Sometimes, the right location is worth a little sacrifice. In the case of Matthew Fearnside, an attorney who decided to make a move from Alexandria, Virginia, to DC’s trendy 14th Street Corridor, the trade-off was space. “I came from a much larger place,” he says. “When I moved into my place in DC, none of my furniture fit!”
While his tiny, one-bedroom condo apartment boasted great touches like an exposed concrete ceiling and ductwork that gave it a hip, industrial look, many of its finishes were merely builder grade. Its quirky layout imparted character but also was tough to navigate. “It was full of nooks and crannies,” Fearnside recalls. “I needed holistic help to make it work—artwork, furniture, finishes and space planning.” He was starting from scratch.
Fearnside turned to Will McGovern for help planning the space to best suit his lifestyle and needs, upgrading finishes, selecting furniture and art and gutting the bathroom, which was sorely lacking in style and function. “The unit is on an angle,” McGovern explains. “The challenge was to take this very choppy layout and make it functional.”
McGovern came up with a plan that would make use of every precious inch in the home—and also imbue it with the stylish urban vibe his client was after.
Among the apartment’s quirks was a small, lofted area to the left of the front door that offers an intimate gathering space but also truncates the rest of the room. McGovern made it a niche for TV watching, installing a flat-screen on the wall and a substantial, creamy white leather sofa from BoConcept that comfortably fills the space. He also painted the two walls that flank the loft an inviting purple hue that envelops visitors. Clusters of Puck Lights by Vibia complete the look. The lower-level walls of the loft—facing the entry and kitchen areas—have been clad in an eye-catching, metallic paper from Innovations.
The apartment’s main living space includes a kitchen and a small sitting area. McGovern had to get creative to best take advantage of the modest footprint—and he succeeded. The kitchen island now partially conceals a Parsons table designed by McGovern to be pulled out and its top unfolded; in its open state, it can accommodate six for dinner. A cupboard from BoConcept in one corner has a door that opens out to reveal an efficient desk surface.
McGovern was careful in his design not to overwhelm the space, which has a spare, modern feel but is also welcoming. To the right of the kitchen, two small armchairs from BoConcept sit atop a shag rug, while the eye-catching Dandelion Pendant by Moooi hangs above like a piece of sculpture. Behind the seating area, draperies of woven raffia in a purple color scheme echo the colors in the loft. Beyond the drapes, a compact balcony is visible through sliding glass doors that admit plenty of light.
The kitchen, which came with dark wenge cabinets, Silestone countertops and Bosch appliances, was not in need of much help. McGovern added a backsplash of textured ceramic tiles by Ann Sacks to enliven and personalize the area; it creates a strong focal point. To the right, above the desk, hangs a large, abstract piece they commissioned from local artist Rob Vander Zee, which beautifully picks up the tile color and unites the space.
In the tiny, cozy bedroom, Fearnside was able to use furniture from his previous home, including a bedstead and nightstands from West Elm. McGovern cleverly arranged bike mirrors to decorate the wall behind the bed; the Silence Pendant by Molto Luce hangs above. The traditional closet door has been replaced with a modern, sliding barn door in frosted glass that opens and closes without obstructing the room.
The redesign of the bathroom constituted the biggest change. From the beginning, Fearnside knew it was a space he wanted to upgrade, as it clearly didn’t come with the level of finishes and fixtures that he wanted. McGovern gutted it, replacing the cheap vanity with a sleek, dark-wood version coupled with a large, recessed medicine cabinet, both by Robern. Above the vanity, a Kohler pendant with three fixtures adds interest while the existing shower has been enlivened by a new floor of blue ceramic penny rounds by Ann Sacks.
Throughout the apartment, dark-stained teak floors add warmth. McGovern finished the job with a surround-sound audio system that encompasses the whole unit. Fearnside couldn’t be happier with the results of their labors. “What was great about working with Will was he had a modern sensibility but also made it comfortable, which was what I wanted,” Fearnside says. “I was able to give him free rein because I felt I could trust him.”
Anice Hoachlander is a principal of Hoachlander Davis Photography in Washington, DC.
INTERIOR DESIGN: WILL McGOVERN, ASID, McGovern Design Studio, Washington, DC. CONTRACTOR: K&R CONSTRUCTION, Fairfax, Virginia.