A Subtle Transformation

Interior designer Karen Luria revamps a Chevy Chase condo with an eclectic mix of custom furniture, luxurious textiles and art


Homeowner Carole Harris sought a fresh, contemporary
look for her renovation.

Carole Harris has oomph, plus all the stamina of the Energizer Bunny, and is smart as a whip with a quick wit and a spontaneous sense of humor. This retired attorney is a sports enthusiast and a former tennis pro at a local country club; she now also plays golf, participating in local and national amateur tournaments. Basketball and football games spring forth from her gargantuan television screens. For eight years, Harris’s living room in her 2,500-square-foot Chevy Chase condo was furnished with a professional-size pool table and enormous overhead lights. It was time for a change.

Interior designer Karen Luria of Karen Luria Interior Identity, Inc., took Harris on a tour of The Washington Design Center. “I prefer sparseness. I don’t like clutter. I like open spaces and I like larger rooms and fewer of them. So when I looked at all the various styles in the Design Center, I opted for contemporary,” Harris recalls. Luria listened carefully and devised a plan that would bring comfort, clean lines and an eclectic mix of textures, colors and art to Harris’s home. It would be modern but not stark; serene, yet intoxicating.

Renovation came first. From the entrance foyer, the living room is straight ahead with an expansive opening to the dining room on the left. The media room is to the right of the living room, visually expanding all three. Hallways lead in opposite directions off the foyer. To the right, behind the media room is the master bedroom and bath. To the left is the kitchen just behind the dining room; and off the hallway are a powder room, guest bedroom and bath.

Luria began with modifications to the ceiling in the living room and dining room, where a bulkhead concealing mechanical, plumbing and electrical lines compromised the bones of the space. Luria eliminated the awkwardness by extending the bulkhead around the room’s entire perimeter.

Dropping the ceiling and extending it all the way to the bulkhead would cramp the height of the whole room, so I decided to float the ceiling and leave channels around it,” she explains. This involved a reconfiguration of pipes for the sprinkler system and an entirely new alignment for lighting. In the dining room, Luria again extended the bulkhead, this time creating a coffered ceiling to align the chandelier properly with the table. Next, existing floors were replaced with Roman Magnolia hardwood.

Luria began the decorating process from the ground up. “I wanted something different, not just any Oriental rugs,” she says. Odegard’s “Coconut Flower” lends Asian-inspired tranquility to the foyer. Stylized floral inserts on a neutral field express the refined simplicity of a contemporary Oriental aesthetic in the Tibetan living room rug. In the dining room the motif is again stylized, this time on an Afghan rug that alludes to a pool of koi.

Working with subtle earth tones throughout, Luria chose fabrics and furnishings, incorporating her own designs or making modifications to existing pieces. In the living room there had been “no natural conversation cluster,” notes Harris. With the pool table gone, Luria created a conversation area where none had existed before, a Donghia sofa and Keith Fritz cocktail table with two chairs from Holly Hunt opposite. Next to each chair are small side tables by Randolph & Hein, one named Flamingo with asymmetrical swirls on the base and the other Tango, with a series of circles. They add a playful touch to the room, a sense of movement in the midst of serenity.

Many pieces are custom-designed by Luria, including the cocktail table, the armoire-cum-bookcase and the console in the foyer. She lightened the base on the dining table, and heightened an end table she placed in front of the fireplace, a spot for writing notes, morning coffee or a bowl of soup by the fire on a cold evening. She modified the arms of the chaise, elongating one and shortening another to ease getting in and out of it, she notes. (Her enthusiastic client has a tendency to dive into furniture.)

Lovely and elegant, these rooms are not precious. They are lived in. Luria chose fabrics with a high double-rub rating for durability. The sheer draperies in the living room can take a beating; they are washable and sun-resistant.

During this construction and design process, Harris and her cat Sammy, who completes her family, stayed in Harris’s Williamsburg home. When they returned, the pool table, Sammy’s favorite nap spot, was gone. Concerned that Sammy might feel displaced in his newly designed home, Luria bought him a small, child-size pool table which she placed behind the living room sofa. He loves it.

Needless to say, the media room is for watching football, basketball, tennis and golf. Noting Harris’s love of basketball, Luria included basketball-shaped pillows on the sectional sofa with a chaise on each end. The leather-covered bench serves as a coffee table, pizza stand or footrest, whatever circumstances call for.


Designer Karen Luria honed in on a serene, clean-lined
aesthetic,from the entry foyer with its Chinese bench,
Odegard “Coconut Flower” rug and suspended light, to
the neighboring living room.

From her chair in the adjacent bedroom, Harris can look through the open door to the media room and on through the windows to the outside. From her bed, she wakes up to another outdoor view, through a window above her acrylic desk. Luria strategically rearranged the bedroom, not only to take better advantage of the views but also to locate the television away from the reflection and glare of the windows. “Before, I obviously had windows and I could look outside, but now everything is positioned in such a way that I almost feel like I am living outdoors,” says Harris.

Although most of the furnishings are new, Luria designed a snazzy guest bedroom with many of her client’s existing pieces, using chocolate and white paint to jazz them up. This designer focuses on detail to the extreme: Embroidered squares on the duvet cover repeat the dentil molding of the chest, which takes a cue from the Stark carpeting and on it goes—all tying together.

Luria used a lot of color, many different hues of paint, to lead the eye from one space to the next. And yet, it is so subtle there is little awareness of the amount of color on the walls. “Color is one of my specialties,” the designer acknowledges. Even the ceilings are not the same white, with Floral White, Linen White, Navajo White and Onyx White all chosen with consideration for the light and the tints and shades of surrounding fabric and furniture.

“It was such an easy project for me,” says Harris. “I didn’t want to be involved in a lot of details. Karen took care of everything and it went swimmingly. I have gotten rave reviews from my friends—and they are very tough and very honest.”

Homes can be lovely and gracious, serene or vibrant in color, adorned in exquisite fabrics and abundant in art, yet durable for big-time living, as Luria has shown in this home designed for a very special client.

Contributing editor Barbara Karth resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Photographer Lydia Cutter is based in McLean, Virginia.

INTERIOR DESIGN: Karen Luria, IIDA, IFDA, IDS, Karen Luria Interior Identity, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia


A custom coffee table made by Keith Fritz and a water
element by Michael Szabo add a sculptural touch to the
living room.

The main seating area in the living room combines a
Donghia sofa with a pair of John Hutton chairs and a
Tibetan rug by Odegard. While the sheer drapes may
look delicate, the fabric is sun-resistant and washable.

Two open-backed chairs and a table by Harris Rubin
create a cozy spot by the fireplace.

A round table and leather-clad chairs by Berman Rosetti
grace the dining room, along with a stacking commode
by Randolph & Heine.

A game-watcher’s haven, Harris’s media room features
a large sectional facing a TV with a leather-clad bench
that doubles as a table.

The master bedroom boasts a complementary color
scheme. Luria’s attention to detail is apparent in the
lampshades of her design and the custom,
hand-embroidered linens.

In the guest room, Luria revived her client’s existing
collection of Swedish furniture with a whimsical paint
treatment. Harris commissioned the painting of one of
her favorite basketball stars, Maryland’s Juan Dixon.