Touring the 2017 DC Design House with her daughters, a local economist fell for Josh Hildreth’s great room. She loved the mélange of furniture, art and mementoes he’d woven together, inspired by Givenchy’s chateau on the outskirts of Paris.
“When I walked into Josh’s room, it spoke to me,” she recalls. “My mother was an interior designer in Manhattan in the ’50s and she always took me to design houses. Josh’s space reminded me of her, from the color palette and combination of textures to an Asian screen resembling one she passed down to me.”
A couple of years later when the visitor and her then-fiancé, an attorney, bought a new Craftsman-style house in Arlington, there was no question who would outfit the interiors. “We needed a designer and I called Josh,” she says.
In the midst of planning their wedding (a second marriage for both), the couple wanted to create a warm and welcoming hub for their blended family, which includes two teenage girls and a daughter in college. Fans of the five-bedroom home’s open floor plan and abundance of windows, they were less than enamored with its white-and-gray palette and mundane finishes.
“The house was very much an upscale builder-grade special,” Hildreth observes. “It was cheerful, but didn’t have much personality.” He set out to remedy this fact by creating layered spaces reflecting his clients’ love of travel and a collected-over-time sensibility. Reviewing shelter magazine photos, Hildreth says, they were drawn to West Coast homes projecting “sun-filled, casual elegance,” mixing antiques and modern finds.
“I decided this house needed a touch of Bohemian,” he explains. “They have a yoga room and look for calm and peace in their lives—I wanted the house to be an extension of that.” Instead of a traditional living room to the right of the main entry, an informal gathering area took shape. And along the home’s center hall, the space intended to be a dining room serves as a music room for the owners, who gather for meals in the casual open kitchen and family room spanning the back of the residence.
Hildreth struck a worldly note throughout. In the front room, he combined a vintage Khotan rug, a sculptural rattan light fixture made in Britain and abstract fabric that he likens to African Kuba cloth. Bronze water buffalo figures from Cambodia and an 18th-century Chinese ancestor portrait complete the picture.
Rarities also appear in the wife’s study on the opposite side of the entrance. Shelves holding books, antique vases and the first painting the couple bought together lend an elegant, personal touch. Mid-century chairs face the desk—two of many heirlooms from the wife’s late mother that grace the home. Says Hildreth, “We both inherited a love of beautiful homes from our mothers.”
Where there once was white paint, custom finishes by Paul Robson—the son of Malcolm Robson, Bunny Mellon’s decorative painter—add an indelible patina. Robson animated the kitchen/family room ceiling in a faux wood plank, transformed a wooden fireplace surround with a rich limestone look and elevated the owners’ bedroom walls with a soft striae. “When everything is freshly painted, new construction can feel raw,” Hildreth explains. “I wanted to approach this house like a new pair of blue jeans, running it through the wash and softening it up a bit.”
Also softening the home are one-of-a-kind rugs that the designer and his clients selected for each room. A Moroccan-style carpet sets the tone in the family room, where vintage 1960s chairs, an antique French console and two marble-topped coffee tables by DC designer Darryl Carter for Milling Road mingle in eclectic fashion.
The family is delighted with Hildreth’s global mix of styles and provenances in the home. In this concoction he likens to a soup, where Mid-Century Modern meets antique and Asia meets Africa, nothing feels one-note.
Many subtle nods in the family room allude to the homeowners’ recent nuptials. “The coffee tables have a nice connectivity,” says Hildreth. A pair of bronze busts from Benin converse side by side on matching stands. And in the adjacent dining area, two magnetic birds alight on a Démiurge light fixture (it came with one bird but the owners requested a mate).
“Life isn’t always a perfect path to a finish line, and it’s a beautiful thing when two people can find love again,” attests Hildreth. “When I met this couple, they exuded being in love with each other. I wanted to create a house where they could be really comfortable together.”
Interior Design: Josh Hildreth, Josh Hildreth Interiors, Washington, DC.
Draper Fabric & Upholstery: gretcheneverett.com.
Rug: altforliving.com. Ottoman: cfmodern.com. Brunschwig & Fils Ottoman Fabric: kravet.com. Chairs: harbingerla.com. Welting: samuelandsons.com. Drapery Fabric: studiobfabrics.com. Fixture: soane.co.uk. Wall Color: Slipper Satin through farrow-ball.com. Decorative Painting on Ceiling: robsonworldwidegraining.com.
Rugs: Abaca Rug: hollandandsherry.com. Antique Rug: elikorugs.com. Chairs: Owners’ Collection. Chair Fabric: pierrefrey.com. Drapery Fabric: pennymorrison.com. Desk: dessinfournir.com. Drum Table: bakerfurniture.com. Floor Lamp: Mid-20th century French. Desk Lamp: Antique Satsuma Japanese Vase Lamp. Decorative Painting: robsonworldwidegraining.com.
Rug: dorisleslieblau.com. Sofa: Owners’ Collection. Sofa & Chair Fabric: hollandandsherry.com. Pillow Fabric: klstextiles.com; fschumacher.com; zakandfox.com; iansanderson.co.uk. Pillow Trim: samuelandsons.com. Vintage Chairs: Mid-century, walnut framed chairs in the style of Kofod-Larsen. Philip and Kelvin LaVerne Table between Chairs: 1stdibs.com. Vintage French Cabinet: rtfacts.com. Floor Lamp: nydc.com/antiques. Stool: verellen.biz. Wall Color: Neutral Ground through sherwin-williams.com. Coffee Tables: Darryl Carter for bakerfurniture.com. Roman Shade Fabric: legracieux.com. Painting: Merton Simpson. Photographs: jackspencer.com. Decorative Painting on Ceiling & Fireplace Surround: robsonworldwidegraining.com.
Table: Owners’ Collection. Chairs: leeindustries.com. Leather on Chairs: mooreandgiles.com. Rug: elikorugs.com. Chandelier: demiurgenewyork.com. Wall Color: Neutral Ground through sherwin-williams.com. Roman Shade Fabric: legracieux.com.
Wallpaper: Kit Kemp through hollandandsherry.com. Mirror: 1stdibs.com. Paint on Vanity: Hathaway Gold through benjaminmoore.com. Hardware: pushpullhardware.com. Window Grille: Custom through joshhildrethinteriors.com. Sconces: soane.co.uk. Hardware: calfaucets.com. Countertop: rbratti.com.
Bed: quintushome.com. Rug: elikorugs.com. Night Tables: 1stdibs.com. Lamps: Vintage Balinese Carved Figural Lamps. Bedding: matouk.com; talinihome.com. Decorative Painting: robsonworldwidegraining.com. Slipper Chairs: ferrellmittman.com. Slipper Chair Fabric: clarencehouse.com. Chinese Root Table: Vintage. Shelving: dessinfournir.com. Mirror: verellen.biz.