When a young bachelor bought his cavernous second-floor loft in an industrial-style building in Arlington, Virginia, it was what he terms “a beautiful, empty canvas.” Walls of windows separated by black metal panes soared two stories in height. Exposed brick walls and pipes provided industrial accents, and a floating iron staircase added to the slightly edgy, urban vibe.
But builder-grade appliances and finishes detracted from the home’s eye-catching potential. The owner, a structural engineer, was eager to bring these elements of the home up to par, and to create a look that would be stylish, masculine and fun. When he discovered up-and-coming designer Elizabeth Cross-Beard on the pages of Home & Design, it was a happy coincidence: Cross-Beard’s colleague at Jenkins Baer Associates had designed the penthouse apartment of Capitals player Mike Green (Home & Design, 2009), which the owner had visited and admired. Cross-Beard’s sensibility encompassed a youthful, edgy quality, tempered with an eye for appealing, transitional spaces.
They started with a masculine palette of gray/beige for the walls. Draperies literally two stories in height softened the lines of the windows, and a sleek gas fireplace was installed on one wall, accommodated by a bump-out that Cross-Beard’s contractor created. “I like to infuse architectural elements where I can,” the designer explains.
Above the fireplace, a flat-screen TV is only one component of what the owner describes as his “paramount objective: to install an incredible A/V package.” Says Cross-Beard: “Everything revolved around the A/V system being put in properly.”
Once that was achieved with help from Starr Systems of Baltimore, the designer and her client turned their attention to the task of upgrading the kitchen. Builder-grade appliances were replaced and humdrum granite countertops gave way to crisp, white CaesarStone surfaces. Cross-Beard painted the existing cabinetry in a dark, high gloss; a faux apron extends the cabinets to the ceiling to contemporize the look.
While it was the openness of the loft space that attracted the owner originally, “it was actually a bit too open,” Cross-Beard recalls. “It made it awkward to design.” He had requested a formal dining area, so the designer devised a solution: She used translucent glass panels to divide the kitchen area from the rest of the space, positioning them in an L-shape to accommodate a custom banquette in faux leather and a chunky, dark wood table. Now, the dining area is convenient to the kitchen, yet separate from it. “I brought the glass panel out a bit to create a hallway behind it,” Cross-Beard says.
Her young client’s priorities included a built-in wet bar on the main floor and what Cross-Beard terms “a transitional feel to the furniture. He wanted his family to be comfortable when they visit, to not feel accosted by a ‘young modern’ look.” The furniture is modern but not spare; large abstract canvases inject color and warmth.
In the media room upstairs, a kitchenette was ripped out and replaced by another wet bar, complete with a counter-level fridge, a small sink and a wall faucet. Cross-Beard painted the surrounding walls and countertop in a high-gloss lacquer to create a sleek look and built the adjoining wall out eight inches to accommodate the A/V system behind it. Behind the wide leather sofa from Lee Industries, a balcony overlooks the lower level.
The master bedroom is long on atmosphere, painted top to bottom in black tinged with blue-green. A dark area rug from Greenspring Carpets inspired the color, which is offset by a large, brightly hued abstract painting on the wall.
Both designer and client agree that a major component of the project was the lighting. “As an engineer, I like angles and symmetry,” says the owner, who opted to replace the standard round recessed lights with stylish, squared-off versions. The main decorative focal point of the loft is the massive chandelier that hangs from the 20-foot high ceiling above the ground-floor living area.
“We knew we wanted something custom and unique,” says Cross-Beard. “It needed to be awesome.” She worked with Jones Lighting of Baltimore to create a sculptural chandelier comprised of many small metal pendants, each hanging at a carefully planned length. “We wanted to be able to see them from both floors,” the designer explains, recalling the five hours she and the electrician worked together to make this happen.
“Nothing was too difficult,” says the owner of the project. “We had high aspirations and what we got is special. It’s unique and different, yet accessible.”
INTERIOR DESIGN: ELIZABETH CROSS-BEARD, Jenkins Baer Associates, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: M & M Builders and Contractors, Gaithersburg, Maryland.