When Lindsay Stuckey, a young real estate agent, tapped Erika Bonnell to overhaul her condominium, the designer relished the challenge. Stuckey was drawn to the two-bedroom Arlington apartment, where she intends to live for the next five years, by its lofty views of DC. But the outdated interiors cried out for a makeover.
Bonnell gutted the entire space, working with Sonnenday Custom Builders to channel a fresh look that suited Stuckey’s aesthetic without breaking the bank. “We ripped out the kitchen and baths, removed floors and dropped ceilings for decorative lighting,” Bonnell explains. White walls and wood-look floors created a blank slate for a new pastel color scheme and a blend of classic and contemporary furnishings. “I would call it modern, updated traditional with a lean toward softer, feminine lines,” says Bonnell, who applied hints of glamour with care not to overwhelm the small space. “In small spaces,” she contends, “it’s about keeping your foundation consistent but not jarring. We created interest in textures and details.” For example, crystal knobs dress up white kitchen cabinets and bright-pink piping trims a neutral chair in the living area. “Every selection in the condo was very intentional,” Bonnell reflects. “Lindsay wanted to know that her furniture purchases were investment pieces that could go along to her next home.”
Was concealing the drapery hardware a challenge?
Actually, we took advantage of existing bulkheads. Where we dropped the ceiling, we created areas where we could hide the ripple-fold drapery tracks. This made the drapes look more integrated.
How did you combine beauty and durability in the project?
Considering all the light that comes into the condo and the fact that my client is young and likes to entertain, I wanted to make sure I selected materials that would hold up. The kitchen countertops in quartz are very forgiving. We didn’t want her to worry about maintenance. The dining-chair seats are covered in an indoor-outdoor Schumacher mini-leopard print; she can clean them and they won’t fade. On the chair backs, we selected a Holland & Sherry wool that is more precious, but is fine just on the backs.
Why is scale so important in tight quarters?
Even in a small space, a few big items are better than many little ones. If you choose elements that are too small, a room will look too busy. I tend to go larger with pieces like the Made Goods chandelier in the dining area. You don’t need much when you have a few anchor pieces.
Explain your philosophy on pillow curation.
Pillows are like jewelry and balance is so important, especially when working with color. Because we had that great pink chenille on the sectional, I wanted to offset it with white but also wanted the pillows to reflect my client’s personality. We found a gorgeous Designers Guild floral and a Holland & Sherry wool crepe that feels luxurious. The pillows are a play on texture and color balance.
What was your goal in the entry hall?
We wrapped the entrance in a gorgeous scenic Schumacher paper. The minute you arrive, you’re walking into an experience. It almost feels like a great little New York City condo. We wanted something statement-making at the end of the passageway and selected a Highland House console custom-colored for our palette. It sets the tone and communicates that you’ve entered a cool place.
Share your view on mixing metals.
I am a metal mixer. I like a little relief in design and when you mix your metals you don’t tire of them because you aren’t overwhelmed by one finish. In some instances, we’ll do a chrome or polished nickel as a foundation and then brass will get layered over the top. To me, brass is timeless.
In lieu of art, how did you make a statement in the master bedroom?
We wanted to keep the bedroom feeling youthful, and took the look a bit more abstract while staying traditional. The fabric on the headboard is from a work by British artist Jessica Zoob. It looks like an outdoor scene and takes the place of art since we didn’t really have room for art in there. Adding wall sconces kept it more traditional—and saved space.
Define the role of accessories in this makeover.
The accessories we brought in are very clean and minimal. They include books on fashion and travel and some cool natural elements, such as rocks and crystals, that I use in just about every project. And floral containers, which are as much an accessory as some bauble you find in a store. Any time I see a cool vessel I grab it and hold onto it—especially ones that are sculptural and a bit more abstract. They can really make a space.
How did you create a luxurious master bath without breaking the budget?
I do very basic selections and detail everything in a way that looks completely custom. In this bathroom, the countertop, toilet wall and shower are marble that I picked from remnants. I didn’t need a lot, so it was a matter of looking through stone yards to find pieces that we could use. And the cabinets are affordable; the ‘X’ we put on the doors was done after-market. It’s a matter of building up around these basic elements with door pulls, light fixtures, mirrors and styling pieces that elevate a space.
Is there a trend you’re over?
The modern farmhouse is so overplayed. I think a home should reflect the personalities of those who live there; you can’t tell me that everybody fits into modern farmhouse style.
What’s your take on wallpaper?
Wallpaper is never “out” in my book. It adds depth and interest. We often use it when clients are on a budget.
Favorite classic making a comeback?
Velvet is super classic but a staple for me. It can be fresh, modern and comfortable. I can’t get
enough of it.
Choice spot for unexpected treasure?
We find all kinds of fun little gems on Chairish.
Theory on high-low?
I’m a big high-low mixer. I want a space to feel comfortable so you can live in it without worrying about how you live in it.
Interior Design: Erika Bonnell, Erika Bonnell Interiors, Haymarket, Virginia. Kitchen Design: Cornerstone Kitchen & Bath, Chantilly, Virginia. Renovation Contractor: Colin Sonnenday, Sonnenday Custom Builders, Purcellville, Virginia. Photo Styling: Mike Grady.