Home & Design

Tracy Morris positioned a white-painted chest from Random Harvest in the foyer.

The dining room juxtaposes a landscape by Caroline Adams with a series of antique architectural prints.

   A custom Oushak carpet anchors the living room, with a reupholstered Lee Industries armchair and a Cisco Brothers settee.

The kitchen features a breakfast nook with Schnadig chairs and a Williams & Sherrill table.

The family room beckons with Lee Industries furniture grouped around an antique iron coffee table.

The master bedroom showcases a headboard from Williams & Sherrill upholstered in wax linen with biscuit tufting.

The master bath, redesigned by Theo Thompson, combines cream-colored cabinetry and marble surfaces.

The upstairs landing holds an antique console and a serene landscape from Random Harvest.

An arched opening into the dining room.

Coming Home

Designer Tracy Morris brings clean lines and a serene sensibility to her traditional townhouse in McLean

Tracy Morris grew up in Northern Virginia, so when she married in 2017 and moved from DC’s Glover Park neighborhood to McLean, it felt like coming home. She and her husband, Justin Li, chose a spacious townhouse in easy walking distance to restaurants and shops in the downtown area. “What I love about McLean is that it’s a quiet, older town full of small businesses,” Morris says. “There are almost no chains here—it’s a real community.”

The couple’s abode is part of a 1980s enclave with a distinctly “Chippendale Virginia look,” as Morris describes it: a brick exterior and interior spaces embellished with traditional millwork and trim. She and Li bought their home from a local designer, Theo Thompson; he had purchased it as an investment, redoing the kitchen and master bath in classic white with marble surfaces and the two and a half other baths in travertine before putting it on the market. It was in move-in shape when its new owners arrived. “I was able to just come in and decorate,” Morris recounts. “I hardly bought anything; it all came from my previous condo and from a weekend retreat I had recently sold in the Northern Neck.”

A curved staircase dominates the vestibule, which is adorned with a diamond motif on the painted floor. The open space flows down two short stairways—into the living room on one side and towards the open-plan kitchen/family room on the other. The vestibule walls reach only to chair-rail level, revealing the family room beyond the dramatically curving stair and the dining room/living room ahead and to the right. Upstairs are the master suite, guest room and a home office for Li, an entrepreneur.

Morris brought her signature elegant, restful style to each room. Fortunately, the previous owner had selected quiet paint colors that fit her vision. “I am drawn to a neutral palette,” she observes. “Not only do I design that way, I live it. Cream, beige and plum are my main colors; it’s just easy to keep things neutral and add color when you need it.” A tranquil blue-green by Farrow & Ball covers the walls on the main floor and in the hall upstairs, while bedrooms are painted beige with white trim.

Morris repurposed most of her existing furniture and art—without argument from Li, who clearly didn’t mind surrendering most of his own furniture to the cause. “I just stay out of the way, then come in and go, ‘Wow!’” he says happily. “Everything is always beautiful.”

The living room combines pieces from Morris’s Northern Neck house with a sofa and chaise from Li’s former apartment—all atop a custom Oushak rug the designer had in inventory. The adjoining dining room combines a Lillian August sideboard with antique architectural prints Morris framed herself.

Tracy Morris’s Trade Secrets

  • Plan your furniture layout carefully, keeping the locations of doors and windows in mind.
  • Consider the function of each space and be sure there’s room for your special items.
  • Accessories are crucial to making a space feel finished. However, over-accessorizing if you have small children, for example, can lead to heartache. Accessorize at whatever level your lifestyle allows.
  • I don’t like the disposable-furniture mentality. As furniture has become more readily available, we have lost the idea of passing pieces down to future generations. I’m not saying treat all pieces as heirlooms, but look for items that will stand the test of time.
  • Assembling your team and pre-planning are the most important steps in beginning the design process. Bring together people who you will feel good about working with every day. When you have the correct team, the process is seamless.


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HOME&DESIGN, published bi-monthly by Homestyles Media Inc., is the premier magazine of architecture and fine interiors for the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia region.

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