In the living room, Kathryn Ivey combined a Hickory Chair sofa and Lee Industries armchairs.
BEFORE: The existing kitchen was entirely gutted during the renovation.
BEFORE: A wall separated the dining area (pictured) from the kitchen.
Ivey transformed the living room's neutral backdrop with blue-painted shelving.
The scrolled wrought-iron console in the foyer is reminiscent of a New Orleans garden gate.
A sliding barn door leads down to the basement, imparting a rustic touch.
In the dining area, a built-in desk doubles as a bar for entertaining.
Wallpaper defines the dining area, where a new bricked-in arch makes a statement.
A built-in sideboard with glass-fronted cabinets delineates the kitchen and dining area.
A farmhouse apron sink lends the home period style.
A corner breakfast nook hosts easy family meals.

The Big Easy

Designer Kathryn Ivey gives a Capitol Hill home a New Orleans-style makeover

When the Lukken family bought their four-bedroom Capitol Hill row house in 2011, they knew an extensive renovation lay in their not-too-distant future. A sociable couple with three kids under the age of ten, they wanted the home to reflect their taste and align with their lifestyle.

“The house was nicely appointed but somewhat dated, with a darker palette—lots of maroons, beiges and forest greens. It also had very formal moldings and fixtures,” recalls DC-based interior designer Kathryn Ivey, who was hired by the owners to revamp their house in 2013. “It was the home of a sophisticated older woman versus one for an active young family of five.”

Though the Colonial-style row house was built only ten years ago, its exterior blends seamlessly with the area’s period homes. However,  with polished wood floors and shiny brass fixtures, the interiors smacked of new construction. A plan evolved that would lend the new home a sense of history and timeless character. “My client is originally from Louisiana,” says Ivey. “She loves the rustic yet elegant New Orleans style, with its weathered finishes, rich natural materials and Old World sensibility. I wanted to bring these timeless elements into the home and better connect it to its historic neighborhood.”

Working with Claire McLane of Residential Concepts and builder Ryan Keith of Redux Garden + Home, Ivey finalized plans for a first-floor remodel that would open up the layout and improve circulation between the foyer, living room, dining room and kitchen. 

To achieve this, a superfluous wall separating the kitchen and dining room came down, as did ornate double columns dividing the living and dining rooms. “We wanted to preserve the openness,” explains Ivey, “but maintain differentiation between these two spaces, so we bricked the drywall supports and created a brick arch.”

The interior brickwork imparted instant character, adding a desired “forever there” component to the home. Ivey created spatial definition in the now-open floor plan while continuing to  add details that would “age” the house. She paved the foyer with coarse Tennessee bluestone, and replaced builder-grade mahogany floors throughout with custom-planked old-growth hickory from Vermont in a foot-worn finish. She also installed a tongue-in-groove painted wood ceiling in the refurbished kitchen. 

“The kitchen was completely gutted and redone,” says Ivey. “Opening it up really lent itself both to relaxed entertaining at home and hectic everyday life with the kids.”

Two wrought-iron lanterns provide New Orleans-style lighting above the island, which is topped in Absolute Granite with a user-friendly leather finish. This is where the kids grab quick meals and food prep takes place. A farmhouse apron sink, marble perimeter counters and paneled, Shaker-style cabinets with aged brass hardware add further definition. 

“All the finishes in this home are really important,” says Ivey. “They are textural yet refined, with all the warmth of natural materials.”

She took a similar approach to the clean-lined, traditional furnishings. French-inspired bentwood chairs with X-backs and caned seats pull up to a distressed-wood oval dining table, while seating in the living area includes a pair of powder-blue slipcovered armchairs and an oatmeal-hued linen sofa. Aged brass, rubbed bronze and wrought iron are used throughout as metal accents. Adult sophistication pairs with family comfort in each nook.

“We painted almost everything soft white,” says Ivey of the largely neutral canvas, “but we also wanted a light and airy historical color palette for select accents.”

Timeless hues such as sage green, caramel tan and Colonial blue quietly enhance the neutrals in the form of small accessories and throw pillows, as well as in carpets and artwork. Punches of black on the ebonized stair rail and painted front door add dramatic flair.

Ivey made her boldest color statement in the living area, where she painted the fireplace mantel light tan and the matching built-in bookshelves a muted blue. “The decision to add the infusion of color to these architectural features was definitely more European,” says the designer, who has spent time in Provence. “In America, we tend to color the walls and keep the trim white or stained. I did the exact opposite. It’s a different expression of color. And it was another way to bring that French influence into the home.”

Other inspired details include the Moravian star fixture, casting points of light in the foyer; needlepoint-embroidered pillows, layering in texture; and pale Roman shades, with their playful pompom trim, filtering sunlight and adding warmth. 

“The house speaks to that New Orleans style of living,” says Ivey of the home’s irresistible charm. “The homeowners are a fun couple who love to entertain. Now, they can comfortably interact with their guests and keep track of their young family.” 

Charlotte Safavi is an Alexandria, Virginia, writer. Photographer Helen Norman is based in White Hall, Maryland.

INTERIOR DESIGN: Kathryn Ivey, Kathryn Ivey Interiors, Washington, DC. RENOVATION DESIGN: Claire McLane, Residential Concepts, Chevy Chase, Maryland. RENOVATION CONTRACTOR: Ryan Keith, Redux Garden + Home, Washington, DC.