Photography by Brian Merriam is showcased in the kitchen.
Photography by Brian Merriam is showcased in the kitchen.
Katie Otis poses beside the Carrara Venatino marble island, which she designed as a sculptural, monolithic centerpiece.
The island angles away from an L-shaped kitchen featuring custom Adelphi cabinets in contrasting Farrow & Ball hues.
A clean-burning EcoSmart fireplace is integrated into a marble ledge in the living room.
The residence is a steeply sloped, gabled structure clad in Charwood from Montana Timber.
A block-like volume covered in HardiePanel siding houses the stair.
Otis made the most of a diminutive upper hall space with drywall niches, a Blu Dot console and stools by Hans Sandgren Jakobsen.
Black-stained birch panels the wall behind a Room & Board bed and Lawson-Fenning nightstand in the owners’ suite.
A Poul Kjaerholm PK22 leather lounge chair anchors one corner.
An Ole Wanscher daybed and a Cecilie Manz pouf for Fritz Hansen tuck away under the airy, white oak-and-steel stair.
A playful Anewall mural accents the nursery, where an Oda chair and ottoman by Nanna Ditzel sit atop an overdyed vintage rug from Timothy Paul.
The minimalist dining room combines a custom table and Arne Jacobsen Drop chairs upholstered in Kvadrat fabrics found at Furniture From Scandinavia; an Apparatus chandelier makes a sophisticated statement.
The designer populated the living room with mid-century classics, from an Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair and Mayor Sofa to a Poul Kjaerholm Model PK22 wicker chair.
However, they found the house-hunting process frustrating.
“We quickly realized that we were never going to find everything on our wish list,” recounts Otis. “Most importantly, we were looking for something modern and unique.”
Otis—principal of Katie Otis Design and also the creative director of Sagatov Design+Build—has a high bar when it comes to residential architecture. In the end, she and her husband, deputy CFO at FEMA, purchased a 768-square-foot, 1920s cottage in Arlington with a major renovation and expansion in mind.
Working with Sagatov, Otis began the overhaul in 2014. “It was a two-bedroom, one-story bungalow,” the designer recalls. “The project was essentially a tear-down; we kept a few exterior walls per county regulations in order to call it a reno.”
Today, the 3,568-square-foot, three-story home with five bedrooms and a finished basement is a dramatic, modern presence in a traditional neighborhood, melding disparate architectural influences into a coherent and unusual whole. “I selected maintenance-free charred wood for the exterior construction and roof,” says Otis, referring to the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban that harnesses burnt wood for its resistance to the elements.
However, the blackened finish continues onto the steeply pitched roof in a look that speaks to a Scandinavian soul. “While I used a traditional Japanese technique, I adapted it to a Scandinavian context,” Otis notes. “Extending the cladding to the roof was another design detail in keeping with Scandinavian-inspired architecture.” The façade is anchored on one side by a white-paneled stair tower containing the staircase and front entry, and on the other side by a screened porch.
Inside, Scandinavian references set the tone, with clean lines and organic materials such as wood and stone reflecting what Otis calls “an overall sense of minimalism.” Wide-plank, white oak flooring adds warmth to the spare geometry of the airy and open interiors. Tall, plate-glass windows bathe the home in light from three sides. “Ample light is a defining characteristic of Scandinavian design,” Otis observes. “Many Nordic homes lack sunlight in winter, so it’s important for natural light to flow easily through a room.”
Two skylights illuminate the stair tower, which leads from the main floor to the rooftop. “At night,” she says, “the vertical windows draw the eye in, helping connect the indoors to the outdoors.”
Among the home’s most striking features is the kitchen island, which Otis designed as a focal point within the home’s minimalist composition. “Strong but simple gestures work best,” she avers. The unconventional island is monolithic yet faceted, its angles a departure from the straight lines that otherwise dominate the interiors. The same marble surface crops up again on the asymmetrical fireplace wall and floating bench in the living room.
A dropped drywall ceiling behind the island mirrors the kitchen’s L-shaped footprint. Contrasting cabinetry echoes the dark and light hues of the home’s exterior. Except for the BlueStar range, which was custom colored to match the surrounding base cabinets, all the appliances are integrated. Even the range hood is fronted by cabinetry. “Integrated hoods are a big trend right now,” Otis says. “Hoods can be discreet or focal; we chose discreet to let the other finishes shine and complement the adjacent areas.”
White walls and ceilings amplify the natural light and provide a neutral base for furnishings. The couple’s love of Mid-Century Modern design is clear in their furniture selections. Over time, these have grown to include molded-plastic Fritz Hansen dining chairs, which are child-friendly for the couple’s two small kids, and an enveloping Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair in the living room, reupholstered in cozy green mohair. “It’s no small feat to be able to exercise restraint in your décor choices while still aiming for comfort,” Otis comments. “The living room speaks to both our tidy tendencies and our desire to live in an inviting setting.”
A passion for curated artisanship, coupled with architectural detail, is always front and center. For example, those Drop chairs surround a dining table crafted by master woodworker Caleb Woodard; above the table, a cluster of frosted-glass globes is suspended from slender wires in an elegant Apparatus Lighting chandelier. An accent wall of black-stained birch paneling in the couple’s bedroom imparts warmth and offers a nod to the dark siding that clads the exterior.
“This home really has been a labor of love from start to finish,” Otis muses. “It was designed to be a modern renovation, with warmth and character to ensure it is timeless.”
Architectural & Kitchen Design: Katie Otis, Sagatov Design+Build, Falls Church, Virginia. Interior Design: Katie Otis, Katie Otis Design, Arlington, Virginia. Builder: Sagatov Design+Build, Falls Church, Virginia. Styling: Charlotte Safavi.
Island Fabrication: glbtileandmarble.com. Photos on Wall: Brian Merriam through tappancollective.com. Counter Stool:materusa.com. Island Light fixtures: apparatusstudio.com. Cabinetry: adelphikitchens.com. Cabinetry Paint: farrow-ball.com.
Egg Chair: furniturefromscandinavia.com. Woven Chair: Poul Kjærholm through fritzhansen.com. Coffee Table: Jamie Hayon through andtradition.com. Sofa: andtradition.com. Sofa Upholstery: Raf Simons. Floor Lamp: Owners’ collection. Light Blue Canvases over Sofa: blake-aaseby.com. Rug: starkcarpet.com. Woven Wall Hanging: hirotakeda.com. Throw: lenarewell.com. Ceramics: andrewmolleur.com.
Bed: roomandboard.com. Bedding & Blanket: areahome.com. Bedsheets: stgeneve.com. Pillows & Vintage Rug: timothypaulcarpets.com. Nightstand: lawsonfenning.com. Leather Chair & Occasional Table: Poul Kjaerholm through fritzhansen.com.