Home & Design
Breakfast nook with mahogany tilt table and armchairs from the Regency period
Breakfast nook with mahogany tilt table and armchairs from the Regency period

A breakfast nook spotlights a mahogany tilt table and armchairs from the Regency period.

Kitchen boasts custom cabinetry designed by Martens to resemble furniture
Kitchen boasts custom cabinetry designed by Martens to resemble furniture

Beyond the dining area, the kitchen boasts “an unkitchen-y look,” with custom cabinetry designed by Martens to resemble furniture.

Integrated Caesarstone sink and countertop face the La Cornue range.
Integrated Caesarstone sink and countertop face the La Cornue range.

An integrated Caesarstone sink and countertop face the La Cornue range.

Made Goods desk in study.
Made Goods desk in study.

A Made Goods desk occupies a corner of the study.

Dark-gray custom sofa in the study, and Hickory White coffee table and comfortable armchairs are grouped atop a sisal rug.
Dark-gray custom sofa in the study, and Hickory White coffee table and comfortable armchairs are grouped atop a sisal rug.

A dark-gray custom sofa beckons in the study, where a Hickory White coffee table and comfortable armchairs are grouped atop a sisal rug.

Fabiola Martens beside antique garden sculptures and a chair from JANUS et Cie on the patio outside bedroom.
Fabiola Martens beside antique garden sculptures and a chair from JANUS et Cie on the patio outside bedroom.

Fabiola Martens poses beside antique garden sculptures and a chair from JANUS et Cie on the patio outside her bedroom.

Sitting area with linear shelves, Dessin Fournir sofa and Louis Philippe wood-framed chairs
Sitting area with linear shelves, Dessin Fournir sofa and Louis Philippe wood-framed chairs

A sitting area features linear shelves above a Dessin Fournir sofa and Louis Philippe wood-framed chairs.

Martens grouped small, gilt-framed paintings salon-style on the wall above a Ferrell Mittman sofa in living area
Martens grouped small, gilt-framed paintings salon-style on the wall above a Ferrell Mittman sofa in living area

In the living area, Fabiola Martens grouped favorite small, gilt-framed paintings salon-style on the wall above a Ferrell Mittman sofa.

Designer’s dog, Ella, relaxes near custom ottoman that separates the living and dining areas
Designer’s dog, Ella, relaxes near custom ottoman that separates the living and dining areas

The designer’s dog, Ella, relaxes near a custom ottoman that separates the living and dining areas.

Tiny Gem

Designer Fabiola Martens marries clean, modern lines and classic décor in her chic Georgetown condo

Tiny Gem - Downsizing from a large Northern Virginia residence, Fabiola Martens discovered a diminutive one-bedroom condo in Georgetown, tucked behind a stately, 1912 brick manse.

It was one of six in an attached building of the same era that had been recently overhauled; Martens pictured the ground-floor apartment, with a bedroom suite downstairs, as a temporary roost. “It was builder-grade,” she recounts. “I did a few things to it, nothing major. But whenever I had visitors, they just loved it. I was taken with that—I started thinking of it as my lovely little shoe box.”

After a couple of years, the Belgian-born designer purchased the unit next door in order to expand. The goal was to combine the two main-floor living spaces—thereby incorporating four large windows within one room. “Houses in Georgetown are very vertical and can be dark, usually with two front windows and a small backyard,” Martens observes. “I realized that by buying the second unit I could have more windows and light all day long.”

Working with contractor Mike Altuner of Cecchi Homes, Martens devised a program that gutted the main floor spaces, shifted walls, anchored a new kitchen at the far end of the room and captured the portion of the hall that previously led to the adjacent apartment. Located on opposite sides of the enlarged unit, the two staircases down to the bedrooms remain intact; the bedroom in the recently acquired section now serves as a study and TV room. While the lower-level rooms don’t communicate, both open out conveniently onto an expansive patio that provides an easy connection between the two.

Martens homed in on modern architectural elements as a backdrop for classical décor. “I have a lot of old paintings and antiques that I’ve collected over the years,” she notes. “I don’t have the means or willingness to change them, so I went the other way with the finishes—no moldings, no window frames. And because it’s a modern-feeling space, I was able to hang more art; in a room where there’s a lot going on architecturally, I would do less.” She adds that she wanted a sense of spaciousness and felt that architectural flourishes would make it feel closed-in.

