Washington’s Cleveland Park neighborhood is known for ornate Victorians nestled along tree-lined streets. Perched atop a gently sloping lot on a picture-perfect block, the Wedding Cake House exemplifies the venerable district’s offerings. Over the years, its curvaceous front porch, tiered architecture and frothy, decorative frieze have earned it this moniker—and thanks to historic-district regulations, the distinctive front façade remains happily intact.
However, when new owners—a government affairs executive and his wife, a scientist, and professor—purchased the house in 2015, they had a list of improvements they wished to make inside. “The bones were in great shape,” recalls the husband. “But the last time the house had been touched was during a renovation in the early ’80s, so we wanted a more modern-day update.”
The couple tapped architect Jane Treacy, who had worked on their previous home, and designer Annie Elliott to make the house more modern and functional while respecting its considerable history and charm. The 6,200-square-foot abode already contained three large, finished levels, so “it was plenty big,” Treacy says. “We knew we weren’t going to add to it, but there was some rearranging we wanted to do inside.” Changes would include overhauling the kitchen, butler’s pantry, and bathrooms; creating a spacious and functional master suite; improving bedroom closets for the couple’s two kids; and reorganizing the main-floor rooms for better use.
Embarking on the kitchen renovation, Treacy and her clients worked within the room’s original footprint but removed a wall separating it from a small mudroom/laundry by the back door. “Taking advantage of that space gave the kitchen a visual connection to the rear yard,” says the architect, whose airy redesign enlarged a bank of existing windows and added a built-in window seat with storage cubbies.
Reconfigured around a new center island, the renovated kitchen flows into an existing breakfast nook. The butler’s pantry has been enlarged with space borrowed from the adjacent powder room. Cabinetmaker Stroba, Inc., which installed all the millwork, worked with Elliott and the owners on finishes that included kitchen cabinetry in Benjamin Moore’s Kensington Blue, Bianco Crystal granite countertops and a backsplash in white ceramic by Waterworks that mimics the look of tin ceiling tiles.
Upstairs, the master bedroom and adjoining sitting room/study remained intact. But, Treacy recounts, “the missing piece was a good dressing room, master bath, and closets. We absorbed a small adjacent bedroom to create those elements.” The finished space features a spacious dressing room, complete with built-ins, that opens onto his-and-her closets and an elegant, marble-clad bath.
One of the clients’ first design decisions was to flip the living room—formerly to the right of the foyer—with the dining room at the back of the house. A swinging door was installed between the butler’s pantry and the new dining room. In a playful nod to the Victorian penchant for wallpaper, Elliott papered the dining-room ceiling with blue-gray Phillip Jeffries grasscloth. “The clients didn’t want color on the wall here and I knew if we left the ceiling white it would look washed-out,” she explains. The new living room, painted soft yellow, feels cozy with its large bay window and easy access to the side porch.
Elliott’s goal for the décor was “to make it fresh and make it work for a young, active family,” she says. “We were looking to go traditional but a little bit cleaner.” Along with vibrant art picked up on their travels, the couple brought numerous antiques to their new home.
However, they specified that they didn’t want the rooms to be overly formal. “We have two teenagers and two dogs,” observes the husband. “It’s a very busy house.”
Against a backdrop of original heart-pine floors and Oriental rugs, Elliott sourced furniture to complement her clients’ antiques. In the living room, a custom-cut carpet from The Floor Gallery grounds an antique Heriz, a custom sofa in Robert Allen fabric and armchairs in a plaid Thibaut pattern. “We started with the rugs, then used their traditional reds and blues for the upholstery,” the designer notes.
An antique Mahal rug in the dining room shares space with a dining table from Jonathan Charles and a George III mahogany-and-ebony sideboard. Elliott’s selection of deep blue custom drapes trimmed in red completes the room—now one of the first things you see as you enter the house. “It’s the details,” Elliott says. “They are what makes this house so fun and interesting.”
Renovation Architecture: Jane Treacy, Treacy & Eagleburger Architects, PC, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Annie Elliott, Bossy Color, Washington, DC. Builder: deMarne+Day, Potomac, Maryland. Landscape Design: Renee Bullock, Arbor Green Landscapes LLC, Washington, DC.
Drapery & Upholstery Fabricator: Pilchard Designs, Inc.; 202-362-4395. Cabinetry & Built-ins: stroba.com.Foyer & Stairway. Lamp: visualcomfort.com. Stair Carpet: thefloorgallery.com. Chest: Italian, circa 1820-30; arcanummarket.com. Art on Stair Landing: lizahouston.com
Sofa: Custom. Sofa Fabric: robertallendesigns.com. Armchair Fabric: thibaut.com. Carpet: thefloorgallery.com. Rug: Antique Heriz. Coffee and Round Side Tables: centuryfurniture.com. Pillow Fabrics: Schumacher.com Chandelier: visualcomfort.com. Statue of Horse: Antique. Portrait by Door: Vintage Chinese.
Rug: Antique Mahal. Sideboard: George III circa 1810; whitehallantiques.com. Chandelier: visualcomfort.com. Lamps on Sideboard: curreycodealers.com. Drapery fabric: robertallendesigns.com. Art above Sideboard: lizahouston.com. Dining Table: jonathancharlesfurniture.com. Host Chairs: Custom. Host Chair Fabric: clarencehouse.com. Small Console: Owners’ collection. Wallpaper on Ceiling: phillipjeffries.com.
Art over Fireplace: georgerodrigue.com. Window Seat & Dining Chair Fabric: Duralee.com. Pillow Fabric on Window Seat: schumacher.com. Chandelier over Table: visualcomfort.com. Cabinetry: Custom. Paint Color on Cabinetry: benjaminmoore.com. Cabinet Hardware: rh.com. Backsplash & Sink: waterworks.com. Faucet: franke.com. Granite Countertops: unitedstatesmarbleandgranite.com. Curtains: romo.com.
Bedstead & Nightstands: henredon.com. Lamps on Nightstands: curreyandcodealers.com. Bedding: sferra.com. Window Treatments Fabric: romo.com. Trim: duralee.com.
Cabinetry: Custom. Wall & Floor Tile: mosaictileco.com. Bathtub: signaturehardware.com. Tub Filler: perrinandrowe.com through rohlhome.com.