Home & Design

The dining area anchors the open-plan main level with a Century table, custom chairs and a Noguchi light fixture.

An adjacent seating area features a triptych from Thailand above a Hickory Chair sofa.

Ivey designed the living room built-ins; a custom sectional faces a Hickory Chair armchair and an Arteriors coffee table.

BEFORE: the main living area.

In the reconfigured kitchen, a custom oak table attached to the island offers space for casual dining.

The custom kitchen cabinetry is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Blue Note, topped by matching Silestone counters.

BEFORE: The existing kitchen.

A view from one of the sitting areas reveals the open floor plan—including a glimpse of the stairway.

BEFORE: The main living area and stairway.

A niche beside the kitchen, with a matching blue cabinet, serves as a built-in coffee bar.

The primary bedroom conjures a serene vibe with a custom silk headboard, a pair of Century chairs and nightstands from Salvations Architectural Furnishings.

The primary bath boasts a floating vanity clad in walnut panels.

The owners' bath got a major overhaul.

In the primary bath, a cozy niche was enveloped in walnut paneling. A print of an Alex Colville painting hangs above an Arteriors bench with a seat cushion in durable Perennials fabric.

Eastern Flair

A globetrotting couple comes home to their Crystal City condo in style

A fascination with air travel convinced a couple to buy a condo with runway views of Reagan National Airport. “We were sitting in the car at Gravelly Point watching the planes land and I said as a joke, ‘We should get an apartment nearby so we don’t have to sit outside,’” recalls one of the homeowners.

The light-hearted comment led to the 2013 purchase of a two-story, 2,700-square-foot condo in Crystal City, Virginia. Soon after, the owners—who then worked for an international refugee agency—were whisked off to their final assignment in Thailand.

While overseas, they rented out the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath dwelling and plotted their retirement—and a remodel. “The space was fantastic; we’d purchased it with a view to its eventually being our forever home,” one partner explains. “But though the previous owner had done some renovations, it was stuck in time.”

A professional referral and a series of interviews led the couple to hire interior designer Kathryn Ivey, whose firm recently relocated from Alexandria to Paris. “The building dates back to the 1980s, so it needed an update,” recounts Ivey. “They wanted to freshen it up, to make it suitable for their retirement.”

Because it’s a condominium, no major structural changes were possible. But the wish list was still ambitious. It included revamping the kitchen, adding built-in shelving in the living room and removing two half-walls that separated it from the dining area. The owners' bath would get a major overhaul while other custom design and decorating tweaks touched nearly every space of the condo.

Ivey sketched out the design for the main-level living areas and upstairs bedrooms and also spearheaded the décor. She recommended Tom Gilday, founder  of Pinehurst Design Build, to take on the renovation. Melanie Morales, an architect on his team, prepared the construction drawings and another colleague, kitchen designer Ellen Witts, also joined the project. “It was a real collaboration between the two firms,” observes Gilday.

The design process began in October 2019 and finished in March 2020—just before covid shut the building down. Construction finally commenced in July when the homeowners were still in Thailand. First on the agenda: refinishing the wood floors to remove their red tones. Once the living room’s half-walls were gone, the team designed custom built-ins made from ebony-stained red oak to frame the TV and linear fireplace, as well as shelving for art and accessories. Walls around the staircase were removed, banisters were replaced and treads and risers were refreshed.

Overhauling the outmoded kitchen was Witts’ job with an assist from Ivey. The tasks included removing an awkward peninsula that blocked traffic flow. Dark-wood cabinets gave way to custom blue-painted cabinetry paired with Silestone countertops and backsplash in the same hue. In a nod towards aging in place, the homeowners eschewed upper cabinetry.

The chic, monochromatic kitchen now centers on a roomy island; a custom-designed pantry cupboard made of quarter-sawn oak offers additional storage and paneled Bosch appliances contribute to a streamlined look.

Upstairs, the primary suite also underwent a makeover. The bedroom was softened by silk wall covering and a plush, upholstered headboard. The bathroom’s awkward layout made way for a more functional configuration; a suspended ceiling was removed to create a sense of space and height. The original oversized soaking tub was traded for a spacious shower. A clerestory window near the ceiling overlooks the stair; light pours in through an existing oculus skylight positioned over the stairwell.

When it came to decorating the interiors, “we felt it was a huge opportunity to create an aesthetic from the beginning,” relates the homeowner. “We were able to build a framework for our art pieces. The condo is designed to reflect
a particular look.”

With that aesthetic—dubbed “modern Asian” by the clients—in mind, Ivey established a coherent feel throughout with a neutral palette accented by pops of color. “The clients weren’t coming back with any furniture, so we were starting from scratch,” notes the designer. She conveyed an Asian sensibility via the lines of the furniture and the use of dark, rich woods.

Art and other treasures picked up on the clients’ travels created the finishing touches—including “a woven fabric that we used as a jump-off point for the color palette,” Ivey remembers. The fabric was transformed into a three-dimensional triptych that eventually made the journey from Thailand to the dining area wall.

Despite the challenges of covid and the far-flung locations of the decision-makers while the job was underway, both design team and clients are delighted with the outcome. Says Ivey, “The homeowners are surrounded by the things they’ve accumulated and reminded of the joyful time they had traveling abroad.” The fabulous airport runway views are just a bonus.



How do you pull off a design theme that’s unrelated to a home’s location?
Katherine Ivey: You don’t want to be too thematic. Wherever a home is, it needs to be connected to the local vernacular. There are ways to bring in influences through art, fabric and prints. In this project, we relied on the design of furniture and dark, rich woods.

How did you collaborate while the homeowners were half a world away?
Tom Gilday: A lot of the decisions were already made, so it was a matter of filling in the details. We sent three-dimensional drawings by email, so distance wasn’t much of a factor.

How does a condo makeover differ from the renovation of a detached home?
Katherine Ivey: You’re working with concrete walls, ceilings and floors so in terms of what you can do structurally, it’s very limited. There are support beams and plumbing holes you can’t move. And the logistics of getting in and out are challenging.

Renovation Architecture: Melanie Morales; Renovation Contractor: Tom Gilday; Kitchen Design: Ellen Witts, Pinehurst Design Build, North Bethesda, Maryland. Interior Design: Kathryn Ivey, Kathryn Ivey Interiors, Paris, France. Styling: Stylish Productions.

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