Home & Design
Workstation occupies one wall; a combination of cabinetry and open shelving optimizes storage.
Workstation occupies one wall; a combination of cabinetry and open shelving optimizes storage.

A third workstation occupies one wall; a combination of cabinetry and open shelving optimizes storage.

Cubbies dedicated keep clutter at bay.
Cubbies dedicated keep clutter at bay.

Cubbies dedicated to each project keep clutter at bay.

Small dry erase boards list upcoming tasks
Small dry erase boards list upcoming tasks

Leu made the small dry erase boards that hang beside the fireplace by framing colorful fabric swatches behind glass; boards list upcoming tasks for each client.

Carefully designed kitchen boasts copious storage and an airy feel.
Carefully designed kitchen boasts copious storage and an airy feel.

A carefully designed kitchen boasts copious storage and an airy feel.

Breakfast nook conceals storage beneath a stylish banquette.
Breakfast nook conceals storage beneath a stylish banquette.

The breakfast nook conceals storage beneath a stylish banquette.

Farmhouse sink in the chic utility room is flanked by a beverage fridge on one side and floor-to-ceiling cabinetry on the other.
Farmhouse sink in the chic utility room is flanked by a beverage fridge on one side and floor-to-ceiling cabinetry on the other.

The farmhouse sink in the chic utility room is flanked by a beverage fridge on one side and floor-to-ceiling cabinetry on the other.

Wall of open cubbies satisfies the needs and habits of busy kids.
Wall of open cubbies satisfies the needs and habits of busy kids.

A wall of open cubbies satisfies the needs and habits of busy kids.

Low-slung laundry sink centers a wall of cabinets and appliances in the laundry room.
Low-slung laundry sink centers a wall of cabinets and appliances in the laundry room.

A low-slung laundry sink centers a wall of cabinets and appliances in the laundry room. Photo: Bob Narod

Ironing board is attached to the wall and concealed behind an attractive wood panel
Ironing board is attached to the wall and concealed behind an attractive wood panel

An ironing board is attached to the wall and concealed behind an attractive wood panel. Photo: Bob Narod

Designer Christie Leu and administrative assistant Bryn Schmitt
Designer Christie Leu and administrative assistant Bryn Schmitt

Designer Christie Leu (right) and administrative assistant Bryn Schmitt enjoy plenty of elbow room at facing desks.

Clutter Be Gone

Chic spaces by designer Christie Leu create a place for everything

OFFICE SPACE
“Every room should have a purpose,” declares Christie Leu, founding principal of Christie Leu Interiors. “Always assign a purpose to a room or it will attract junk.” For the designer, these are words to live by—in her own house as well as those of her clients. Case in point: the stylish and efficient home office in Leu’s Chevy Chase abode, which until recently was a disused living room full of clutter.

“I live in a pre-Civil War house that was added onto over many years until it had three living rooms,” she recounts. Located in the oldest section of the residence, one of those unfrequented spaces seemed the perfect location for a home office. “It’s right next to the front door so clients don’t have to walk through the rest of the house to get there,” Leu explains.

First, she needed to tackle the room’s inherent architectural challenges. Seven-and-a-half-foot ceilings—typical for a home of such early vintage—felt oppressive, so she lacquered them in a lustrous, highly reflective blue that “makes the ceiling recede and look taller,” she says. An oversized fireplace—not original to the house—felt out of proportion, so she designed a new mantel for it that brought the scale down, modernizing it with a surround of Neolith sintered stone. Window moldings went black to make the room look current.

With this chic and welcoming backdrop, Leu was ready to get organized. “We needed enough space for at least three people to work,” she says. “I wanted room for samples, vendor catalogs, file drawers for paper, and electronics—including a scanner and a printer. And I wanted all cords hidden.”

Custom built-ins, made of painted and wood-look laminates for easy maintenance, were masterminded by the designer and fabricated by District Custom Woodworks to create workspace and storage. A wall of cubbies contains woven bins assigned to each client, and to the right of the fireplace, a series of colored dry erase boards lets Leu and her staff write down the most immediate task on hand for each project. In the center of the room, two desks pushed together to face each other offer loads of workspace.

 

BREAKFAST TIME
When redesigning a Kensington kitchen, Christie Leu put her home-organizing philosophy to work: There should be a place for everything. “I always max out storage in a kitchen,” she observes. If possible, “custom cabinetry is essential; you only have so many inches and you want to use all of them.”

In this project, that even meant taking advantage of the breakfast nook. A banquette hides storage under the seat while a shallow, floor-to-ceiling shelf tucks in beside it. “The client wanted extra shelving, but we were limited by the location of the back door,” Leu explains.

The kitchen itself  is a study in efficient space usage. Gray-painted cabinetry by Weaver’s Custom Woodworking conceals coffee and baking stations. A cubby keeps the microwave off the counter. And deep lower-cabinet drawers provide easy access, as does pull-out shelving in the pantry and below the sink. “I love designing kitchens,” Leu enthuses. “They’re a big puzzle, putting it all together to see if it fits. Function is always first.”

 

STORAGE GALORE
While reimagining a Kensington home, Christie Leu carved out space for a versatile utility room. Working with Chung’s Home Improvement, she demolished a wall to enlarge the footprint and designed extensive built-ins. “The owner requested storage for her vacuum,” recalls Leu, who answered with a floor-to-ceiling cabinet by the back door. Below the sink, drawers hold laundry baskets for colors and whites. A washer and dryer are stacked beside a facing wall of cubbies and pegs. “Kids are more likely to hang items on an easy-to-reach peg than they are to tuck them in behind cabinet doors,” advises Leu, who prefers open storage in a mudroom. A ceramic-tile floor and gray-painted cabinetry impart a sophisticated vibe.

 

WASH & DRY
After pondering a problematic second-floor room in her own vintage Chevy Chase abode, Christie Leu came up with a solution. “At just 10-by-10 feet, the space was too small to be a bedroom,” she explains. “And I needed an upstairs laundry room. ”With visions of style, function and convenience in mind, Leu designed a wall of custom cabinetry (below), which she fitted around a washer and dryer. A Kohler Gilford laundry sink sits between the two appliances. An ironing board folds open from behind a panel on one wall (left) while rolling hampers make sorting light and dark loads easy. Beadboard cabinetry in a cheerful teal hue complements an encaustic cement-tile floor.

 

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HOME&DESIGN, published bi-monthly by Homestyles Media Inc., is the premier magazine of architecture and fine interiors for the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia region.

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