They say doctors shouldn’t perform an operation on a friend. But that adage clearly doesn’t apply to interior designers. When a couple decided to renovate the Dupont Circle row house they’d lived in for nearly two decades, they called on pal Scott Hixson—and the results are off the charts.
“We knew Scott socially…and it became this perfect match,” says homeowner Linda Frame of the working partnership she and her husband shared with designer Hixson. “I don’t know how many times we told him we didn’t want the project to end. There aren’t many people who can say that after a year and a half.”
In fact, what was initially intended only as a facelift turned into a complete redesign of all three floors of the home. “The project just kept growing. We were going to do some cosmetic things and we ended up ripping out the entire kitchen and doing major renovations on every floor,” Hixson says.
The house, which was built at the turn of the century, received an upgrade in the late ’80s but still didn’t reflect its current owners’ personalities. Although the redesign didn’t alter the architecture, Hixson oversaw the installation of new flooring and lighting, a completely new kitchen and even exterior trim and color alterations.
Once they decided to go with a complete renovation, the homeowners took the concept of starting over quite literally, ridding themselves of almost everything—from furniture to draperies to silverware.
“They didn’t keep anything. I’ve never had a client who worked like this,” Hixson says. “Usually I have a few things as a starting point, which gives me something to work with, but with these people it was a blank slate. Everything went—other than their clothes!”
The couple did retain their collection of Clarice Cliff pottery. The brightly hued English ceramics captured the eye, but were so scattered that they left a sense of incongruity. It was this collection that gave Hixson the jumping-off point he wanted. “The pottery was everywhere in the house. There was some in the living room, some in the dining room, some on shelves in the kitchen,” Hixson says.
“The first thing we had to do was get them together and showcase these pieces.” He designed a simple shelf in the living room to house the collection. For continuity, Hixson removed upper cabinets on one wall of the adjacent kitchen, opening a sightline to the living room. The all-Boffi kitchen, which has a wall of stainless-steel tiles, also opens to a breakfast room where walls are covered with silver grass-cloth that continues the metallic theme but softens it a bit.
Throughout the home, Hixson created a vibe of simplicity and sophistication—modern without being cold, clean-lined without being sterile.
“There are a lot of bright colors associated with the pottery and we wanted something soothing and sophisticated that would stand the test of time to surround it,” Hixson says. “We definitely didn’t want drapery, no skirts on the furniture. It’s pretty much an urban sleek look, but it’s warm. A nice place to come home to.”
The designer also enlisted the aid of local artist and art consultant Mike Weber to find pieces in diverse media that would complement the home’s new look. “The owners took their time selecting pieces,” says Weber, “which is a smart way to go. It wasn’t just about filling the walls. They picked some pieces that were a bit more challenging that they could grow into.”
In keeping with the couple’s burgeoning art collection, Hixson suggested a neutral color scheme, punctuated by pops of color such as the orange-upholstered dining room chairs. “The color palette we devised consists of nice neutrals, stone and taupe colors,” he says. “We mixed in orange and accents to play up the colors that are in the pottery, but mostly everything is earthy and warm.”
Echoing the vibe from downstairs, the second-floor master bedroom is a retreat in soothing gold tones. All of the bedroom furniture is custom-made, including the headboard, a chest of drawers crafted from quarter-sawn oak and nightstands that appear to hang from the wall.
The renovation also encompassed the creation of a third-floor media room, complete with comfortable seating for gathering friends, plus built-in cabinets and additional office space and storage. “This was a room that was neglected. Before we did anything, they never went up there,” Hixson says. “The room is, not surprisingly, a lot darker than the rest of the house. It created an interesting aesthetic. As you ascend in the home, it gets darker.”
The neutral palette provides a complementary backdrop to the body of original art that now graces the home, including a nude by Craig Alan in the guest bedroom, a 10-by-80-inch Sarah Stockstill acrylic-on-linen piece in the breakfast room and a Rebecca Kamen wire sculpture in the upstairs office.
Cradled in serenity and surrounded by interesting artwork, the homeowners now spend more time entertaining as well as simply relaxing at home. Do they miss any of their former belongings? “Are you kidding me? I don’t miss a thing,” says Linda Frame. “There is not one moment of regret.”
Writer Catherine Applefeld Olson resides in Alexandria, Virginia. Photographer Stacy Zarin Goldberg is based in Olney, Maryland
INTERIOR DESIGN: Scott Hixson, Scott Hixson Design, LLC, Washington, DC. ART CONSULTANT: MIke Weber, Weber Fine Art, Washington, DC.