Anna and Brian Matthews moved from an English basement to a 1904 rowhouse a few blocks away with just one good sofa and Brian’s bachelor furniture.
Because Anna is a designer, it wasn’t long before the old pieces were going up on Craigslist and new stuff was coming in from her favorite fabric, wallpaper and furniture sources. After four years, compromise and collaboration are woven into every room of their three-story, 2,100-square-foot Capitol Hill home.
“It’s been fun figuring out how we fit together in this house, and doing the problem-solving together, too,” says Anna, 29, who opened her own design firm last year. She says she has worked to “fit his need for function with my aesthetic.” “To be honest, I had the same furniture I’d been using since undergraduate days,” says Brian, 34, who works in venture capital. “I give her a lot of credit for having the vision. I am fortunate and happy to live in such a beautiful place.”
Anna set a neutral stage using gray or creamy white walls and natural sisal rugs. Then she chose pieces to fit their lifestyle. A rustic round wood table with an urn pedestal from Restoration Hardware fit her style quotient for dining, and you can set a glass down on its weathered finish without worrying about rings. Her desk is a West Elm white lacquer table downstairs; he has a large wood desk near the fireplace on the main floor. Throughout the house, you’ll find antlers, paintings of trout, and other nods to the American West, a place with special meaning for both of them.
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Anna and Brian met as children at a dude ranch in Wyoming, where for years, their families vacationed at the same time. “He was the cool kid, and I followed him around,” Anna recalls. Years, later, they started dating. In 2011, they were married in Jackson Hole with a view of the Grand Tetons. They go back often, as they enjoy hiking, boating and fly-fishing together. “We love it out there,” Anna says, “and the West is really a part of us.”
Brian and Anna were attracted to this house because it had a recent kitchen renovation, incorporating glossy white Ikea cabinets and recycled concrete counters. Former owners had opened up the first two floors, taking down walls. The lower level has the kitchen, a family room big enough for a sectional sofa, a powder room and Anna’s desk. The main level has a very small entry hall and a big open area divided into three zones: dining, living and Brian’s home office. Upstairs are two bedrooms and two baths.
Anna, who had worked for local designers Amy Zantzinger and Erica Burns before opening her own firm, loved the built-ins, crown molding and shutters. She and Brian were taken with the two working fireplaces and brick courtyard. Anna hadn’t owned many furnishings when she moved to Washington in 2010. She had been sharing a small place in New York’s West Village with two girlfriends while she worked for designer Phillip Gorrivan.
The new house gave her a blank canvas for her own style, with Brian weighing in. They’ve experimented with a few things that didn’t quite work. The entryway has had several incarnations, including a chalkboard paint phase. “It was a great idea, and we loved it when people left us notes on it,” Anna says. “But the house always felt dusty.”
The latest look is a dramatic wallpaper pattern of migratory birds by Manuel Canovas called Sark. Anna had seen the pattern used in fashion blogger Marlien Rentmeester’s master bedroom. “I thought it was a good gender-neutral pattern for our home,” she says.
It is outdoorsy, but Brian says the jury is still out: “I’m waiting for it to keep growing on me.”
The large ottoman in front of the twill sofa used to have tennis-ball green velvet upholstery on it. But Brian wasn’t allowed to put his feet up on it. “Between the two of us, we figured out a way to fix this,” he says. “You have to find something that satisfies both. All I care about is putting my feet up, and all she wants is a nice fabric ottoman.”
The compromise: a menswear plaid wool. He can put up his feet on one side and she can display a silver tray that once belonged to her grandmother layered with books and small treasures on the other side.
Anna has spent a lot of time arranging the bookshelves on the main floor to be a collection of things reflecting both of them. There are chunks of coral, footballs and a nautical clock that was a wedding gift. She mixed up their books by color, so you’ll find an interesting mix: “Great Fishing Lodges,” Miles Redd’s “Big Book of Chic,” “Applied Mergers & Acquisitions” and Robert Frost poetry.
“It’s been fun seeing how our tastes fit together,” she says. “Our home represents both of us, instead of one of us.”