Above, take a look around the first floor of this year’s design house.
The five-story house at 2509 Foxhall Rd. NW was built for throwing parties. With three kitchens, a wine cellar, an elevator and an infinity pool, it was recently the French ambassador’s temporary residence. You can still spot the iron security gates and the house number sign painted in the colors of the French flag.
But for the month of October, the 11,242-square-foot home (for sale at $10.8 million) has been adopted by the local design community for the annual DC Design House. The rooms are decorated for imaginary owners, 21 spaces transformed by designers into glitzy Russian-inspired powder rooms and secret whiskey bars and lairs for ladies.
A show house is meant to highlight the talents of designers and spark the imagination of visitors looking for inspiration — or a new decorator. It’s also a place to spend an afternoon with a friend and dish about the rooms. Things like: Why is there a peacock sitting at the Steinway in the living room? Or: Is that really a mirrored console covering that toilet tank?
The business of show houses can be rough. Top designers can be hard to sign up and interesting homes tough to pin down. This show house was traditionally held in the spring, but because organizers could not find a suitable house for spring 2016, they moved the event to fall.
The DC Design House was formed in 2008 to bring back the popular annual event after the long-standing National Symphony Orchestra Decorators’ Show House ended its 34-year run in 2006. In 2008, 7,500 people visited the first DC Design House, an 1842 brick Georgetown home, raising $100,000 for Children’s National Health System.
The event continues: Last year’s Design House raised $365,820 from ticket sales, boutiques, sponsors and items designers sold from their rooms; virtually everything is for sale.
“We’re always looking for the next house,” says Skip Singleton, co-founder of the DC Design House. If you’ve got a place with at least 20 rooms that you’d be willing to move out of for several months, contact the organizers.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a few decorating ideas, here are our top six.
Master Bedroom Suite
Victoria Sanchez, Victoria at Home, Alexandria
Bedrooms should be beautiful, but they should also be quiet and calming, Sanchez says. Her dusty-blue bedroom, with a lavish upholstered bed and French doors opening to a balcony, draws you in and makes you long for an Arianna Huffington-approved nap.
The first thing she did was upholster the walls. “That assures that all the sound gets absorbed and makes the room really restful,” Sanchez says. She installed a big Stark rug in shades of blue atop a thick jute pad. Other amenities include two kinds of reading lights: bedside lamps and swing-arm lamps. The ceiling was painted Farrow & Ball’s Skylight. “A pale blue ceiling is perfect for a bedroom because it makes you look up and imagine the sky,” Sanchez says. “It helps you unwind.”
Vintage Cabana/Roof Deck
Quintece Hill-Mattauszek, Studio Q Designs, Alexandria
One of the tiniest spaces in this house is also one of the most charming. When presented with a little roof deck on the top floor of the massive house, Hill-Mattauszek thought of a glam place she’d like to relax with a cup of tea. She imagined a comfy narrow sofa covered with a canopy top and side drapery panels that could keep out the sun. She built a cabana worthy of a retro Hollywood hotel pool, using indoor/outdoor white fabric and Tommy Bahama Home Swaying Palms print. She found galvanized-metal components for the frame at canopiesandtarps.com.
“Who wouldn’t want a roof deck like this?” Hill-Mattauszek asks, looking up at the trees. “But you could imagine this also on a small urban balcony or deck.”
Pamela Harvey, Pamela Harvey Interiors, Oakton, Va.
Classic architecture and molding give this formal room a head start in the style game. Harvey painted it Pointing, Farrow & Ball’s creamy white, and used the crisp combination of black and white. “Black and white is timeless,” says Harvey, who added shades of green and lots of plants, including a seven-foot fig tree from Merrifield Garden Center and succulents from Home Depot.
She included a Steinway baby grand and three 1950s Hollywood Regency-style stools she found online at 1stdibs and upholstered in a green and white cut-velvet fabric. For the curtains, she chose a Schumacher black cotton moire. “Several designers stopped by and said, ‘Wow, you are doing black window treatments.’ They were amazed. I don’t think it’s that common. I think it’s super sophisticated,” Harvey says. A pair of sofas were upholstered in durable white Sunbrella fabric. “I want people to sit on them and not be afraid,” she says.
Betsy Barmat Stires, Frog Hill Designs, Alexandria
Although the original kitchen was large and luxurious, with lots of off-white cabinets, a huge center island and granite counters, it lacked a special sense of style. Stires says, “I wanted to warm up the neutral kitchen setting and build texture, since it had so little.”
Stires hired decorative painters from Dieter Pluntke Decorating to execute a wall treatment she created that resembles grasscloth in an overscale pattern. Farrow & Ball colors Mahogany and String and mixed glazes give it a polished and durable finish. The pattern nicely fills in the narrow spaces above and between the cabinets. She placed two gray antiqued balustrade lamps from Niermann Weeks on the counter. “I think lamps in a kitchen warm up the space and give any kitchen more of a human scale,” Stires says.
Eve Fay, Farrow & Ball, the District
The back hall is not a glamorous assignment in a designer show house. But Fay stepped up to the job by keeping this space simple yet bold. The back stairs that go down from the main floor to an entertaining level below were papered with a navy grid-patterned wallpaper, Enigma, by Farrow & Ball. A gold chain suspends a golden 30-inch orb, the Mill Ceiling Light by Aerin for Circa. “I loved this fixture because it had scale and presence and could float in the air like a giant sphere,” Fay says.
Fay’s decorating restraint was evident in her choice of window covering for the 11-foot stairwell window: none. From the pool, someone enjoying an evening swim can catch a glimpse of that golden orb softly glowing inside.
Josh Hildreth and Victor Sanz, Josh Hildreth Interiors, Reston
There is a lot going on in the library, an Old World room with lots of fascinating art, photographs, vintage books and curiosities. And designers Hildreth and Sanz like it that way. Their goal, they say, was to bring some patina and warmth to a plain, boxy room.
One of their major feats was to use an 18th-century French Aubusson woodland tapestry to create a rich look on one windowed wall, which otherwise looks onto a fence and the house next door. “The French put these on their castle walls to create warmth and create a view,” Hildreth says. “This also solves a modern problem.” Can’t spring for a tapestry? Try an Oriental rug or an interesting textile, he says.
The DC Design House is at 2509 Foxhall Rd. NW. It will be open Sunday through Oct. 30. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $35 and benefit Children’s National Health System. On Oct. 1, there will be a preview day with refreshments from noon to 4 p.m., for which tickets cost $60. For more information, go to dcdesignhouse.com.
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