When it comes out to play with vibrant art and flashes of color, a neutral palette can seem anything but bland. At least that was the case in a recent renovation by Marika Meyer Interiors. Bright abstract paintings, touches of indigo and tribal patterns create a look that’s at once serene and spirited in this neoclassical, mid-century home in Washington’s Spring Valley neighborhood.
“The house hadn’t been updated in 20 years, and many of its finishes were very heavy, very dark,” says Meyer. The clients, a well-traveled couple with four young children, “wanted to open it up and make it a welcoming, lighter family space.”
Meyer and her team began the transformation in 2014 with the removal of superfluous interior columns, narrow crown moldings and dark wood floors. In went fumed, gray-washed, white-oak flooring, lending the first-floor dining room, kitchen, living room and his-and-her offices a serene vibe. “It wasn’t easy to get the floors right, but they set the tone for the home,” says the wife.
Meyer played with other Zen-like updates to make the rooms, which only have eight-foot ceilings, feel far more capacious. Crown molding now extends onto the ceiling, making the spaces look taller. Base moldings went from low-profile to four-and-a-half inches high. And dated marble fireplace surrounds were replaced with stone ones to sleek effect. “Now when we walk into the house, we love the light and airy feel,” says the wife.
Working closely with her design-savvy client, Meyer achieved a layered, neutral backdrop for abstract paintings and photographs. “Everything was about texture upon texture,” says the designer. This meant grace notes like a Rose Tarlow linen wallpaper in the foyer, paired with a cowhide-framed round mirror and a slender Parsons-style table, which Meyer had faux-painted to mimic cobalt-hued malachite.
In the kitchen, her team simply repainted the existing blonde wood cabinetry creamy white and used herringbone Calacatta Gold subway tiles to form a new backsplash. “It was straightforward and not a complete redo, but it made the kitchen so fresh and approachable,” says Meyer.
But it’s the adjoining dining room, visible from the foyer as well, that brings the most drama. As a foil for all the grays and beiges, Meyer installed a navy-and-white paisley textured wallpaper from Arte. Framed by white crown molding and accented by original built-in bookcases, the wall covering plays off the backyard swimming pool, which can be glimpsed through the room’s large windows.
“We wanted the dining room to be impactful because it’s the first thing you see when you enter the house,” says the wife. Upping the room’s show-stopping glam is a faux bois silver chandelier studded with candle-like bulbs. It’s paired with a custom David Iatesta table flaunting distinctive curved legs.
For contrast with the sea of wallpaper, Meyer had two original built-in corner bookcases painted bright white and installed a pair of mirrors above gleaming, chrome-based Worlds Away consoles. “It all reflects out to the backyard and adds light to the room,” says the designer.
Varied textures and tribal accents embellish the adjacent living room, a plush zone that’s comfortable for both entertaining and family time. A skinny-legged Room & Board sofa in pale gray sidles up to a chunky Vanguard coffee table with an antiqued silver finish and velvet armchairs by Charles Stewart. A 14-foot-long, built-in window seat adds extra perching room during the couples’ frequent parties—or just for a kid to snuggle up with a book. Bright artwork and sparkling accents, such as crystal-based table lamps, keep the place from feeling monochromatic.
Punches of blue and blue-gray highlight other first-floor rooms. In the wife’s study, batik-like indigo fabric from Lee Jofa covers two armchairs by the fireplace, echoing the wanderlust feel of a mother-of-pearl inlaid desk from Theodores. Equipped with a built-in bar, the room also welcomes guests after hours.
A powder room off the foyer boasts another dazzling wall treatment: a blue-gray fabric from Travers that evokes an African mud cloth. It’s paired with deep-gray moldings and vintage finds to create a cozy, yet contemporary, mood.
Which is exactly what the owners had in mind. “Our house has a sort of tribal feel and influence,” observes the wife. “I love the mix of materials and textures and the natural feel. It really reflects our
Writer Jennifer Barger is based in Washington, DC. Photographer Angie Seckinger splits her time between Potomac, Maryland, and Spain.
FOYER Wallpaper: rosetarlow.com. Chandelier: madegoods.com. Console: Custom. Console Faux Finish: billetcollins.com. Rug on stairs: coecarpetandrug.com. Mirror: Client’s collection. Painting: lamarbriggs.com.
DINING ROOM Table: davidiatesta.com. Chairs: leeindustries.com. Chair Fabric: cowtan.com. Chandelier: paulferrante.com. Roman Shade Fabric: fschumacher.com. Buffet: worlds-away.com. Wallpaper: arte.com. Rug: coecarpetandrug.com.
LIVING ROOM Drapery & Shade Fabric: fschumacher.com. Sofa: roomandboard.com. Club Chairs: charlesstewartcompany.com. Chair Fabric: thedesignconnection.us. Cocktail Table: vanguardfurniture.com. Lamps: timestwodesign.com. Rug: galleriacarpets.com. Chest: studioa-home.com. Painting above Fireplace: scottupton.net. Painting, opposite: craigalanart.com