The moment he set foot in the apartment— located in a recently completed building along DC’s U Street Corridor—a Washington resident in search of a new home knew it was right for him. Its high ceilings, abundant windows and spacious living/dining area cinched the deal for the association executive, who soon acquired it.
Realizing furniture from his former Dupont Circle condo would look dated and out of place in the modern residence, he enlisted designer Sophie Prévost of ColePrévost to help him outfit the interiors from scratch. “It didn’t have much character,” recalls Prévost, who recommended a few deft moves right off the bat. Reddish floors were refinished in pale blond. New lighting improved upon builder-grade fixtures. And custom millwork—from a large, white-oak unit in the living room to floating shelves in the study—would provide storage while displaying the owner’s books and ceramics collection.
The design scheme evolved organically as Prévost helped her client hone in on his personal aesthetic. This process of discovery, he says, yielded a few surprises. “When we started off, I thought I liked big, bold colors, drama and a little bit of edginess. But,” he admits, “I came to realize that while I like those things in other people’s homes, in my own I like something more tranquil and quiet—but not boring.”
With this clear mandate, Prévost presented him with multiple options. Rather than furnishing the apartment with off-the-shelf finds in one fell swoop, they sought quality and singularity over convenience. Their selections encompassed clean-lined furniture—including many bespoke pieces of ColePrévost’s design—richly textured fabrics and rugs and carefully curated modern art. “My client was always drawn to the better options because he has a good eye,” says Prévost.
They reviewed drawings of custom pieces together, refining ideas along the way. “It’s nice to have something that’s unique but also fits in beautifully with the theme of tranquility and subtle interest,” the owner remarks. “The shapes, textures and materials speak to me.”
Textiles and a warm color palette soften the furniture’s contemporary edge. Inspired by a brass floor lamp—the only element culled from his former home—Prévost started with a gold tone and paired it with masculine gray. Throughout the apartment, she tapped into variations of these shades, even applying color to the ceilings in the living room and study. “I love playing with color on the ceiling because I think it’s hardly noticeable but makes a difference in how a space feels,” she explains. “If the living-room ceiling were white, it would be really cold. If it were gray, it would be dark and gloomy. The yellow just gives it a glow.”
With a plethora of bars and restaurants practically at his doorstep, the homeowner says, “This has become the hot neighborhood. If I want to go out to the busyness of U Street, everything is in walking distance.”
But he also loves coming home to his completed apartment. “It has a great sense of brightness and light,” he reflects. “The way Sophie has it set up gives me a lot of open space. I use all of it. I can’t choose one favorite room over the others; the whole place is my favorite.”
Interior Design: Sophie Prévost, ASID, ColePrévost, Inc., Washington, DC. Custom Millwork & Furniture Design: ColePrévost, Washington, DC. Custom Cabinet & Millwork Fabrication: East Coast Woodworks, Stevensville, Maryland. Lighting Design: Hinson Design Group, Washington, DC.
Sophie Prévost’s Trade Secrets
- The appeal of custom furniture is not just that it is unique and personal to our clients. Its beauty lies in the feel and touch of a piece crafted by hand, the relationships we forge with local craftsmen, and the knowledge that something well-built will last for generations.
- A good “bang for the buck” tip: Give your old kitchen a facelift by replacing the cabinet doors, drawer fronts and hardware. It makes an amazing difference!
- Installing lighting in an apartment can be tricky if altering the ceilings is not an option. If the junction box is off-center (by less than 30 inches) from the dining table, you can center a pendant fixture by weaving its wire around a cool chain or rope. Rewiring may be required.
- When painting small areas, I like to go dark. Because they absorb light, darker tones have more depth, which helps make a space feel larger. I suggest painting the ceilings darker as well. Often, a small space like a powder room may be proportionately too tall; the darker tone “cocoons” the room.