There’s something plucky about a parakeet. When DC interior designer Colman Riddell chose to lacquer the front door of her Georgetown row house in Duron’s Parakeet green, she was definitely looking to have some fun.
“I tend toward a quieter, neutral palette, so it was a bit of a departure for me,” she says of the bold choice. “But the unexpected color makes me happy every time I see it. The number of cards and calls I’ve received from strangers requesting this paint color would not be believed!”
Riddell has shared this four-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot row house with her husband, Richard, a wine importer and former travel photographer, and their teenage son and daughter since 2015. They were lured to the 1916 home near Montrose Park and the Oak Hill Cemetery by its dark-stained hardwood floors, high ceilings and updated galley kitchen. But to Riddell, even greater appeal lay in the opportunity to re-envision and remake the home’s layout and interiors. “As a designer,” she says, “I find that my home is always a laboratory for experimenting.”
Riddell transformed the residence to reflect her family’s lifestyle and celebrate the many years she and her husband spent living abroad. “I wanted a light-filled, comfortable family home full of mementos of our adventures and travels,” she reflects. “We’ve lived and journeyed all over the world and the things we have are important to us because of the memories they evoke. Istanbul, Beijing, Marrakech, Hong Kong and Tunis are just some of the cities represented in our home,” says Riddell.
Richly textured furnishings and objects, on display against an unfussy, neutral backdrop, enliven every room. Case in point: the antique Chinese console table and distress-painted wood chandelier from Visual Comfort that set the tone in the foyer, where Riddell decided to go bold on the walls. “For the entry, I fell in love with a graphic Porter Teleo wallpaper, but wasn’t thrilled with its smaller scale in the space,” the designer explains. “I wanted something larger, more graphic, with a 1980s Keith Haring graffiti-art vibe.” So she hired decorative painter Deborah Weir to reimagine the wallpaper’s printed pattern in thick, large-scale brushstrokes—deep black on a crisp-white background. “Again, it was a big departure for me, but I love the result,” Riddell says. The geometric-patterned wool rug and runner that she selected for the entry and staircase repeat the high-contrast palette.
In terms of space planning, one of Riddell’s first moves was to dispense with the home’s dining room and integrate it with the front living room to create a double parlor. “We didn’t need a formal dining room; we don’t live like that,” she explains. “So I converted it into an additional living area where we can spend time as a family. I’d say the front living room is more for visiting with friends, while we use the back one for hanging out together, doing projects or watching TV.” As in many Georgetown homes, a fireplace separates the two spaces.
Both parlors are similarly furnished for aesthetics and flow, with comfortable velvet-upholstered sofas and occasional armchairs, cocktail and side tables—and, above all, treasures from many of the places the family has visited over the years. The palette is earthy and neutral, and texture is king.
“In any given home, I prefer traditional-style furnishings that can be accessorized in many ways in order to direct a final, very personal, feeling,” says Riddell. “I always love interesting antiques that add patina, texture and history to a space, that tell the story of the home and its inhabitants. Nowhere is this truer than in my own home.”
For example, the slant-top walnut writing desk in the back parlor, used for both correspondence and work, was one of the couple’s first purchases, made at the Oatlands antiques show near Leesburg more than 20 years ago. And the room’s wall décor includes an antique Chinese straw hat and Thai rice-cooling trays acquired during repeat visits to the Far East.
One of Riddell’s favorite spots is the kitchen’s dining area. It is simply furnished with a built-in banquette, a narrow, custom-fit table and a pair of antique Chinese chairs. Above hangs a deeply textured and sculptural metal-and-wood chandelier finished in chalky white. “To make a neutral home successful, it’s all about the mix of textures,” says Riddell. “I blend velvets, linens and antique textiles with a variety of materials, including wood, stone and metal. But perhaps most importantly, it’s about the presence of patina.”
Throughout her home, Riddell accentuates patina in weathered, aged and painted wood; in dark bronze, tarnished silver and antiqued brass; and in statuary or fossils. But in the end, it’s always the story behind the pieces that she cherishes the most.
“The Ottoman textile above our bed is from Istanbul,” she says, pointing out the piece that hangs between two double-gilt mirrors mounted behind lamps with black shades. “I pulled its palette of cream, black and gold into the room. But mostly,” she adds, “it makes me happy to remember sipping tea with the shopkeeper and my family while negotiating its price on a hot summer afternoon.”
Chandelier: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Console Table: Antique from China. Lamps: Custom by colmanriddell.com. Rug: georgetowncarpet.com. Wall Design: colmanriddell.com. Wall Treatment: deborahweir.net.
Lamp: Arteriors.com. Round Side Table: Antique gate-leg. Coffee Table: americaneyedc.net. Club Chair: tcsdesignsfurniture.com. Sofa: bernhardt.com. Spindle Chair: hickorywhite.com. Sisal Rug: georgetowncarpet.com. Ceiling Lantern: lillianaugust.com. Pillar: Antique from Thailand. Bone Prints: Gendron Jensen. Chair: jfchen.com through michaelclearyllc.com. Mirror: madegoods.com. Art: sunnygoode.com. Table: rh.com.
Sofa: duralee.com. Concrete Round Table: elegantearth.com. Table Lamp: blissstudio.com. Coffee Table & Mirrors: rh.com. Skull Prints: Antique through ebay.com. Desk: Antique. Chair: lorts.com. Lamp: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Side Chair: barrydixon.com. Gray Side Chair: mcalpinehouse.com through leeindustries.com.
Bedside Chests: wisteria.com. Lamps: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Headboard Fabrication: leangsinteriors.com. Mirrors: mirrorimagehome.com. Bedding: legacylinens.com. Hanging over Bed: Turkish textile from Istanbul.