During an early spring photo shoot, Sandra Meyer is a picture of calm as she scrutinizes throw pillows arranged on the family room sofas in her Bethesda home. “Too much color,” she murmurs, tossing a taupe one aside.
Serenity reigns in this open living space encompassing her kitchen and breakfast area. A black-and-white color palette, crisp architectural lines and no-fuss furniture convey a subliminal invitation: relax, breathe and linger.
While Meyer makes it all look effortless, “before” photos reveal how far she has taken the 14-year-old, colonial-style home she and her husband bought in 2013. Shifting the interiors from overdone and boxed-in to uncomplicated and open was a path that unfolded instinctively from the moment she first toured the house.
Like a warren of cubbyholes, all the rooms on the main floor were enclosed by interior French doors. “Every door had a transom or sidelite. It was very ornate and there was molding everywhere,” Meyer recalls. “But you just don’t get ceiling heights like these in a new build. The proportions worked and I knew if I opened up the doorways, I could fix these rooms.”
Having grown up in an 1860s Cape in Hingham, Massachusetts, Meyer developed an early appreciation for architectural integrity. “When you drive down Main Street in Hingham, it’s just breathtaking; there’s something about the homes and their proportions,” she marvels. In contrast, when a home “melds” too many styles and is “not done in a way I consider architecturally correct,” Meyer points out, “I want something different; I want something totally clean.”
This rationale drove the design of her family’s six-bedroom abode. She envisioned a restrained, pared-down look that would still relate to the home’s traditional roots. “I wanted to simplify,” she explains. “I took out moldings that didn’t fit and dialed everything back from the original cherry finishes.” Meyer achieved the contrast she loves with walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s crisp Moonlight White and existing floors stained a deep shade of chocolate. Removing the French doors and widening the openings into the dining room to the left of the entry and the smaller piano room and den to the right filled the spaces with light and established a sense of openness.
The entry hall leads back to the family room/kitchen/breakfast room. Where there was once a lopsided island, haphazardly sized windows and disjointed cabinetry, a sense of order now prevails. “Our driver was to do what the existing kitchen didn’t do,” explains architect Donald Lococo, who collaborated with Meyer on the kitchen redesign. “Where it was ornate, we made it restrained. Where there was color, we made it black and white.” Varied openings gave way to uniform, oversized windows and doors.
“I like balance and we definitely hit it from that standpoint,” says Meyer. She salvaged existing lower cabinets, but stained their raised doors a deep black. These are offset with white, flat-paneled cabinets on the perpendicular wall housing the refrigerator and storage.
The large new island and tall door frames create bold, modern scale in the space, while thick-slab stone countertops and simplified crown molding relate to the home’s classic language. “We swung the pendulum from one extreme to the other,” says Lococo, “but we had to dialog with the rest of house, which is a traditional venue.”
Meyer also reoriented the family room, now the perfect yin to the kitchen’s yang. She realigned an off-center fireplace on axis with the kitchen stove and hood and designed a wall of white cabinetry that relates to the white cabinets in the kitchen. The space functions well whether Meyer, her husband and teenaged daughters Zoe and Ella are sharing a casual dinner or the couple is throwing a party for 30. Guests filter in and out of the new French doors onto the screened porch and backyard patio.
Natural materials, a mix of modern and classically styled furnishings and elements with a decidedly industrial bent lend Meyer’s home a comfortable, collected appeal. Light fixtures with attitude make a bold statement in every public room, while sisals in the living and dining rooms and a silky Oushak in the master bedroom add softness and texture. The dining room—the only space in the home where the walls aren’t white—resembles a glamorous jewel box lined with ethereal clouds in the form of Cole and Son’s Nuvolette wallpaper. The jewelry includes a Julian Chichester mirror and sexy, open-backed chairs that Meyer designed and covered in gray velvet—legs and all.
The designer concedes that her home is more monochromatic and perhaps less “finished” than most of her projects. “I’m typically not a big color person though I use a lot of color for my clients,” she observes. And rather than adhere to a strict plan, she preferred to let her home evolve organically. “It’s more fun,” she says, “and I think you end up with a better composition.”
Reflecting on the transformation of what she once called her “least favorite house in the neighborhood,” Meyer is content with the results. “I wanted something different but not so ‘out there,’” she says. “At the end of the day, I want to come home to something kind of serene.”
Photographer Stacy Zarin Goldberg is based in Olney, Maryland.
Dining Room Wallpaper: cole-and-son.com. Drapery Fabric: pindler.com. Shades: conradshades.com. Chandelier: arteriorshome.com. Mirror & Table: julianchichester.com. Chairs: Custom by Sandra Meyer. Chair Fabric: romo.com. Sisal: prestigemills.com.
Family Room Sofas: mgbwhome.com. Rug: meridastudio.com. Small Tables: julianchichester.com. Eames Chair: dwr.com. Built-in Design: Sandra Meyer. Floor Lamp: bobointriguingobjects.com. Marble Fireplace Surround: marblex.com.
Den Rug: crateandbarrel.com. Table & Upholstered Chair: domicilefurniture.com. Chair Fabric (Stripe): glant.com through hinescompany.com. Light Fixture: urbanelectricco.com. Table: Lamp: julianchichester.com. Round Ottoman: 1stdibs.com.
Kitchen Architectural Consultant: Donald Lococo, AIA; donaldlococoarchitects.com. White Cabinetry Design: Sandra Meyer. White Cabinetry Fabrication: asticks.com. Light Fixture: apparatusstudio.com. Granite: Cambrian Black Brushed Marble & Binco Lasa Vena Oro Honed Granite Countertops: marblex.com. Stools: noirfurniturela.com. Hood: subzero-wolf.com. Orchids: Sandra Meyer. Copper Bowl: 1stdibs.com.
Master Bedroom Bed: hickorychair.com. Bed Upholstery: romo.com. Area Rug: timothypaulhome.com. Carpet: rosecorecarpet.com. Chair & Ottoman: leeindustries.com. Antique Vellum Night Tables: 1stdibs.com/dealers/david-bell. Table Lamps: visualcomfort.com. Chandelier: arteriorshome.com. Round Table & Armoire: bolierco.com. Stacked Table: globalviews.com. Ottoman: fourhands.com.