When a young couple first toured their new Shingle-style house in McLean, they immediately knew it was a perfect fit. They loved the open floor plan, crisp millwork and kitchen overlooking the family room and backyard—an ideal set-up for keeping an eye on their five-year-old daughter and toddler twins.
Soon after purchasing the 7,000-square-foot property, however, they realized that the home’s openness was a mixed blessing: Noises echoed through the rooms like a cavern. “As beautiful and spacious as it was,” observed the wife, “we knew it would take a lot to make it feel cozy.”
As fate would have it, the owners had just finished decorating their home in Alexandria’s Belle Haven when they decided to move to McLean to eliminate the husband’s lengthy commute to his Tysons Corner commercial real estate office. Working with the Alexandria, Virginia, design firm Madigan | Schuler, the couple had assembled an impressive collection of furniture that reflected their shared style—a mix of new and vintage pieces and “found” treasures. While they were very happy with the results, the timeframe of the move meant that they would have to find another interior designer to build on their collection and adapt it to their new home.
They turned to Marika Meyer, who took on the challenges of bringing the rooms down to scale and infusing the house with her clients’ character and personality. “The home was built on spec with vast, open spaces and large expanses of neutral drywall, which made it feel cold and impersonal,” she recalled. “Even though it had a significant presence, it had to be a family home. Our goal was to create that warmth.”
After completing a furniture plan and upgrading lighting throughout the home, Meyer set to work softening the existing millwork and applying “layers” of textiles, art and accessories. In the principal rooms, she deftly combined natural-fiber Conrad shades with luxurious drapes to tame the massive window casings without blocking natural light. Tricks of the eye—such as reducing the size of the area rug in the “monster” of a family room—made rooms feel more intimate.
In the foyer, Meyer covered the walls above the wainscot in creamy silk-linen wallpaper by Kneedler Fauchére. “It’s so subtle,” said the wife, a communications consultant, “but that little bit of fabric on the walls softens the sound and adds interest.” Pairing an antique mirror with a lacquered red chair and weathered cypress stools from West Elm created an unexpected “high-low” mix.
“We played with accessories and art,” said Meyer. “On a console like this, you can also accessorize seasonally, in spring doing a beautiful cachepot of hydrangea or in winter, holly or rosemary plants.”
More wallpaper—a Stroheim & Romann toile—sets the tone in the wife’s office. Though the builder called it a library, “there was no place to put a book,” Meyer recalled. So she designed custom built-ins that display her client’s favorite accessories while concealing equipment and files. A high-gloss Farrow & Ball paint in putty gray and drapes and carpet in geometric patterns play off the sleek oval desk that belonged to the owner’s grandmother. “The office is a very fine balance between feminine and masculine elements,” Meyer remarked. “It’s not ‘girlie-girl’ by any means, but she loves to dress up. It’s so reflective of her.” The husband’s home office occupies an open space on the second floor; Meyer also designed his elaborate wine cellar/cigar room on the lower level, where there is plenty of space for the kids’ playroom and casual entertaining.
Meyer tweaked some of the home’s original details that didn’t reflect her clients’ aesthetic. In the kitchen, for example, she replaced an ornamental backsplash with simple white subway tile, incorporating a herringbone motif above the range. “I’m always making a case for simplicity,” Meyer said. “At the end of the day, you want your kitchen to feel clean and organized. Enough clutter comes in on a day-to-day basis that I like to keep the backdrop simple.” She also traded the builder’s light fixtures for custom pendants and a rubbed-bronze fixture to better illuminate the island and breakfast table, respectively.
The layered effect is most pronounced in the living and dining rooms, which face each other off the main entry. Grasscloth wallcoverings, sisal rugs, Conrad shades and Schumacher drapes envelop guests in rich textures. A beautiful hand-carved mirror hangs in the dining room; the husband’s father picked it up when a neighbor in Pittsburgh discarded it decades ago. “It’s funny how little found things can really be show-stoppers,” said Meyer.
The master bedroom—one of the largest the designer had ever seen—was softened by crisp Roman shades and voluminous Schumacher drapes that wrap around two walls. Large chests and tufted armchairs flank the bed while vintage glass lamps in chartreuse, discovered by the wife at Sixteen Fifty Nine, provide a pop of color.
Such finds—along with the couple’s well honed collection of art—impart an edgy, unexpected vibe to the interiors. “One of the really key elements here was pulling in vintage pieces that bring uniqueness to the space,” Meyer explained. “That’s something I try to do in most of our work. I’m always happy to go to 14th Street or to New York to see what original, one-of-a-kind pieces we can pull in. It creates a personal, character-driven space.”
Photographer Angie Seckinger splits her time between Potomac, Maryland, and her home in Spain.
INTERIOR DESIGN: MARIKA MEYER, Marika Meyer Interiors, Bethesda, Maryland. CONSTRUCTION: EDWIN JORAE, CODA Construction, McLean, Virginia.