Candace Ourisman captures herself perfectly in her Twitter bio: “I love colors and all things that are not typical . . . I hate typical.”
Although she and her husband, Chris Ourisman, live in what on the outside might appear to be your average 1940s Bethesda brick Colonial, when you step inside, it’s a stunner.
Candace Ourisman hired Bethesda designer Erica Burns to help pull off a personality-packed look that blends edgy design and family antiques. Think a royal-purple velvet sofa, a drippy crystal chandelier, bold Isaac Mizrahi chintz curtains, a flea-market bar tray, a Laura Kirar lamp shaped like a huge tassel and shelves of books organized by color, some bought on Etsy for their looks.
Forget the trend of tearing down walls and opening up spaces in vintage houses. Ourisman loves the traditional architecture and layout of her Colonial. Using scale and color in different doses and applications, Burns helped style a home that has as many looks as Ourisman’s closet. “There is something magical about walking into a space and being surprised,” Ourisman says. “I wanted each little room to be like a jewel box and have its own personality versus having an open plan all over the house.”
Pulling off a look that combines Kelly Wearstler wallpaper and family antiques takes a lot of editing. “Candace definitely has a very sharp eye for all things stylish and knew what she loved and envisioned for her home,” Burns says. “The only hard part about that was, it was a mix of various styles that typically don’t go together and are very strong. There was a lot of thought put into how we could make it cohesive without being on sensory overload.”
Ourisman and her husband, president of Ourisman Chevrolet, both 32, bought the four-bedroom house in 2011, a year after they were married. The 1948 house had been remodeled in 2009, when a two-story addition created a kitchen and family room in the back and a master bedroom suite on top.
In 2013, after saving magazine articles and filling Pinterest boards, Candace Ourisman contacted Burns. (She would call for her again the next year to help with the nursery for their son child, Van, who was born in September.) “She has an amazing style, but wasn’t quite sure how to make it come together,” Burns says. “It can be overwhelming. She likes things that are classic but not common. She loves unusual things and wanted her house to be different.”
Ourisman has always been interested in fashion and design, and since 2011, she has been writing a blog called Secretly Fancy. She also does personal fashion styling and works with a nonprofit foundation focused on social change for women and girls.
“I feel like my style is always trying to balance between being irreverent and sophisticated,” she says. “I can’t fit into a box, in fashion or decor. I like to combine things like old-school Palm Beach style and edgy fashion photography.”
When you walk into the vestibule of the house, your eye immediately is drawn to the left, toward the dining room. Here, all of Ourisman’s favorite things come together: graphic prints, black-and-white, jewel tones, and a mixture of old and new. A Palm Beach-meets-Hollywood antiqued brass banana-leaf light fixture sets the stage; emerald-green silk taffeta curtains swoop down to the floor. The kicky Kelly Wearstler black-and-white wallpaper plays against the more formal antique buffet, an heirloom from the Ourisman family. The round black pedestal table is surrounded by black chairs, whose fronts and seats are upholstered in indoor/outdoor ivory fabric. But the backs have a special custom touch: a nubby green-and-black boucle, reminiscent of the fabric of a Chanel jacket.
“Erica really captured me in this room,” Candace Ourisman says. “That back-of-the-chair fabric look is so me.”
To the right of the entry hall, the living room also makes a strong style statement. A contemporary large-scale photograph of two girls by young Polish photographer Sonia Szostak dominates one wall. Burns glammed up Ourisman’s classic Ballard Designs sofa with luxurious eggplant velvet.
The upstairs hallway leading to the master bedroom envelops you in exotic Tibetan tiger wallpaper. The bedroom has dark navy walls. “It’s a big space, and we wanted it to feel like a cool, cozy retreat,” Burns says. The four-poster bed has pillows edged in ice blue and acid-green velvet, picking up on colors from the wallpaper. On a clear acrylic desk, Ourisman has a cute workspace lighted by a fashionable lamp shaped like a giant white tassel.
The nursery had to be one that Ourisman would enjoy being in as much as her son would love growing up in. Animal-print carpeting in navy blue and ivory lay the foundation. There’s a day bed and a Craigslist-procured vintage chest. Dad Chris Ourisman is a Star Wars collector and, yes, that’s Yoda and R2-D2 peeking around the books on the nursery shelves. On one wall near the crib, Ourisman hung a photo that reflected her husband’s family history in Washington: a black-and-white shot from 1923 of the employees at the first Ourisman dealership, Ourisman Chevrolet Sales Co. on H Street NE.
At the head of the crib hangs a special baby gift, a large handmade dream catcher from Spoke Woven that is embellished with feathers and crystals. This dream catcher is inspired by Native American traditional designs that channel positive dreams to the sleeping person.
On the wall is a quote in yellow neon: “To thine own self be true.”
“My core value is authenticity. Be yourself,” Ourisman says. “If I could teach my son any lesson, it would be that.”
Gallery See more photos of Candace and Chris Ourisman’s Bethesda home.
Chat Thursday at 11 a.m. Designer Erica Burns joins staff writer Jura Koncius for our weekly online Q&A on decorating and household advice. Submit questions at washingtonpost.com/home .
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