Photography: Angie Seckinger

Interior Design: Case Study

Rich + Refined: Nestor Santa-Cruz imparts casual elegance to a hip DC condo

Interior Design: Case Study A two-bedroom condo in downtown DC’s trendy 14th Street Corridor lured a bachelor just returning from a stint working in London. However, the space—encompassing a living/dining area, two bedrooms and a huge terrace—lacked personality and definition, so the owner tapped Nestor Santa-Cruz to create a look that would reflect his cosmopolitan lifestyle, incorporating artwork and mementos and instilling the space with a sense of casual elegance.

The first hurdle was the exposed duct-work that lined the ceiling, conveying an edgy, industrial sensibility that didn’t necessarily jibe with the owner’s refined furnishings and style. “The building was intended to have an industrial aspect,” says Santa-Cruz. “We would have had to lower the ceiling to cover the ducts anyway. So we said, ‘let the ceiling be its own plane.’ It became a sort of sculpture woven throughout.”

The owner was drawn to an Art Deco aesthetic, so in the main living space Santa-Cruz selected furniture and accessories from that era, including open-backed spoon chairs and console lamps made of ammonite and coral. An early 19th-century French typographer’s table from Marston Luce doubles as both desk and dining table, while iron and leather chairs from Hickory Chair echo a design by Jean-Michel Frank. An existing plush sofa was reshaped, reupholstered and paired with a 1970s plated chrome-and- glass coffee table from Jansen. A rug from Timothy Paul Home delineates the seating area. A Chinese cupboard from the owner’s collection creates a focal point in the room.

INTERIOR DESIGN: Nestor Santa-Cruz, IIDA, LEED AP, Nestor Santa-Cruz Decoration, Washington, DC. PHOTOGRAPHY: Angie Seckinger.


  • First, create an optimal furniture layout with your interior designer; you can always use your existing pieces as a mock-up. The layout is what gives a room its structure. Take height into account and think in inches—they count!
  • You don’t need everyone’s opinion. Work with your designer. If you hired a designer based on previous work, that should establish a sense of trust.
  • When in doubt, over-scale a little. Too many little pieces don’t give proper scale to a room. Less is more—what you take out is more important than what stays!
  • Start with a realistic budget. High and low is okay; your designer should know where to splurge and where to save.
  • Visual comfort is as important as physical comfort—but design for use, not for show.