Favorite shops: Tone on Tone in Bethesda, Holly Hunt showroom at the Washington Design Center, Cote Jardin and the stores along upper Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. Also, And George in Charlottesville for off-the-floor custom upholstery and accessories.

Favorite chain store: Kellogg Collection. "They have the best lamp selection in the city."

Favorite shelter magazine: Southern Accents.

Simplest way to upgrade a space: A fresh coat of paint and a sea grass rug.

Favorite paint colors Benjamin Moore's Iceberg Blue and Manchester Tan; Duron's Madonna Lily.

Go-to items: Hickory Chair Chippendale side chair with custom upholstery. Pierre Frey's "Alma" fabric. Pillows made from antique textiles by B. Viz in Louisianawww.bviz.com).

Recent house splurge:1952 monotype by 20th-century German artist Otto Neumann.

Recent inexpensive purchase: White waffle wash towels from Waterworks ($10 each). "A stack of these are great as hand towels in a powder room."

What he would do with $1,000: Put it toward having the entry hall walls upholstered in linen.

General design tip: Take your time, and buy the best quality you can afford.

Andrew Law Interior Design, Washington 202-337-7230


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