Hand-painted Gracie wallpaper sets an elegant tone in the dining room.
Proxmire employed Phillip Jeffries’ Amalfi Silk on the living room walls and Nobilis linen on the sofa.
The view from the living room illustrates Proxmire’s cohesive use of color.
A pair of Niermann Weeks chandeliers in the dining room conveyed with the house.
Soleil Bleu wallpaper graces the center reception hall.
The living room seamlessly blends traditional and modern elements.
The homeowners’ Biedermeier secretary occupies a corner of the living room.
Proxmire created a collected-over-time look in the library.
The limestone residence is an example of Waggaman and Ray’s Beaux Arts legacy.
The view from the living room illustrates Proxmire’s cohesive use of color.
A pair of Niermann Weeks chandeliers in the dining room conveyed with the house.
Soleil Bleu wallpaper graces the center reception hall.
The living room seamlessly blends traditional and modern elements.
The homeowners’ Biedermeier secretary occupies a corner of the living room.
Proxmire created a collected-over-time look in the library.
The limestone residence is an example of Waggaman and Ray’s Beaux Arts legacy.

A Formal Affair

Kelley Proxmire creates a sophisticated setting to reflect the grandeur of her clients’ historic Kalorama home

The stately c. 1918 mansion in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood has no doubt, seen its share of glamorous gatherings over the years—and probably a few official dinners, given that two foreign ambassadors consecutively called it home recently while their residences were under renovation. “If these walls could talk…” quips designer Kelley Proxmire, who was tapped by the home’s new owners to ready the interiors for their own fêtes and philanthropic events.

Kristen Lund and her husband, a financier, purchased the property in 2015 with the intent of hosting frequent events. They are actively involved in many charities, and Lund sits on the Washington National Opera’s board of trustees. “We are big believers in entertaining,” she says. “We knew when we bought this house that we would have functions here to support the Opera.”

The couple, who worked with Proxmire to decorate their previous home in McLean as well as their family retreat in Paradise Valley, Arizona, trusted the designer to handle their new Kalorama home with care. “Kelley has a sixth sense for what a house needs,” remarks Lund. “She has a knack for working with older homes and maintaining their character.”

The home was designed by famed architects Clarke Waggaman and George N. Ray, known for their prolific residential and commercial work in early 20th-century Washington. The Beaux Arts residence is blessed with large rooms, 12-foot ceilings, and tall windows. And despite a full renovation in the late 1990s, its original architectural details, including refined plaster moldings, were luckily left intact.

The existing layout works well for Lund, her husband and their three-year-old son and baby daughter. While the first floor comprises a cozy family room and a kitchen with an eat-in area, the level above these family-oriented spaces boasts a formal reception hall that branches into the living room on the left and the dining room on the right. Two upper floors include five bedrooms and a library.

Proxmire touched every space in the home, making minor tweaks in some—such as new window treatments in the existing kitchen, where a full makeover is planned for the not-too-distant future—and totally transforming others. On the second floor where guests gather, her clients wanted to create a chic setting for formal entertaining.

The designer’s goal was to balance formality with freshness. “Quite honestly, it’s a more formal look than I usually do,” she admits. “I have to read my clients and see what they like and how they live. This look reflects them. It’s sophisticated and classic with a little bit of zip.”

An embroidered-silk floral fabric from Pierre Frey, which Proxmire used on accent pillows in the living room, served as a springboard for her elegant palette of cream, tan and gray. “I often start a scheme with fabric,” she explains. “When I design, I think about the sequence of color.” Pulling hues from this inspirational textile, Proxmire chose a backdrop for each space—hand-painted Gracie wallpaper in shimmering neutrals for the dining room, a silvery metallic wall covering for the hall and a textured, tan silk for the living room. “How color flows from room to room is really key. There’s a nice flow here,” she adds. Blue-tinged ceilings also visually link the second-floor rooms.

Next, Proxmire layered in a mix of furnishings, reimagining, rearranging and reupholstering many pieces from her clients’ collection. The quatrefoil-patterned rug from their previous dining room, for example, was too small for the new dining room so Proxmire solved the problem by laying a larger sisal rug underneath it. She shifted a chandelier from the family room to the upstairs hall, while an oversized screen that once embellished the couple’s McLean home is the “perfect scale” for their new living room, where it hangs above a sofa. Fresh fabrics, from a solid cotton weave to exotic animal prints, revived three pairs of existing chairs in the living room.

