When Samantha Friedman was asked to update and decorate the interiors of a 3,500-square-foot Dupont Circle residence, she took her cues from her debonair bachelor client. “I instantly saw menswear,” she explains of her overall design approach. “I wanted the interior décor to be like a decorative version of menswear—to feel like opening up a man’s closet and looking at his clothing.”
Though the bones of the circa-1890 house were good, the interior design was dated, with heavy wallpaper and ornate chandeliers, lots of dusty pinks and dark woods. Friedman introduced the patterns, colors, and textures that a professional man would wear, with “pops of brighter color that are like the pocket squares and silk ties.”
Throughout the three-bedroom home, furnishings sports houndstooth, herringbone, and Oxford-stripe fabrics, in neutrals like navy, gray, tan and brown. Materials include wool, velvet, linen and lots of leather, and colorful accessories enliven each space. For example, the neutral home office—with its rustic sawhorse desk and chic leather sofa—has teal accents, while bursts of red balance the bedroom’s black- and charcoal-hued furniture.
“My client had originally wanted to go with gray, which was the ‘it’ color when we started the project,” Friedman recalls of the color palette. “But I didn’t want the home to feel too trendy or too classic. I wanted it to have its own voice.”
Architecturally, the biggest change took place in the master bathroom, which had been pokey and small; clad in black marble, it housed an uncomfortable clawfoot tub and an impractical wood-burning fireplace that was never used. “I knocked out a wall and gained 200 square feet from the master bedroom’s oversized walk-in closet, making room for a spacious steam shower, something the homeowner had really wanted,” Friedman says. She raised the fireplace off the floor, replacing it with a gas version that operates via a convenient switch. It sits beside a new soaking tub.
For the most part, however, she worked with the home’s original footprint, looking for ways to freshen and revamp. The kitchen was completely remodeled in its existing layout, with a banquette designed by Friedman in the breakfast nook. Fireplace mantels received modern hearths and surround, while light fixtures were switched out for contemporary statement pieces. In addition to paint, wallpaper in textured grasscloth did the transformative job of refreshing the house from head to toe.
“I wanted the interior décor to be like a decorative version of menswear—to feel like opening up a man’s closet.”
Friedman played with materials, often combining two or three types of upholstery on one piece. For instance, the dining room chairs are clad in both leather and linen with nail-head trim, while the host and hostess chairs also have a velvet stripe on their backs. The kitchen chairs and armchairs in the living room are covered in a tailored mix of patterned and solid fabrics.
Blending fabrics “lets you be a bit trendier, fun and playful, without putting yourself in a corner with one crazy pattern,” the designer explains her approach. “Each fabric is livable, in a subdued pattern—plus, if and when you get tired of one, you can switch it out without having to reupholster the whole piece.”
According to Friedman, though light and spacious, the living room was the most difficult space to configure. Long and narrow at 13 by 22 feet, it features a fireplace at one end and a bay window at the other. The designer ultimately chose to break up space with a two-way upholstered bench in the center that creates intimate conversational nooks on either side and unifies the room. “I didn’t want to focus either on the bay window or the fireplace in the living room,” she says. “My aim was that you’re drawn to the whole room, not to one part of it, so guests can be just as comfortable sitting in the window area as by the fireplace.”
Because the homeowner had previously lived in a very modern apartment, the furniture he brought with him didn’t work in this new, more traditional setting. Friedman replaced it all with new pieces purchased to fit precisely into specific spaces. Each conveys the clean-lined, tailored look she was after while also being comfortable and inviting for social gatherings.
Among the few previous possessions to pass muster in the new house were clay-and-wire sculptures made by the client’s father. During the final stages of the project, Friedman carefully selected abstract modern artwork and sparingly installed window treatments—including simple silk panels in the living room’s bay window and red-trimmed blackout blinds and curtains in the master bedroom.
“My client really loves his home,” she observes. “It completely works for him and his lifestyle. In fact, he travels so much for work that he often tells me he wishes he were home more.” v
Writer Charlotte Safavi is based in Alexandria, Virginia. Jesse Snyder is a Huntingtown, Maryland, photographer.
INTERIOR DESIGN: SAMANTHA FRIEDMAN, ASID, Samantha Friedman Interior Designs, LLC, Bethesda, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: Capitol Hill Construction, LLC, Washington, DC.