Home & Design

The 19th-century George I dining room chairs were re-covered in a fresh Ralph Lauren fabric.

A newly widened opening connects the stair hall and living room.

The living room arrangement mixes two traditional sofas—one a circa-1730 Georgian original and the other a custom reproduction—with a vintage Diego Giacometti coffee table.

The kitchen received a facelift, with custom cabinets crafted to match the originals, all of which were painted white.

The breakfast area boasts circa-1800 George III chairs and a late 17th-century Italian scagliola tabletop resting on a later base.

In the entryway, the designers displayed a series of 19th-century plaster reliefs depicting the Parthenon, previously tucked away in a keepsake box.

Solis Betancourt designed the gilt four-poster bed for the owner's previous home; in its Kalorama incarnation, the designers have added a diaphanous drape.

The sitting area within the primary suite features new, classically detailed cabinetry. Relaxed Roman shades, fabricated in a Romo sheer, add a softening effect.

The designers found the antique chandelier at Artisan Lamp and stripped dark paint from its canopy to reveal a silvery metal.

The team retained the living room’s ornate mantel but simplified trim on the niches flanking it and painted their backs a lavender hue.

New Light

Solis Betancourt & Sherrill recasts a 1922 Kalorama home and a beloved collection for a client’s next chapter

Veritable treasures await around every corner of a century-old Kalorama townhouse recently reimagined by Jose Solis Betancourt and Paul Sherrill, principals of Solis Betancourt & Sherrill. A second-century statue of the Roman goddess Diana beckons from a living room perch. A nearly 300-year-old harpsichord commands the stair hall. Ancient Greek pottery sits among cherished books on the library shelves.

Each piece survived a rigorous paring-back process to earn its place.

When a longtime client decided to downsize from a Tudor-style manse to a more manageable abode nearby, she sought to lighten her vast trove of furniture, antiquities and art—as well as her aesthetic. She enlisted the design duo to orchestrate both endeavors. The pair certainly knew her collection well, having helped assemble it decades ago for the previous residence.

“The pieces had been in that house for a very long time,” reveals Solis Betancourt. “They have a new life in this one and that is exciting to see. It was an editing job, curating the whole collection for this smaller residence.”

First, the designers drafted a plan to reconfigure the spaces to suit the owner’s needs and create an appropriately elegant envelope for the remaining ensemble. “It started sort of academically with her program—how she really wanted to live and entertain on this particular property,” Sherrill explains. “The program will allow her to age gracefully in this home.”

BOWA joined the team as contractor, executing a renovation that touched every space. “The house was in fine shape when we started, but it certainly wasn’t what it is today,” states principal Steve Kirstein. “We added, subtracted, moved things around a bit and put in some cool touches.” Retrofitting the four-story townhome with an elevator proved a major, though not insurmountable, challenge.

A redesigned staircase ascends from the gracious, ground-level entry hall to a main-floor landing situated between the living and dining rooms. Newly raised and expanded openings visually connect and define these spaces and allow light to flow. As Solis Betancourt relates, “In this project, in this new phase, the client really wanted to embrace natural light.”

The third-story layout changed dramatically. Three bedrooms were combined to create a large owner’s suite, complete with a sitting area and dressing room. A separate library gratifies the avid reader and history buff; it also serves as a snug spot to watch television.

New moldings and other millwork add refinement throughout, in keeping with the home’s classically inspired exterior architecture. “The interiors sort of lagged behind the style of the exterior,” recounts Sherrill. “We took the classical façade as a jumping-off point and developed the interior architecture to support that.” For example, fluted pilasters with Ionic capitals adorn the library’s built-in cabinetry. In sum, he notes: “It’s an understandable backdrop for a Grand Tour collection.”

A Marmorino plaster finish, applied on most of the public-area walls by The Valley Craftsmen, “gives gravitas to the architecture,” Sherrill continues, while subtly shifting tints of blue and green unify the spaces. “We kept the palette one that would be more reflective of natural light,” he states. Light-enhancing materials, such as the kitchen’s Mystery White marble countertops and the breakfast room’s limestone floor, enhance the sense of airiness.

Meanwhile, owner and designers culled the most meaningful pieces from her considerable cache. “She’s well-travelled and knowledgeable about the history of different pieces she has,” says Sherrill. “This is not a random collection. We had to make a couple of difficult choices in our attempt, at her request, to lighten the feeling.”