The homeowners’ collection also included several antiques, which Proxmire paired with new furnishings. Even extremes—a Biedermeier secretary and acrylic side tables—play nicely together in her carefully crafted arrangements. The designer also selected two classically styled sofas from Hickory Chair to round out the eclectic mix.

“I incorporate old and new,” she says. “There’s a blending of more modern pieces with traditional lines in the living room. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s not so subtle, but I rarely do a room that’s all traditional.”

Bespoke details, such as the custom banding on the hall’s valance and draperies, are another design signature. Proxmire also enjoys “the hunt for one-of-a-kind accessories,” scouring brick-and-mortar shops as well as the online marketplace 1stdibs to find them. She uncovered the living room’s antique, sunburst wall hanging, for instance, at the now-shuttered Georgetown location of Comer & Co. “The finishing touches are almost as important as good bones,” she maintains.

The third-floor library, with its quatrefoil ceiling treatment, masculine paneling, and leaded windows, has both—exceptional bones and meticulously placed crowning touches. “We used all existing pieces,” the designer reveals.

When the interiors were ready for the show, Lund invited friends, including Proxmire, to the home for afternoon tea—and the party-
goers happily lingered. “That’s the power of the house,” says Lund. “Guests don’t want to leave, which I love.”

Catherine Funkhouser is an Arlington writer. Photographer Kip Dawkins is based in Richmond.

Interior Design: Kelley Proxmire, Kelley Interior Design, Bethesda, Maryland.

 

RESOURCES

DINING ROOM  Dining Table & Sideboard: nancycorzine.com. Dining Chairs & Gilt Mirror over Fireplace: Clients’ collection. Dining Chair Fabric & Draperies: pierrefrey.com. Drapery Trim: samuelandsons.com. Drapery Fabricator: JK Drapery, Inc.; 703-941-3788. Chandeliers: niermannweeks.com. Wall covering: graciestudio.com. Rugs: galleriacarpets.com.

ENTRY  Round Table, Lion Sculpture, Candle Holder, Silver Planter, Gilt Sconces: Clients’ collection. Chandelier: Existing. Small Ottomans: fschumacher.com. Ottoman Fabric: Hodsoll McKenzie through zimmer-rohde.com. Window Treatment Fabric: taffard.com. Drapery Banding & Wallpaper: jab.us/. Fabricator: JK Drapery, Inc.; 703-941-3788.

LIVING ROOM  Wallcovering: phillipjeffries.com. Rug: galleriacarpets.com. Tufted Loveseat: hickorychair.com. Loveseat Fabric: cowtan.com. Pillows on Loveseat: cowtan.com, pierrefrey.com. Secretary, Gilt-Framed Chairs & Twin Coffee Tables: Clients’ collection. Fabric on Gilt-Framed Chairs: manuelcanovas.com through cowtan.com. Sunburst Wall Art: comerandco.com. Striped Draperies: calvinfabrics.com. Drapery Fabricator: JK Drapery; 703-941-3788. Acrylic Side Table: spectrumcollection.com. Console between Windows & Gilt Lamp on Acrylic Side Table: marstonluce.com. White Sofa: hickorychair.com. Sofa Fabric: nobilis.fr. Glass-Topped Oval Coffee Table, Side Tables Flanking White Sofa, Gilt Armchairs & Mirror above Fireplace: Clients’ collection. Gilt Armchair Fabric: cowtan.com. Marble-Based Lamps: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Art above Loveseat, White Sofa, Console & Bust on Console: Clients’ collection. Black-Framed Ottoman by Secretary: Antique. Club Chairs & Black-Stained Occasional Table by Fireplace: bakerfurniture.com. Club Chair Fabric: nobilis.fr. Pillows on Club Chairs: pierrefrey.com, samuelandsons.com. Tufted Ottoman: Custom frame by JK Drapery; 703-941-3788. Ottoman Fabric: janechurchill.com. Trim: samuelandsons.com. Fireplace Screen: salvationsaf.com.

LIBRARY  Leather Chairs, Round Metal Table, Coffee Table, Rug, Bust: Clients’ collection.