When designer Celia Welch first set eyes on the Old Town condo, its walls were painted vivid yellow and trimmed extensively with ornate crown moldings. The effect was stodgy and outdated. Welch’s mandate—given by her client, Denise Joseph, who had just purchased the three-bedroom townhouse—was to “make it comfortable, elegant, chic and urban.” Says Joseph, who owns a federal management consulting company, “I knew I wanted it to be clean and modern, with a rustic mix. I just didn’t know how to get there myself.”
Welch knew just what to do. Carefully honing spaces to achieve a level of ease and simplicity is something she takes very seriously. Here, it meant bringing in natural light and streamlining the interiors. To achieve these goals, her first step was removing the wall that separated the kitchen from the open-plan living/dining room, as Joseph’s main priority was to have one flowing, light-filled space. “When I first saw the house, I knew I’d have to be able to take down that wall or I wouldn’t want to buy it,” she recalls.
In addition to removing the wall, Welch overhauled the side of the living/dining room where the staircase, with its traditional, turned-wood bannister, curved into the room at an obtrusive angle. Beside it, a big fireplace stuck out, flanked by built-ins. “We gutted that whole zone,” Welch says. “The stairs are straight now, with custom iron railings. The wall projects out just enough to accommodate a sleek, modern gas fireplace. So we were able to reduce bulk and mass.” Storage is concealed on one side of the fireplace wall, while an open, vertical display niche fills the other.
Welch also got rid of the moldings and trim—along with the built-ins. “Moldings can be beautiful but in this space we were trying to make it fresh and clean,” she explains. “By taking things away, we were able to bring in that sense of simplicity we wanted.”
A wall of Palladian windows faces the Old Town riverfront, but heavy drapes that conveyed with the home obscured the view and made the tall ceilings feel lower. Welch added drama by painting the window frames black—which draws the eye to them—and replacing the drapes with white sheers that hang from ceiling height. “What’s really amazing is that the view feels more like a feature in the room,” she marvels. “And the light is better from lifting the drapes and opening the view.”
Welch and kitchen designer Sarah Kahn Turner collaborated to redesign the outdated kitchen. “Once we took down the wall, Denise could feel connected to the full space,” Welch recounts. “It was truly transformative.”
The new open plan made room for a long, quartz-topped island, over which a separate wenge table hovers, with waterfall sides and room for four stools. “We didn’t want the traditional look of a two-level countertop,” Welch says. “This adds a little extra dimension.” Black-finished pendants from Circa Lighting pick up other black design elements throughout the main floor. The cabinetry is gray-washed, rift-cut oak; a beverage bar—by Joseph’s request—occupies the far side of the kitchen, so guests can help themselves without being underfoot.
To add an original note to the sleek, new kitchen, Welch selected gray-and-white cement subway tile in a matte finish as the backsplash. “We looked for something special and then came up with a fun way to lay it out,” she says.
With Joseph’s wish for “a rustic mix” in mind, the designer blended textured, natural materials throughout. The niche in the fireplace wall houses a decorative display of stacked logs, while the custom dining table is made of planks salvaged from the Ocean City boardwalk and edged in metal. The black-painted window frames and iron stair railings convey an industrial sensibility.
In the redesigned master bedroom, artisan Stacey Tranter customized a design from her own wallpaper collection, creating a wood-look covering that hangs behind the bedstead and complements the wall color.
With its clean lines and rustic/industrial edge, the redesigned townhouse nails the urban-chic style and sense of comfort the homeowner was after—with the serenity and ease that Welch strives to instill in all of her work. “My favorite thing about the house is the way it makes me feel,” Joseph says. “Its simplicity is calming. I couldn’t have imagined it better.”
Interior Design: Celia Welch, Celia Welch Interiors, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Kitchen Design: Sarah Kahn Turner, Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Contractor: Bradley Construction Company, Inc., Damascus, Maryland
Sofa: rh.com. Swivel Chair & Floor Lamp: westelm.com. Rug: stark.com. Coffee Table: cb2.com. Photograph over Sofa: Allan Gerson through kallerfinearts.com. Drapery Fabric: cowtan.com. Fabricator: celiawelchinteriors.com. Fireplace: fireplaceex.com. Iron Stair Railings: Custom.
Table: Custom design by celiawelchinteriors.com. Chairs: Custom. Chair Fabric: cowtan.com. Chandelier: westelm.com.
Cabinetry: artcraftkitchens.com through gilmerkitchens.com. Countertops: Arctic White Quartz through stoneandtileworld.com. Stools: roomandboard.com. Wenge Table: glumber.com. Pendants: circalighting.com. Backsplash: architecturalceramics.com.
Bedstead: mgbw.com. Bedside Table: randomharvesthome.com. Chandelier: rh.com. Wallpaper: staceytranter.com. Paint Color: Sherwin Williams Light French Gray.