There are homes we admire from a distance, and then there are homes where we feel—well, right at home. They have a natural cohesiveness that invites us in, no matter their particular style. This welcoming sensibility is a trademark of interior designer Kristin Peake, and it’s in abundance in the Georgian-style Potomac home she decorated for a couple and their three young daughters.
After moving from a cramped, chaotic townhouse they had clearly outgrown, the wife wanted a serene, tranquil environment that would also be kid-friendly. She had been drawn repeatedly to pictures of Peake’s work; finally she contacted her, confident that the designer would understand her vision.
Peake began by selecting neutral colors that would prevail throughout the house. Not only was this palette restful, but it would set the tone for a cohesive design plan. “The way this house works is we can pull a thread through every room; every piece is flexible,” explains the designer. “If you’re entertaining in the dining room and need a few chairs from another room, we can do that. If you’re redecorating the living room, you can move the existing chairs to the master bedroom and they fit right in.”
Right away, Peake noted the home’s interior architectural details—in particular, the coffered ceilings that embellished most rooms. The designer took her cue from the symmetry of the ceiling designs in creating furniture groupings, which convey a harmonious symmetry throughout. She also painted the coffered ceilings with subtle accent colors that “made them pop instead of just disappearing,” she says. “Before, you couldn’t appreciate them.”
The peaceful coexistence of palette, furnishings and textures is galaxies away from the home’s former look, with its dark hues and strong patterns. When Peake first walked into the house, she could envision how to get from there to here almost immediately. However, she still hired high-tech imaging firm 3DStormStudio to create a three-dimensional presentation of her vision.
“You can promise all you want, and show a client photos and numbers. But there’s nothing like animation and 3D to really bring it to life,” Peake says. “For people who don’t get it and really can’t see it—and that’s most of our clients because that’s why they hire us—it’s worth its weight in gold.”
Peake’s clients were also sold on her utilitarian approach. A mother herself, Peake is a realist who knows that a room’s beauty must be more than skin deep. “We live in houses that don’t have glass walls; we have children who are going to bring friends over and spill Kool-Aid on a pillow that cost $300,” Peake says. “We try not to think about these things every day, but it’s real life.”
To aid in the battle against sticky fingers, Peake made ample use of stain protectors and stain-resistant fabrics. “They’ve all come leaps and bounds with indoor-outdoor fabrics,” she observes. “A lot of the furniture in this house is wipe-able.”
A comfortable and inviting vibe pervades the house; visitors notice it the moment they step through the front door. The first thing they see? A plush, round settee, upholstered in an airy, whimsical floral.
“Every typical builder home has a 20-foot stairwell and a big round table with flowers, which I hate,” Peake laments. “I said, ‘Can we please not do that? You have little kids, let’s make this a focal point that feels a little softer and can serve as a sound barrier to the space rather than being a big echo chamber.’” On the curved staircase, Peake installed a floral stair runner that enhances the room’s design while softening the sounds of little feet running between levels and cushioning potential falls.
The adjacent dining room houses a focal point of its own: an oversized wood-bead chandelier from BoBo Intriguing Objects that floats over the round dining table and invites guests to gather. It’s a favorite room of both the homeowners and their designer.
While the family room is a haven for lounging, Peake carefully appointed the living room both for intimate family time and large-scale entertaining. “That was probably my most challenging space because they wanted so many functions in there,” she says. Complementary plush chairs, sofas and tables are arranged in precise but fluid groupings. A freestanding bar—an eleventh-hour client request—looks as if it was an integral part of the room from the start.
Peake updated the existing living room draperies with new hardware and banding. It’s a trick she also employed for the draperies in the master bedroom, a room whose long, rectangular dimensions offered their own challenge.
“It was almost like a ballroom because of the way it was positioned before,” she says of the bedroom. “I definitely needed to rework the existing floor plan and modify it to fit the clients’ wants and needs.”
Also in need of special attention were a few cherished collectibles—notably, a menagerie of unusual Russian vodka bottles that now are displayed in the husband’s office. Peake selected accessories and art throughout the house using the same guidelines that unite the furnishings: Most would be equally at home in any of several rooms.
“I pride myself on full-service installation—not only designing the space and picking out the furniture, but having everything come together,” says Peake, who enjoys creating the finishing touches. “The final layer is ultimately what we all want to do. We worked so hard to create the space, it’s great when we get to finish it.”
Cathy Applefeld Olson is a writer in Alexandria, Virginia. Photographer Stacy Zarin Goldberg is based in Olney, Maryland.
INTERIOR DESIGN: KRISTIN PEAKE, Kristin Peake Interiors LLC, Rockville, Maryland.