On a quiet Kalorama street lined with embassies, a modern building stands out amid the stately façades. Given the neighborhood, it’s only fitting that one of its four spacious condominium apartments harbors a veritable United Nations of design. Its homeowner has amassed a collection of European furniture, lighting, rugs and accessories with help from designer Douglas Burton, a principal at DC’s Apartment Zero. It is a serene refuge that is cutting-edge modern and at the same time warm and inviting.
The client, a creative and marketing executive, hired Burton years ago to remodel and decorate her home in Chevy Chase. She had always dreamed of moving to Kalorama and jumped at the opportunity in 2008, when she discovered the clean-lined new brownstone designed by Wnuk Spurlock Architecture. She loved the apartment’s open layout, voluminous windows and well-appointed kitchen but turned to Burton to make it feel like home.
They started planning color palettes and furniture groupings before the building was even complete. “She loves the outdoors and she loves earth-tone colors,” says Burton. “She wanted it to be soothing but at the same time she wanted some iconic design pieces in her home.” They honed in on furniture with simple, organic forms from the dozens of European lines that Apartment Zero carries (the retailer also offers the services of two designers and an architect on staff).
Nature takes the lead in the apartment’s color scheme, which includes shades of sand, olive and chocolate brown pumped up with jolts of red and white. “On the walls, we chose an olive palette and we mixed a little bit of white into it so each room is a different riff on that olive color,” Burton explains.
Despite the muted colors, the interior is anything but drab. To the left of the entrance, guests are invited to lounge on low-slung sofas and chairs in the open living room. “We chose pieces that were comfortable but with a lower profile so your eye wouldn’t be broken with any kind of barriers,” says Burton. The view travels back to the dining area, where bright red Little Tulip chairs by Pierre Paulin echo the motif of a bold print of a tulip by local photographer Amy Lamb. A Bocci chandelier of hanging orbs adds a sense of drama. The dining area faces the open kitchen appointed with sleek appliances and granite countertops.
Rugs and fabrics add warmth and texture throughout the home. In the TV room located off the dining room, the Polder sofa by Vitra was inspired by the patchwork fields of the Netherlands countryside; each section is upholstered in a different shade and textile. It sits on a thick shag rug from Belgium made of New Zealand wool and horsehair—heaven to the touch.
To the right of the main entry, an open area serves as a home office that faces the light-filled living area and balcony. Beyond the office, the master bedroom and bath provide a soothing refuge where the olive wall color gives way to cream. The bed, upholstered in green fabric, sports cream and dark brown linens for added contrast. A large Paulin Tulip chair with a matching ottoman makes a cozy spot for reading.
The client’s fascinating collection of art and photography adds another layer of personality and meaning to the home. A striking portrait of an African woman by the late photographer Herb Ritts makes a bold statement in the kitchen. And in the living room, two pieces depicting polished women’s fingernails hang next to the stone fireplace. “It’s nice to have a couple of strange images mixed in. You don’t want it to be so perfectly clean that it’s boring,” Burton says. “It needs to be sophisticated and crisp but it also has to have a little bit of drama.”
Photographer Stacy Zarin Goldberg is based in Olney, Maryland. INTERIOR DESIGN: Douglas Burton, Apartment Zero, Washington, DC.