Two years ago, when Linda Bond had the chance to buy a house she had admired for a long time, she jumped at it.
But the house had one flaw: a dark, outdated interior. The look she imagined for the five-bedroom French manor home in Chevy Chase, Md., was light, airy and elegant.
Bond, who works as a consultant for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and is the wife of Christopher “Kit” Bond, a former Missouri governor and U.S. senator who retired in January after serving four terms in Congress, had recently renovated her previous home, so she had a plan.
She picked out light paint colors, laid down area rugs, weeded out and replaced some furniture pieces and reupholstered others and shuffled the floor plan around until she got it just right. The transformation took less than a month.
“It’s just so pretty and inviting,” she says of the Swedish style that inspired her design. “And the furniture doesn’t feel precious. You put a glass of water down and you don’t worry about it.”
She says she fell in love with her home before she ever stepped inside.
She spotted the 1920s house on a drive through her neighborhood and was taken by its taupey-gray facade, the leaded diamond windows, the unusual peaks in the roofline and the gently curved walkway bordered by rows of Polish boxwoods.
Eighteen months later, when the house was put up for sale, Bond was able to see inside and fell even harder.
“It was charming and unusual,” she says. “There was no big addition, no kitchen-family room combination,” Bond says. “It retained a lot of its original character.”
Immediately after moving in, Bond got to work transforming it.
The first thing she did was call on friend and antiques dealer Loi Thai, who helped her with her previous home. Thai is the owner of Tone on Tone, a shop in Bethesda that specializes in 18th- and 19th-century Swedish antiques.
Then, she had all the dark woodwork and trim painted a creamy white. Most of the rooms were painted the same pale gray, which instantly brightened the house and made the rooms feel connected and cohesive.
With Thai’s help, Bond chose an off-white indoor-outdoor fabric and neutral cottons and linens to cover most of the upholstery and cushions throughout the house. They recovered some existing furniture and had slipcovers made for others. Using similarly toned fabrics throughout the house lightened and unified the spaces and makes it easy to change things around.
“What is great about this look is that it all goes with everything,” Bond says. “You’re not buying pieces that are only meant for one area of the house.”
Bond has a settee in the kitchen that was once in the sunroom. A chest of drawers that serves as a side table in the library was previously in the master bedroom. A plant stand in the sunroom used to be the base to a glass kitchen table.
When Bond bought her first Swedish antiques, Thai helped her pick pieces that would work with what she already had: a clock and chest of drawers with blue and gray undertones to complement the blue-and-white antique porcelain Bond had throughout her house.
Swedish antiques are expensive, but Bond says the investment is worth it.
“New pieces won’t have the uniqueness or character that Swedish antiques have,” she says. “If you’re going to pay for something, why not have it be something you won’t tire of?”
Bond saved money by cutting a few inconspicuous corners.
She divided a large area rug she already had in half, rather than buy two new ones. She installed painter-grade wood instead of much pricier hardwood because she knew she wanted to paint the kitchen floors. And she reused the curtain panels and rods from her previous home, cutting some rods and spray-painting others to match. In some rooms, she didn’t use window treatments at all.
“If I had privacy in the rooms, I didn’t use curtains,” she says. “It looked too heavy, too fussy. And it’s cheaper.”
Now that this house is done, Bond can set her sights on the next project.
With her husband retired from Congress, the couple will maintain a home base in Washington but will also be placing more permanent roots in St. Louis. This means Bond will be soon be decorating again.
But she doesn’t mind. When it comes to creating comfortable and elegant spaces, she’s become a pro.