The demands of work and life often prolong the process of feathering one’s nest. Such was the case for Sandra Braunstein and her husband, Samuel Powell, after they moved into their custom home in Fort Washington, Maryland. “For five years, we lived in the house with the original builder’s beige colors and ugly window shades,” Braunstein recalls. “We hadn’t even put anything on the walls.”
Then a friend invited Braunstein and Powell to a party at his house, recently decorated by interior designer Ricardo Ramos. The couple was impressed; stirred into action, they called on Ramos for help with their own residence. They explained preferences for warm earth tones, along with their desire for modern furniture to replace the outdated pieces they’d lived with for years. “We wanted the house to look good but still wanted it to feel comfortable. We didn’t want to be afraid to sit on anything or touch anything,” says Braunstein, who is director of consumer and community affairs at the Federal Reserve Board.
Ramos started by taking stock of the artwork, furniture and contemporary light fixtures that the owners wanted to keep. Then he created a plan to bring the décor to a new level. “The house needed order, color and a sense of home,” he explains. “It had a beautiful architectural layout but wasn’t being used to its fullest.”
First he studied the way light moves through the house, honing in on a palette of Benjamin Moore earth tones that would work together in the open-plan layout. “Everything has to coordinate and flow, but it doesn’t need to be ‘matchy-matchy,’” says Ramos. “It’s important to have an open mind when choosing colors.”
Ramos took Braunstein and Powell through The Washington Design Center, selecting furniture with a modern sensibility. “They wanted contemporary pieces but nothing too stark,” says the designer. In the living room, he proposed a sofa with soft lines, a leather ottoman that doubles as a coffee table and toffee-colored drapery panels. Durable upholstery fabrics introduce texture and warmth. Ramos also commissioned a glass sculpture by Massachusetts artist Caleb Nichols to fill a niche above the fireplace.
The living room opens directly to the kitchen and sunroom. Ramos freshened up existing furniture in these spaces. He replaced black suede on the breakfast chairs with a lighter metallic material and added accent pillows and a whimsical rug in the sunroom.
Working with existing pieces and selecting carpets and furnishings resourcefully helped keep the project on budget, says Ramos. For example, new rugs by Davis & Davis in the living room and dining room emulate silk but are made in the U.S. of wool and synthetic fibers. The owners “wanted it to be modern and comfortable but didn’t want to put the entire bank account into it,” Ramos explains. “It helps to have a budget. I gave them a high and low estimate and stayed somewhere in the middle.”
In the dining room, the couple retained their existing furniture. Ramos dressed up the space with sea foam draperies, reupholstered chairs and a trio of prints by John Matthew Moore.
Sandra Braunstein, who frequently works at home, located her study on the opposite side of the entry foyer from the dining room. She turned to Ramos for help creating an efficient workspace that would accommodate a large book collection and provide adequate document storage. A new custom desk designed by Ramos perfectly fits the space; it contains plenty of cabinets with smoky glass doors to organize Braunstein’s paperwork out of sight.
The large master bedroom posed a unique challenge, with the bed positioned between windows facing a vast, empty expanse. “It was kind of like an airplane hangar,” recalls Braunstein. To create a more functional and inviting space, Ramos designed a divider wall lined with shelves on the entry side of the room and added a reading nook nearby. The opposite side of the wall anchors the bed, which now faces a luxurious new seating arrangement.
Now that it’s complete, Powell and Braunstein are delighted with their home’s new look. “Ricardo was very meticulous,” says Powell. “He went from square one to square 2,000.”
Photographer Stacy Zarin Goldberg is based in Olney, Maryland.
INTERIOR DESIGN: RICARDO RAMOS, IIDA, Allied Member ASID, Studio Ramos, Washington, DC.
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