Washington architect and designer Patrick Brian Jones was revamping communal areas in a Logan Circle condo building when a resident, Charlie Griffin, approached him for help. Griffin, a retired World Bank economist, and his partner, Kurtis Brown, a financial analyst, wanted to upgrade their penthouse, starting with the kitchen.
Though spacious at 1,900 square feet, their split-level residence left much to be desired. The finishes were builder-grade and the kitchen was squeezed into a tight spot, as was the dining area, located far from the kitchen in a claustrophobic niche near the front entry. The couple hired Jones not only to address these shortcomings but also to help imbue the apartment with a clean, modern aesthetic that would complement their collection of contemporary art.
Despite the open floor plan, the kitchen was centered against one wall, boxed in by a tiny island. “My clients like to cook and entertain,” says Jones. “I started by separating the kitchen’s functions a bit. I moved the sink and dishwasher into the island, which I doubled in size, creating an efficient work triangle.”
Jones lengthened the kitchen’s footprint along the wall and extended the cabinetry up to the base of one of the condo’s two lofts, tripling storage space. He also upgraded the appliances and cabinets, the latter of which is now a pleasing mix of wood veneer, white oak, and gleaming lacquer. Crisp, white Caesarstone quartz replaced dull black-granite countertops.
The dining area has been relocated adjacent to the kitchen and terrace, forming a better layout and improved flow for entertaining. Slatted-oak bench cantilevers from the wall opposite the kitchen to serve as a window seat or host chair as needed.
Jones developed a plan to add and refine details throughout the interiors. “Early on, I’d noticed the homeowners had a lot of artwork, including art glass, and the collection was getting lost in the space,” he recalls. “For me, the art became a major driving force in the redesign.”
New architectural elements visually enhance the fireplace wall in the main seating area. The prefabricated fireplace has been replaced with a contemporary one with a hot-rolled steel surround. “On either side of the fireplace,” Jones says, “I created niches and shelves for the art. LED lighting highlights the artwork. We also put in translucent shelves so the light would travel through them to the displays below.”
The solution also brings a sense of order to the owners’ collection. “I layered the art in niches, instead of devoting one piece to one space,” Jones explains. “Though I initially had to push the homeowners to do this, they are pleased with the layered effect.” Another built-in feature for the artwork was added in the formerly cramped dining niche, which is now an airy yet intimate sitting area.
To create visual harmony, the baseboards have been recessed in the drywall and hot-rolled steel is employed as wainscoting throughout the rooms on the main floor. Jones also replaced the ordinary bamboo flooring with wide-plank walnut and removed all the extraneous trim—even around the doors. “We painted the walls a neutral, grayish white because the art looks best against a light surface,” he adds.
Finally, the bathrooms—which feature custom-designed teak shower mats—have been remodeled as have both the loft areas that sit above the master and guest bedrooms.
With help from former colleague Sequoyah Hunter-Cuyjet, Jones furnished the condo in a sleek, modern style befitting its architecture. “For furniture, about the only thing they kept was their bed,” says Jones. “We played off existing elements in each space. For example, we picked a coppery hue for the dining chairs to tie in with the copper light fixture above the island. The blue accents on the banquette evolved from the color of the hot-rolled steel elements.”
The resulting space is seamless and light-filled with layers of color playing off a soothing, neutral backdrop. The owners are thrilled with their home’s new look. As Jones reports, “Charlie says he has to pinch himself each morning because he can’t believe he lives here.”
Writer Charlotte Safavi is based in Alexandria. Tony Giammarino is a Richmond-based photographer.