At first, there was only supposed be an addition. “We chose the house knowing it was too small,” says Kristin Handwerger of the Wesley Heights home she and her husband Mark had purchased, drawn by the privacy of sprawling woods across the street. Permitting was moving along for a new wing with a family room and kitchen on the main floor; a garage, gym and wine room below; and a master suite above. Then, the polar vortex of 2014 arrived, with frigid temperatures bursting all the pipes in their home.
“Water was cascading down from everywhere. It was like a rain forest,” Mark remembers. When their contractor informed them that it would be cheaper to rip everything out than to repair the damage, the Handwergers’ project doubled in size overnight. That’s when Kristin asked designer Erika Bonnell to coordinate the interior design as the construction and renovation took shape.
Bonnell worked with Alan Field of Saltbox Architecture & Construction to develop a scheme that would erase the lines between the original structure and the addition. “It was like a new build in a way, because I never saw a finished space to start with,” she observes. Beginning with a blank canvas, Bonnell set out to fulfill her clients’ wish for a family-friendly environment with a healthy dose of drama. “My job was to read between the lines,” she explains. “We got a very livable home with touches of approachable glamour.”
The designer used color and contrast to reflect the Handwergers’ busy lives (they have five teenagers from previous marriages). “I pulled out that energy with black-and-white floors, black doors, and white walls,” she says. Then she layered in color, starting with purple—Kristin’s choice for the dining room—and moving on to the spectral blues of the Caribbean, which recall fond memories of the couple’s travels.
The arresting black-and-white foyer serves as an axis for the boldly hued rooms. “I wanted a solid, cohesive shell with an infusion of strong color coming off it,” Bonnell notes. “I developed this scheme to have that main-level focus on purples and vibrant teals.”
Kristin’s dining room is awash in the soft lilac she desired. “It has that high-gloss, purple-lilac color. It’s really about the saturation,” says Bonnell. Careful not to get too feminine, she seized on Mark’s vintage Moët & Chandon poster, swapping out an old wooden frame for an acrylic mounting. “Erika was able to incorporate the poster so I could identify with the room more,” he says appreciatively.
Bonnell combined masculine and feminine notes in the kitchen as well. A dark-stained island and black perimeter countertops mingle with mirrored pendant lights and a custom turquoise range hood that creates an element of surprise. “When you’re in the street, you can see this blue hood—and it’s trimmed in the mirror,” says Kristin, a personal trainer and pilates instructor. To protect against heavy use, Bonnell added wipable acrylic bar stools and opted to repaint the existing dining table and chairs. A new banquette and rug bring shades of turquoise into the breakfast area.
Comfort and durability were the goals for the family room, which accommodates a family of seven when all the kids are there—and many more guests when the Handwergers entertain. “We had to check a lot of boxes with that room,” Bonnell comments. Kristin had seen a great room online featuring two sectionals and asked Bonnell to do the same thing here—a tough assignment given the room’s smaller dimensions. “We had to do petite sectionals to create a path through the middle for access to all areas of the room,” Bonnell explains. She upholstered them in a sandy-hued fabric to mask smudges, and reserved blue accents for the chairs and window seats. The real punch comes from built-in shelving painted a deep teal shade. “It keeps the space from being too neutral, too boring,” the designer notes.
Initially, Mark admits, he was skeptical about the need for an interior designer. “I was suspicious of the whole process,” says the entrepreneur and bar owner, lounging on a swivel chair Bonnell selected for the family room. “But Erika was very sensitive and tolerant. I got to the point where I just trusted her.” And his opinion of designers now? “You absolutely need one if you want to tie everything together,” he says. “I have come around 180 degrees.”
Jennifer Sergent is an Arlington-based writer. Photographer Stacy Zarin Goldberg resides in Olney.
RENOVATION DESIGN: ALAN FIELD, ASID, NCIDQ, Saltbox Architecture & Construction, Washington, DC. INTERIOR DESIGN: ERIKA BONNELL, Erika Bonnell Interiors, Haymarket, Virginia. BUILDER: MATT WEBB, Sycamore Design Build, Rockville, Maryland.
THROUGHOUT Drapery Fabrication: pauldaviddesign.com.
DINING ROOM Table: vanguardfurniture.com. Host Chairs: crlaine.com. Host Chair Fabric: kravet.com. Side Chairs: sherrillfurniture.com/mrandmrshoward. Side Chair Fabric: schumacher.com. Rug: greenfront.com. Chandelier: olystudio.com. Sideboard: worlds-away.com. Lamps on Sideboard: bradburngallery.com. Drapery Fabric: brunschwig.com. Mirror over Sideboard: emporiumhome.com. Wall Paint: Amorous; benjaminmoore.com.
FAMILY ROOM Sofa: kristindrohancollection.com. Sofa Fabric: kravet.com. Coffee Table: curreycodealers.com. Armchair: lee industries. Armchair Fabric: duralee.com. Occasional Table: olystudio.com. Game Table under Window: Clients’ collection. Chairs Flanking Game Table: sherrillfurniture.com/mrandmrshoward. Chair Fabric: kravet.com. Rug: starkcarpet.com. Throw Pillows on Sofa: Custom, westelm.com, homegoods.com, anthropologie.com. Sconce by Window Seat: curreycodealers.com. Shelf Paint: Cloudburst; sherwinwilliams.com.
KITCHEN Cabinetry: warrencustomcabinetry.com. Countertops & Backsplash: marblesystems.com. Countertop & Backsplash Fabrication: alpinestoneusa.com. Fixture over Island: worlds-away.com. Acrylic Stools: cb2.com. Window Treatment Fabric: brunschwig.com. Range: thermador.com through ferguson.com. Hood: Custom by ventahood.com through ferguson.com.
MASTER BEDROOM Bedstead & Nightstands: bernhardt.com. Bedstead Fabric: TK. Faux-Fur Throw: etsy.com. Carpet: prestigemills.com. Armchairs by Fireplace: leeindustries.com. Armchair Fabric: TK. Fixture: crystorama.com. Table Lamps & Floor Lamp: curreycodealers.com. Wall Paint: Slate Blue; benjaminmoore.com.
MASTER BATH Wallpaper Leading into Bath: lindsaycowles.com. Ottoman: pbkids.com. Floor & Tile: marblesystems.com. Vanity Chair: hickorychair.com. Vanity Chair Fabric: kravet.com. Light Fixture: crystorama.com. Window Treatment Fabric: duralee.com. Fringe: robertallen.com.