Photography: Erik Kvalsvik

Rooms We Love: Living Room

Barry Dixon combines past and present in a playful yet elegant dining room

The owners of a renovated Capitol Hill row house tapped designer Barry Dixon to put a fresh, 21st-century face on their 19th-century home. “The clients didn’t want to be slaves to the particular period of the home,” Dixon explains, “but they didn’t want to be disconnected from it either.”

In the living room, the designer astutely layered elements from past and present while creating an illusion that the space was larger than its compact 10 by 11 feet. “I had to divert the eye geometrically with lots of curves and circles,” he says.

In the entryway, a Hepplewhite bench that belonged to the client’s grandmother is lacquered in white and its seat is covered in a bold Zoffany print. The original Ionic columns on the fireplace were preserved in a nod to neighborhood history. In lieu of bookshelves, Dixon created benches on either side of the fireplace and upholstered the seat cushions and wall behind them in a modern-day Dominique Kieffer linen damask. In the bay window, sheers in a Calvin fabric through Donghia provide a veil of privacy and a “deconstructed columnar effect.”

Dixon focused the room on a pair of Niermann Weeks chairs upholstered in his own fabric for Vervain that revolve around a Tomlinson ottoman. Called a “cupcake” by the owner’s small children, the ottoman is upholstered in a coral pink Celerie Kemble vinyl resembling shagreen.

“It’s playful and interactive,” says Dixon of his updated, kid-friendly take on the formal seating arrangement. “It’s not a fussy, stuffy, formal living room. It’s a living room for living.”