When DC-based interior designer Christopher Boutlier first saw his clients’ Ocean City condo, he felt like he was walking into a time capsule. “There was wall-to-wall shag carpeting, popcorn ceilings and bamboo furniture with pink-and-teal fabric,” he recalls. “It was frozen sometime in the mid-’80s.” The kitchen and two bathrooms were also hopelessly dated, with Formica countertops and plastic tubs. Given the condo’s location in a 1960s building, Boutlier knew working within its architectural confines would present a challenge.
However, there was also good news. First, the designer had previously worked with the owners, a couple with a child in college, so he understood their aesthetic and lifestyle. Second, the 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom condominium sat above the boardwalk with stunning beach and water views. So he immediately saw the project’s potential. “My clients, one of whom has family history in the area, wanted me to resurrect the integrity of the condo,” he explains. “To update the space, clean it up and revive it for the family’s use.”
Boutlier started by stripping the interiors down to bare bones, then spent time musing over the wonderful beach houses he had been lucky enough to spend time in over the years. “The ones I really loved were clean and simple. They made you feel like you were in a hotel where there weren’t a lot of extra parts and there wasn’t a lot going on,” he says.
“Clean and simple” became his mantra as the design began to materialize. Another goal was to keep the job affordable. To this end, Boutlier says, “I wanted to take high design and do it on a budget, with materials that were easily available at local stores. I kept my sources limited and basic, but executed an interesting design.”
He selected charcoal-hued porcelain tile flooring (more affordable than stone) in a 12-by-24-inch format with a thinner grout line that presented a sharp finish and uninterrupted sight lines. The walls were painted in Benjamin Moore’s Bright White, a shade Boutlier favors because it’s the closest to a true gallery white. “The charcoal flooring is a bit dramatic,” he says. “The space had these odd ceiling heights that I couldn’t change, so I kept the walls and ceilings white, crisp and clean, giving me license to punch up the floors.” Popcorn ceilings were stripped to the concrete slab, scored and painted, imparting an interesting twist on coastal-style beadboard with a contemporary vibe. The kitchen—formerly sealed off with a wall—was opened up to the main living space by way of a Carrara marble-topped breakfast bar. Appliances were replaced, though for practical and economical reasons their locations stayed the same. Cabinetry in both kitchen and bathrooms is natural maple from Kraftmaid.
Most of the furniture was acquired at Room & Board; choosing a single vendor would meet the clients’ directive to streamline deliveries to the busy Ocean City location. “It was a question of one or two deliveries to get things in and out,” says Boutlier.
The main living space, which flows onto an oceanfront balcony, is loosely divided into dining and sitting areas. “Because of the proximity of the beach, our selections were about finding pieces that would hold the least amount of sand possible,” says Boutlier. For example, the pale gray sofa is covered in an indoor-outdoor fabric with a single, simple-to-shake-out seat cushion, and the pair of leather loungers can simply be wiped clean of sand.
The dining niche has a glass-topped table on a stainless-steel base that’s easy to maneuver around; the designer selected armless chairs for the same reason since they take up minimal space.
“When working on a budget, the easiest way to make something a bit more unique or special is by adding custom pillows,” says Boutlier, who upped the design quotient by ordering pillows from Timothy Paul. “You can pull in textures and fabrics not seen everywhere.”
In addition to luxe bedding and pillows, Boutlier also splurged on lamps—what he calls the “earrings in a room.” He placed block crystal-based lamps in the master bedroom, and selected a beautiful alabaster lamp from Visual Comfort for the living area. “I also added warmth to the bedrooms with floor-to-ceiling curtains,” he says.
The homeowners are delighted with the results. “We succeeded in creating an updated space to bring the family together,” Boutlier reflects. “My clients get to enjoy their time at the beach without worrying about a high-maintenance home.”
INTERIOR DESIGN: CHRISTOPHER BOUTLIER, Allied ASID, Washington, DC. CONTRACTOR: JAMIE LOPEZ, AJ & Lopez Services, LLC, Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Writer and stylist Charlotte Safavi is based in Alexandria. Stacy Zarin Goldberg is an Olney, Maryland, photographer.