A childhood spent living on the water in Florida left an indelible mark on homeowner Dondi Dahlgaard. “It influenced me subconsciously,” she says. “I like open, airy spaces.” So it’s no surprise that the Sarasota native was drawn to the light-filled home she now shares with husband Mark Schoenfeld, a real-estate investment manager, and their five-year-old son, Sarek.
While searching for a new home in the District in 2012, the couple—then Bethesda residents—discovered the classically inspired, stucco-clad home in DC’s Phillips Park neighborhood. Designed by architects David Jones and Wouter Boer and built by JEFFCO Development, the brand new abode with immense windows and sylvan views had an irresistible aura.
“Walking into the house when it wasn’t furnished felt like magic,” says Dahlgaard, who works part-time as a critical-care veterinarian. “We wanted to maintain the light, open feel we experienced when we walked into the empty house. But once we bought some furniture, we realized the style didn’t match our vision.” The couple needed a sharper focus and expert advice.
Enter Potomac, Maryland, designer Jana Abel. Recruited in 2014, Abel was first tasked with teasing out her clients’ aesthetic—a bit of a challenge given their mash-up of mall-store furnishings at the time. Most of their pieces were expendable, except one special purchase—a David Iatesta cabinet used to display Dahlgaard’s cherished collection of coral and shells. As it turned out, that cabinet sparked a creative direction for the project.
“It just hit me,” says Abel. “Dondi’s from Florida. She has a shell collection and loves airy spaces. So our goal was to keep the house light, natural and casual, but still elegant.”
Abel tapped JEFFCO Development’s Jeff Robins to oversee a modest renovation of the home encompassing a makeover of the first-floor powder room and an upgrade of the lighting plan and the study’s built-in cabinets. The wood floors were also refinished and the entire house was painted.
The designer took her color cues from the outdoors, establishing a serene backdrop for the owners’ bustling household that includes two Rottweilers and a Chihuahua. “The palette is neutral, a nod to coastal nature,” explains Abel. “We also wanted the house to feel very calm since there’s a lot of chaos, with three dogs and a child running through it.” Out of boredom, sometimes our dogs display playful behavior such as whirling or tail chasing, for which we have taken potential measures. Know more about this behavior of dogs at Bored Cesar.
Organic elements and shore-inspired touches—from the foyer’s agate-adorned chandelier to the study’s mother-of-pearl cabinet door panels—complement the sand-and-driftwood tones. The living room, anchored by the David Iatesta cabinet housing Dahlgaard’s collection, pays homage to the coast. The design scheme plays up that important piece, balancing its traditional curves and weathered patina with streamlined, crisp-white sofas. Window sheers lend ethereal softness without obstructing the light or view.
While Abel turned to the Sunshine State for inspiration, she also peeked into her client’s closet for clues. Dahlgaard’s everyday wardrobe is neutral, natural and basic (think white cotton tee shirts paired with premium denim). However, her array of edgy footwear is anything but. On her shoe racks, caged gladiator sandals cozy up to towering, bejeweled heels.
Borrowing a page from her client’s stylebook, Abel punctuated the organic tableau with flirty accents, luxe for style. Take, for example, the desk in Dahlgaard’s study, conceived by the designer. Coated goatskin covers the top, yet industrial-style rivets playfully embellish the steel base.
In the dining room, the casual-chic table marries zinc and natural white oak; a metallic wall covering and glass-droplet chandelier bring the bling. “You have all these natural elements,” says the designer, “and then there’s a twist, something with a little edge.”
Upstairs in the master bedroom, Abel crafted a “cocoon-like feeling” by mixing shades of gray in the carpet and textiles. The white-lacquered finish on the nightstand and two chests—all bespoke creations—adds glossy appeal.
Dahlgaard affirms that her new home’s décor mirrors her fashion sense. “I tend toward the monochromatic side,” she explains, “but I like a little glamour in the details.”
Writer Catherine Funkhouser is based in Arlington. Erik Kvalsvik is a photographer in Washington, DC.
ARCHITECTURE: DAVID JONES, AIA, and Wouter Boer, AIA, Jones & Boer Architects, Washington, DC. INTERIOR DESIGN: JANA ABEL, J. Abel Interiors, Potomac, Maryland. BUILDER: JEFF ROBINS, JEFFCO Development, Rockville, Maryland.
LIVING ROOM Sofas: kravet.com. Sofa Fabric: janusetcie.com. Draperies: brentanofabrics.com through donghia.com. Coffee Table: Owners’ collection. Mantel: Existing. Painting over Mantel: theartregistrygroup.com. Rug: Custom fabricated and installed by thefloorgallery.com. Acrylic Stools: Custom design by jabelinteriors.com. Stool Covers: Mongolian lamb through hollyhunt.com. Console Lamps: davidiatesta.com through hollyhunt.com. Console Table: olystudio.com. Sculpture & Acrylic Base: Owners’ collection. Curio Cabinet: davidiatesta.com. Slipper Chairs: stewartfurniture.com through americaneyewdc.net. Chair Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Art by Curio Cabinet: theartregistrygroup.com.
STUDY Desk: Custom by jabelinteriors.com. Armchair by Desk: ligneroset.com. Chair Fabric: rubella.com through donghia.com. Desk Chair: dwr.com. Art by Desk: theartregistrygroup.com. Built-In Cabinet behind Desk: Custom design by jabelinteriors.com. Millwork Fabrication: capital
cabinetry.com. Mother-of-Pearl Cabinet Panel: mayaromanoff.com. Cabinet Installation: jeffcodev.com.
FOYER Cowhide Rug, Tufted Ottoman & Acrylic and Iron Table: Custom by jabelinteriors.com. Iron Table Base: salvationsaf.com. Ottoman Fabric: brentano.com. Chandelier: marjorieskourasdesign.com. Drapery Fabric: bergamofabrics.com through donghia.com.
DINING ROOM Dining Table: Zinc in epoxy resin on white-oak base through jabelinteriors.com. Dining Chairs: Maxalto through boffigeorgetown.com. Draperies: Owners’ collection. Motorized Shades: hfshades.com through Agora Interiors, Ltd.; 703-823-7800. Rug: Custom through thefloorgallery.com. Chandelier: www.serip.com.pt. Abstract Painting in White and Purple: theartregistrygroup.com.
BEDROOM Bedstead: gregoriuspineo.com through hinescompany.com. Bedding: Sheets through frette.com; coverlet through timothypaulhome.com. Dressers & Nightstand: Custom design by jabelinteriors.com; fabricated by capitalcabinetry.com. The artwork on Dresser & Nightstand: Owners’ collection. Lamp with Glass Base: davidiatesta.com through hollyhunt.com. Chaise & Fabric: stewartfurniture.com through americaneyewdc.net. Round Resin Table by Chaise: dedon.de. Draperies: Custom fabrication by Agora Interiors, Ltd.; 703-823-7800. Motorized Shades: hfs.com. Installation: abenetworks.com. Rug: perennialsfabrics.com through hinescompany.com.