Home & Design

The vestibule features a niche for a Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams console.

A corridor ends in an open-plan living area with a dining table and chairs from Crate & Barrel.

Santalla enhanced the space with silk wall covering in a complementary hue that accentuates the ceiling design.

In Santalla's design, a small common room connects the two bedrooms.

One of the bedrooms features built-ins and a glass-fronted shelf system from IKEA.

A comfortable bedroom includes an upholstered bedstead.

Frosted-glass doors allow privacy without compromising on light.

Both bathrooms offer universal design elements.

The airy, open-plan living area is defined by a ceiling niche that adds interest to the space.

Two's Company

Ernesto Santalla overhauls an Arlington condo for friends who wish to age in place together

Two women, one in her 80s and one about 15 years younger, were sharing a two-story condo when a single-level unit in the same building became available. With practicality in mind, they bought it—hiring architect Ernesto Santalla to make the space compatible with their needs. “For my older client, there was decreased mobility,” he recalls. “And the younger one was thinking about the future. When this apartment came up, they seized the opportunity.”

Santalla, who had remodeled their previous abode, began by reorganizing the bedroom wing, then comprising the master suite and a spare bedroom. His new layout replaced a walk-in closet in the spare bedroom with a new bath; he then lined one wall of the bedroom with closets.

The original vestibule felt dark and compartmentalized, its layout guiding visitors toward the bedrooms rather than to the light-filled living space. Santalla removed a wall by the entry door “to create a straight shot down the corridor to the living/dining area,” he explains. He added openness by eliminating a wall separating the kitchen from the living area.

The once-dated kitchen now boasts lacquered custom cabinets by Potomac Woodworking and quartz countertops. Painted the same cream color that covers most of the walls, it feels cohesive with the living space. An accent wall in a silk wall covering by Weitzner connects the vestibule to the living area, leading visitors that way.

When the project began, the unit “had zero character,” Santalla recounts. “It was generic and bland.” To liven things up, he embellished the flat-plane ceilings with architectural features that camouflage bulkheads while adding interest. Frosted-glass doors to one bedroom admit light while maintaining privacy. An easy-maintenance, textured-porcelain tile floor throughout unifies the spaces.

The finished apartment is both functional and serene. Says Santalla: “It’s a space where you can leave the noise of the world behind and relax.”

Interior & Architectural Design: Ernesto Santalla, AIA, LEED AP, Ernesto Santalla PLLC, Washington, DC. Renovation Contracting: Enrique Bonilla Home Services, Alexandria, Virginia.

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