Emily Henderson put a lot of thought into the five-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot home she and her husband purchased in 2012. The couple and their two daughters, who had recently relocated to DC from Denver, were transitioning from an historic Craftsman house to a 1930s colonial-style home. “The challenge,” Henderson recalls, “was to transform the décor using furnishings from our old house in our new home.”
First, she made some simple updates throughout the residence. She had the wood floors stained dark ebony, replaced the hardware with unlacquered brass and covered the sunroom’s brick walls with drywall and fresh millwork. In the kitchen, double islands were removed to create an open dining space.
Initially, Henderson worked with her Denver-based interior designer, Mikhail Dantes, to establish a neutral palette of black, gray and gold in the Washington home. But she soon decided that working with a local design team would be more practical and tapped Julia Overton, a senior designer at Kathryn Ivey Interiors, and Lenore Winters, a decorative painter and paint specialist, to complete the project.
“My job was to figure out how to merge the Hendersons’ Western backgrounds with an East Coast sensibility via furniture, fabrics and accessories,” says Overton. “I quickly learned that because they come from the West, they wanted a comfortable, relaxed décor.” In helping to furnish and decorate the home, she integrated favorite Denver pieces with new furnishings to create the fresh, eclectic vibe her clients envisioned.
Meanwhile, Winters oversaw all of the paintwork. As Henderson explains, “Getting the right gray was really important to me. It had to be a true neutral—nothing too green, too blue or too purple.” In addition to achieving the right shade of gray, Winters painted doors throughout the home a deep black and added a faux bois finish to the chimney breast and fireplace surround in the living room.
Overton started her work in the family room, located just off the kitchen. “It’s the heart of the home where everyone lives,” she says. The designer furnished the space with a large Duralee sectional in a cotton-linen blend and a square-shaped ottoman. “It instantly became a focal point with the family gathered around it,” she adds of the Hickory Chair piece.
Overton also played with dashes of warm color to balance the cool neutrals. In the family room, she interjected canary yellow accents in throw pillows, artwork and a Lucite-and-leather desk chair; in the adjacent foyer, she favored touches of crisp apple green.
In the sunroom, a vintage wingback chair—white-lacquered and reupholstered—was paired with a cream linen sofa. “My clients love the natural feel of linen,” Overton observes. “They also love the fact that it looks comfortable and relaxing—again bringing in that Western ease to the décor.” Azure Murano table lamps appear to float on the sunroom’s glass side tables.
The adjacent living room balances the sunroom’s lightness and brightness with a moodier, sophisticated palette of layered grays, including a charcoal-hued velvet loveseat. The space is home to a curved 1930s armchair that belonged to Emily Henderson’s grandmother. Overton had the piece duplicated by Richmond-based Harrison Higgins to create a pair, then covered both in Fortuny silk, resulting in instant heirlooms. The silk’s petite geometric pattern, along with gold accents, lends the room a Deco vibe.
“I love the Deco era,” says Henderson. “All the black and gold, the glass and the curvy furniture. In a house like this, you can do a nod to Deco.”
Overton also believes that Deco works well with the home’s décor. “The style is sharp, the palette sophisticated and there’s a great mix of vintage and newer pieces,” she says.
In the dining room, an existing ebonized table and chairs from the clients’ Denver house have been integrated with recently purchased pieces, such as a low-pile, woven-wool carpet in light gray. The gauzy linen curtains are similarly pale and run on unfussy pewter rods.
“The juxtaposition of light and dark is important in the overall design,” says Overton. “We paid attention to this in our use of woods, as well as in our upholstery selections.”
In the master bedroom, Overton reupholstered existing armchairs in dove-gray linen. The new ottoman is dressed in a Chanel-like bouclé fabric. “I wanted to give the bedroom a calm, inviting feel, so we went with creamy colors and softer grays to add warmth,” she says.
By contrast, the library is filled with some of the homeowners’ darker furnishings, including a pair of antique Biedermeier armchairs in brown velvet. Still, Overton kept the space light with a pale-hued Oushak and Roman shades of sheer woven grass.
The family’s finished home is truly the best of both worlds. “Our old home was all autumnal colors, suede and clean, modern lines. Now, our décor feels transitional, lighter in palette and a bit more refined and layered,” says Henderson. “This house definitely reflects our new sense of space.”
Writer and stylist Charlotte Safavi is based in Alexandria. Emily Minton Redfield is a photographer in Denver.