Home & Design

Delineated by a honed-marble tile floor, the entry hall showcases an Iatesta console designed by Randolph.

A Dessin Fournir table anchors the dining area, where a Niermann Weeks chest of drawers is paired with 19th-century engravings of ancient Greek zodiac signs.

The Snaidero kitchen makes a streamlined statement.

Zapatka designed millwork and built-in cabinetry and shelving around a Samsung picture-frame TV. The clients relax on FBR swivel club chairs.

To the right of the entry hall, a Niermann Weeks console and chairs face the library.

Zapatka added square footage for a large walk-in closet behind the far wall in the primary bedroom, creating a niche that accommodates the custom headboard and Vaughan sconces for reading.

In the primary bath, marble-look tile from Porcelanosa adorns the walls; Zapatka designed the vanity.

A view from the living room reveals Zapatka’s enfilade plan where rooms follow one another in a series.

Design Alchemy

A sophisticated vision elevates a mundane Kalorama condo in European style

The most successful projects start with a superlative collaboration. This one, in the heart of Kalorama’s Embassy Row, had an unbeatable team: Prix de Rome-winning architect Christian Zapatka and Frank Babb Randolph, a doyen of DC’s design scene for more than 50 years. Together, they awakened the sleeping beauty of a 14-year-old apartment. Their clients, for whom Randolph had transformed two prior houses, were integral to the alchemy.

“We had a sense of good design from living with Frank’s work for three decades,” says the husband, a DC-area dentist. “And we knew from taking part in his process how much potential this place had when we first saw it.”

The wife, whose career in advertising and marketing now informs her philanthropy work, had set her sights on a single-level condo in beautiful, walkable Kalorama when the couple decided to downsize once their son left for college. “We were empty nesters,” she says, “and this place was perfect.”

When they invited Randolph to see the 2,400-square-foot, two-bedroom abode in 2019, his reaction was definitive: “If you don’t buy it, I will!” The large, open spaces, airy proportions and even the silky quiet of the partially below-level elevation sparked the designer’s imagination. But the floor plan was chopped up—especially the primary suite, which had to be accessed via the library. The finishes were dated and broad, flat wall expanses throughout lacked soul. In the living area, a prefab fireplace begged to be replaced.

Randolph turned to Christian Zapatka, his go-to choice for architectural projects, to devise a plan that would indulge his vision: A classic New York or Paris apartment. “We introduced clarity and definition to the jumble of spaces with an enfilade plan featuring defined rooms with proper cased openings,” Zapatka explains. “And we gave the blank walls substance with paneling and well-articulated trim.” The renovation also solved the dilemma of the primary suite’s awkward access, creating a convenient, direct entrance from the reimagined front hallway.

Zapatka’s plan established a 140-foot grand axis that allows the rooms to unfold in a sequence—each subtly framed by doorways. “I delineated a progression of spaces that I call zones,” notes the architect, who built them up using chunky cased moldings, cabinets and shelving that deliver character. He also adorned the walls with classically styled paneling that he describes as “true paneling, not applied.” Three plywood layers per panel, including a molding inset, create subtle shadow lines.

With four coats of Benjamin Moore’s Super White in high gloss, the wall panels convey the look of boiserie, a style found in 18th-century France and often imitated in preWar New York apartments. The same glossy paint on the ceilings reflects natural light from windows and terraces adjoining the rooms. “Painting everything one light-enhancing white ties the entire unit together,” Randolph avers.

A clean-lined, contemporary fireplace in Indiana limestone replaced the flimsy prior model; its low profile is a Randolph hallmark. Wide-plank, bleached white oak flooring in a chevron pattern throughout the dwelling emphasizes the flow between the rooms. “We ruled out carpets, which would only dimension the spaces to be smaller,” says the designer. Finishes on the door and cabinet hardware, picture frames, lamps and lanterns are light-reflective nickel.

A sleek Snaidero kitchen is open to the dining room, but its functions are discreetly hidden. Distressed-wood cabinetry echoes the hue of the foyer’s honed-marble floor. Randolph repurposed much of the furniture he’d used in his clients’ prior home. Inside the bright-white envelope, bespoke Niermann Weeks creations, pieces designed by Randolph and antiques mined from Marston Luce and David Bell are gorgeously sculpturesque. Refreshed upholstery mirrors the greenery on terraces off the living and dining rooms and autumn-orange accents reference Fortuny pillows purchased in Venice on the couple’s honeymoon.

The collaboration wrapped up in the best possible way. As Zapatka comments, “Clients who requested the feel of a New York apartment in Washington now say they can’t wait to return to DC when they’re in New York!”

Renovation Architecture: Christian Zapatka, AIA, Christian Zapatka Architect LLC, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Frank Babb Randolph, Frank Babb Randolph Interior Design, Washington, DC. Kitchen Design: Snaidero DC Metro, Alexandria, Virginia. Renovation Contractor: JEFFCO Development, Rockville, Maryland.

RESOURCES

THROUGHOUT
White Oak Flooring: royaloakflooring.com

LIVING ROOM
Paint: benjaminmoore.com. Painting Over Mantel: Owners’ collection. Fireplace: Custom by christianzapatka.com. Club Chairs: Frank Babb Randolph; 202-944-2120. Ottoman: michaelclearyllc.com. Ottoman Fabric: elizabethbenefields.com. Sofa & Sofa Fabric: barbarabarry.com. Round Occasional Table: David Bell Antiques; 202-965-2355. Demi-lune Table: marstonluce.com. Mirror: davidiatesta.com. Flooring: classicfloordesigns.info. Club Chairs: Frank Babb Randolph; 202-944-2120. Club Chair Fabric: cowtan.com. Pedestal Table: dessinfournir.com. Drawers: niermannweeks.com. Pictures above Chest: antique. Neoclassical Chairs: David Bell Antiques; 202-965-2355.

HALLWAY
Console Table in Nook: Grand Tour Sculpture: Antique. Light Fixture: vaughandesigns.com.

KITCHEN
Cabinetry: snaiderodcmetro.com.

FAMILY ROOM
Club Chairs & Upholstery Fabric: Frank Babb Randolph; 202-944-2120. Sofa: barbarabarry.com. Sofa Fabric: hinescompany.com. Coffee Table: davidiatesta.com. Console & Chairs: niermannweeks.com.

BEDROOM
Headboard: Custom. Art on Wall: lesliearcher.com. Sconces: vaughandesigns.com.

BATH
Vanity: Custom. Flooring: porcelanosa-usa.com.

BEDROOM
Bed: Custom. Painting above Bed: Jennifer Grinnell. Bedding: matouk.com. Chair: David Bell Antiques; 202-965-2355. Nightstands: vaughandesigns.com.

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