The year 2013 was a big one for Damon Taaffe. The government attorney switched jobs, met his future wife—and moved from a traditional townhouse in Northern Virginia to a modern, two-story condo in DC’s 14th Street Corridor. The third milestone on that list required some professional guidance, so Taaffe turned to architect and designer Andreas Charalambous to help whip his new abode into shape.
Taaffe had visited numerous lofts before finding this one. “I liked their clean lines and openness, but they were in converted warehouses that suffered from lack of light,” he recalls. “The distinguishing feature here is the windows and the way light comes in.” The condo’s quirky layout, however, made it a challenge in terms of functionality.
With a few deft changes, Charalambous was able to tailor the residence to meet his client’s needs. “It wasn’t a huge ‘gut it and redo it’ job,” the designer says. “It was more about figuring out how to add life to this space.”
To the left of the front door, a staircase leads up to the master suite and guest bedroom; besides the stairs, a platform houses an oddly elevated space. A small kitchen flows into the open dining/living area, which is rimmed by a wall of windows offering prime views of the busy streetscape. The ceiling soars two stories above the living area; the upstairs bedrooms—both open on the window side to admit light—overlook the main level as well as the view over balcony railings.
The platform posed a conundrum. It was bordered on two sides by a metal railing, but its third side was drywall that blocked the view for anyone seated there. Charalambous replaced the drywall with a railing to open up space and turned it into a study by designing a niche with a built-in desk and custom lighting.
In the kitchen, he extended the island countertop to accommodate seating. A new painted-glass backsplash and glass shelf add vibrancy and function.
Upstairs, an awkward set of folding doors in front of the balcony in the master bedroom blocked out the light when closed. Charalambous removed the doors to open up the view, and replaced them with a blackout curtain that can be pulled aside entirely.
When Taaffe bought the property, its unpainted cement ceilings and exposed ductwork conveyed a strong industrial vibe. “But the elements didn’t seem natural to it,” comments Charalambous. “We took away the super-industrial look by painting everything white.” He also introduced color by creating an orange accent wall and playing off it with blue and orange decorative accents throughout the space.
A houseful of traditional furnishings that had belonged to the client made way for modern furniture better suited to a contemporary aesthetic. Charalambous selected iconic mid-century pieces, including a Saarinen Womb Chair in the study, a Hans Wegner Shell Chair in the master bedroom and a Poul Volther Corona Chair in the sitting area. Matching walnut audio-video cabinets from Design Within Reach occupy both the sitting area and the guest room, which doubles as an extra space for watching TV. Charalambous designed a clean-lined coffee table as well as a console for the foyer. Taaffe commissioned the architect, who is also a painter, to create large abstract canvases in orange and blue to hang above the sectional sofa in the living area.
The concrete ceilings made recessed lighting impossible. Instead, luminaires by Hans Buschfeld were installed along a cable near the ceiling. A dramatic fixture from Artemide hangs in the atrium, visible from both floors. Mechanized shades easily control the level of natural light throughout.
Taaffe now happily shares his condo with his wife, Amy Lehr, also an attorney. “It was a matter of making the right moves,” says Charalambous of the project. “I would call it a strategic intervention.”
Photographer Geoffrey Hodgdon is based in Deale, Maryland.
INTERIOR DESIGN: ANDREAS CHARALAMBOUS, AIA, IIDA, FORMA Design, Washington, DC.