Solis Betancourt adds: “She was willing to part with things because she understood the idea behind it. That was the fun part.”

Viewing the scaled-down trove through a fresh lens, the design duo carefully composed the Kalorama spaces. Take the living room, for example. Two salvaged Ionic columns, found through a New York dealer and recently freed from years in storage, anchor the space. The crumbling relics stand comfortably alongside fine European antiques and clean-lined, contemporary pieces.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a minimal project,” says Solis Betancourt, wryly. “It’s very well-edited. Finding that right balance in the spaces was important.”

The creative vision for the gardenesque breakfast room included incorporating a group of hefty stone antiquities into the wall architecturally—a tricky structural maneuver. The result speaks volumes about the designers’ reverence for the familiar collection as a whole—not to mention the 30-year client relationship that corresponds with it.

Sherrill recaps: “This project was a nice way to revisit the things we worked with our client to collect and curate over the years.”

Interior Design: Jose Solis Betancourt and Paul Sherrill, Solis Betancourt & Sherrill, Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: BOWA, McLean, Virginia.

RESOURCES

GENERAL
Paint: benjaminmoore.com.

ENTRY
Desk: Antique. Chairs: Clients’ collection. Paint: Marmorino Plaster through valleycraftsmen.com. Chandelier: Clients’ collection. Chair: Antique. Paint: Marmorino Plaster through valleycraftsmen.com. Harpsichord: Antique.

LIVING ROOM
Coffee Table: Owners’ collection. Rug: Custom through galleriacarpets.com. Left Living Room Sofa: Antique. Right Living Room Sofa: Custom through solisbetancourt.com. Sofa Fabric: scalamandre.com. Center Chairs: saladinostyle.com. Drapery: Great Plains through hollyhunt.com. Drapery Trim: rogersandgoffigon.com. Drapery Fabrication: Potomac Draperies; 240-676-3642. Lavender Pillow Fabric: romo.com. Paint: Marmorino Plaster through valleycraftsmen.com. Statue: Antique.

LIVING ROOM WITH FIREPLACE
Sconces: artisanlamp.com. Paint: Marmorino Plater through valleycraftsmen.com. Chairs: Antique. Chair Fabric: kravet.com. Chair Trim: samuelandsons.com. Acrylic Side Table: bernhardt.com. Painting above Fireplace: Anthony Van Dyck. Porcelain: Antiques.

DINING ROOM
Table: Clients’ collection. Chairs: Antique. Fabric on Chairs: ralphlaurenhome.com. Wall Finish: valleycraftsmen.com. Console & Screen: Clients’ collection

BREAKFAST AREA
Credenza, Chairs & Table: Antique. Table Base: Design by solisbetancourt.com. Table Lamps: saladinostyle.com. Chandelier: marstonluce.com. Shades: conradshades.com. Paint: Marmorino Plaster through valleycraftsmen.com.

KITCHEN
Cabinetry: Existing through themasterswoodshop.com. Countertop & Backsplash: marblesystems.com. Plumbing Fixtures: graff-designs.com through ferguson.com.

 

 

 

BEDROOM

Bed: Custom through solisbetancourt.com. Side Tables: Clients’ collection. Sham & Toss Pillow Fabrication: rockvilleinteriors.com. Bed Drapery Fabric: rubelli.com. Sham Fabric: fabricut.com. Sham Trim: decordeparis.com. Throw Pillow Fabric: cec-milano.us. Throw Pillow Trim: samuelandsons.com. Bench: Clients’ collection. Side Lamps: Clients’ collection. Paint: Frosted Café by benjaminmoore.com.

 

BEDROOM SITTING AREA

Lounge Chair & Ottoman: Custom. Side Chair: Clients’ collection. Table & Floor Lamp: Clients’ collection. Rug: galleriacarpets.com. Chandelier: Vintage. Drapery Fabric: romo.com. Drapery Fabrication: Potomac Draperies; 240-676-3642. Built-in Design: solisbetancourt.com. Paint: Snowfall White by benjaminmoore.com.

 

STUDY
Wall Covering: fschumacher.com. Sofas: Owners’ collection. Sofa Fabric: kvadrat.dk. Drapery Fabric: coraggio.com. Pillow Fabric: fortuny.com. Drapery Fabrication: Potomac Draperies; 240-676-3642. Chandelier: Clients’ collection. Paint: Pristine by benjaminmoore.com.

 

 

 

 

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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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