Downsizing from a house to an apartment typically requires the shedding of possessions, from furnishings to books and artwork. But for Jackie Chalkley and her husband, C. Wayne Callaway, moving from their modern, architect-designed home in Woodley Park to a two-bedroom condominium in Wesley Heights meant renovating to accommodate all their favorite belongings without overwhelming the smaller space.
Chalkley, once a potter, is best known for her three eponymous fashion boutiques in Washington, DC, that pioneered the wearable art concept. She closed those businesses in 1999 and has recently turned her artistic eye to interior design. “I’ve always worked with design in terms of products and presentation, so it wasn’t new for me to think about it in terms of space and planning,” she says, noting a current project she has undertaken to update the public spaces of the 1970s building where she and Callaway live.
Chalkley oversaw the renovation of their two-level condo, transforming outdated interiors that had “wallpaper on every single surface,” she recalls, into clean-lined, open spaces. She and her husband purchased the apartment in 2013, drawn by elements similar to those in their previous home, including floor-to-ceiling windows, a generous outdoor terrace, and balconies off the upper level.
Playing up those assets, Chalkley streamlined the main level to create a seamless living/dining suite that opens through expansive glass doors and windows to an outdoor room. “There wasn’t a rhythm or flow to space, so that was the first thing I struggled with,” she says. “The terrace makes the interior space feel bigger and serves as another living area in warm weather.”
Chalkley also added built-in storage and shelving in nearly every room; the units eliminate clutter and leave plenty of space to display paintings, prints, and sculpture. “I wanted the design to be very minimalist with specific places for our artwork,” she says.
On the living room wall next to the seating area, vertically slatted piers conceal a china closet and a heating/cooling unit. They also frame a niche that showcases a large painting by the late New York artist David Shapiro. The arrangement is repeated on the opposite wall of the dining area to set off a cluster of earth-daubed paintings by New York artist Alan Sonfist.
Sofas, chairs, and lamps are by French designer Christian Liaigre, whose projects include the Mercer Hotel in New York. “His pieces are beautifully proportioned and unpretentious,” notes Chalkley. “They are contemporary in an understated, classic way.”
Although the ceiling height in the apartment is only eight feet, the owner installed tall ficus trees and a pair of wooden ladders from Mali in the living area. “They lend verticality to space, almost in a way that defies the height limitation,” she explains.
To save costs, Chalkley overhauled the kitchen with IKEA cabinets but splurged on high-end appliances and marble countertops. A tiny breakfast nook with a table and a banquette are tucked in between the cabinets, and even this small space incorporates artwork: a print by Spanish artist Antoni Tàpies.
Next, to the kitchen, the staircase leading to the upper level was remodeled with a simple enclosure and dark-stained wood treads that echo the flooring on the main level for visual continuity. A multi-piece sculpture by Washington, DC, artist Yuriko Yamaguchi serves to anchor the transitional space.
In the hallway leading to the two bedrooms on the upper floor, Chalkley moved a door to make room for another art wall, now filled by two Shapiro paintings. She created an office space within the guest room by mounting IKEA shelving to display books and objects from her boutiques, and installing the custom walnut desk created by Washington, DC, designer Thomas Pheasant for her previous residence. Facing the desk, photographs by Linda Connor hang in a grid pattern. In the adjacent master bedroom, IKEA cabinet doors were cut down to create a headboard, and twin portraits by Paris-based painter James Brown were mounted above the bed.
Renovating and repurposing the belongings from her previous home has been a valuable experience for Chalkley. As she reflects, “This downsizing project has given me insights that should be useful to my clients who are facing similar transitions going forward.”
Writer Deborah K. Dietsch is based in Washington, DC. Maxwell MacKenzie is a photographer in Washington, DC.
INTERIOR DESIGN: JACKIE CHALKLEY, Jackie Chalkley, Washington, DC.