Among the modern touches that grace the interior: linear, frameless bookshelves; unadorned tray ceilings; a lighting plan that features strategically placed, recessed LEDs; and above the dining table, a minimalist chandelier designed by Martens and painted to blend with the gray walls and ceiling. Just after moving in, the designer had traded outdated metal stair railings for a glass banister and acrylic handrails down to the bedroom.

The living and dining areas sound a classic note with dark-wood furnishings, light, neutral upholstery and gilt-framed artwork—all offset by pale-gray relaxed Roman shades; sleek, rift-oak floors in a gray-washed herringbone pattern that makes the space feel expansive; and occasional modern pieces such as a glass coffee table and a sculptural iron table of Martens’ design.

The kitchen required some consideration. “I’m actually not a loft-and-open-plan person,” Martens reveals. “I like the kitchen to be separate. But I had my vision of light and that needed an open plan.” To realize this ideal, she designed a wall of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, punctuated by windows. A La Cornue range—“the jewel of the kitchen,” says Martens—anchors the cabinet wall; the pale-gray custom cabinetry complements charcoal-colored Caesarstone countertops and an integrated sink on the island for a look of seamless, understated elegance. A breakfast bar tucked into one corner conceals appliances while a café table and chairs, against an accent wall clad in textured Phillip Jeffries wall covering, create the feel of a charming dining nook.

Downstairs, the renovation enhanced both the bedroom and study with stylish built-ins. The bathrooms were overhauled and the closet opposite one small bath was repurposed to hold a soaking tub. Martens’ bedroom is bright and airy, with walls and ceiling covered in white grass cloth and a wall of shallow shelves playfully displaying the designer’s beloved purse collection. By contrast, the study’s shelves of books, large-scale oil paintings and luxe, deep-gray fabrics conjure a moodier vibe—as does the velvet-covered sleep sofa, which, incidentally, was so big it had to be brought in through the window.

In fact, the home’s tight doorways presented other similar challenges—the most memorable being when the ceiling by the front door had to be knocked out to get the refrigerator in. “I said, ‘get a hammer and just do it; I’ll repair it later,’” Martens recalls, laughing.

Today, the lovely little shoe box is significantly larger—and beautifully reflects the designer’s vision. Says Martens, “I’ve never come up from the bedroom when I didn’t feel that I was coming up into the light.”

Renovation & Interior Design: Fabiola Martens, Fabiola Martens Interior Design, Washington, DC. Contracting: Mike Altuner, Cecchi Homes, Arlington, Virginia.

 

Tiny Gem - RESOURCES

GENERAL
Carpentry: Kevin Smith; 717-808-3738. Window Treatment: souliesinteriors.com. Upholstery Fabrication: Flowers Upholstery; 703-560-0308.

LIVING ROOM
Sofa: ferrellmittman.com. Sofa Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Armchairs: R Jones & Associates; 214-951-0091. Armchair, Ottoman & Shade Fabrics: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Coffee Table: andrewpearsonglass.com. Stool: Antique through newel.com. Ottoman: Custom. Floor Lamp: William Lipton Ltd; 212-751-8131. Artwork & Urn: Owners’ collection.  Chair Upholstery: belgianlinen.com. Art: Owners’ collection.

DINING AREA
Table: Owners’ collection. Chairs & Fabric: marstonluce.com. Light Fixture Design: fabiolamartens.com. Light Fixture Fabrication: Mike Weeks.

KITCHEN
Range: lacornueusa.com. Marble Sculpture, Tiered Table & Art over Café Table : Owners’ collection. Café Table: georgedavisantiques.com. Chairs: Jean Pierre Antiques; 202-337-1731.

SITTING AREA
Sofa: dessinfournir.com. Sofa Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Metal Coffee Table Design: fabiolamartens.com. Coffee Table fabrication: Mike Weeks. Art: Owners’ collection.

STUDY
Desk: madegoods.com. Sconces: vaughandesigns.com. Armchair: brightchair.com. Armchair Fabric: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Armchair by Window: leeindustries.com. Armchair Fabric: georgespencer.com. Blanket: gucci.com. Corner Table Fabric: jimthompsonfabrics.com. Coffee Table: hickorywhite.com. Rug: starkcarpet.com. Small Round Pedestal Table: Owners’ collection. Table Lamp: mcguirefurniture.com.

PATIO
Sculpture: Jean Pierre Antiques; 202-337-1731. Chair: janusetcie.com.

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