Home & Design

The hallway leads past the staircase, reimagined by Sroka with streamlined wrought-iron railings.

In the living room, Kravet sofas face a Sroka-designed slate fireplace; the designer conceived the flanking cabinets to fit the space.

The TV is concealed behind sliding barn doors.

A painting by Ron Ehrlich takes center stage in the dining room beside a Theodore Alexander sideboard and a Made Goods mirror.

A Julian Chichester table and City Collection chairs serve casual meals in the revamped kitchen, designed in conjunction with Lobkovich, Inc.

During the latest renovation, a small front parlor was converted into the wife’s home office, which can be closed off by pocket doors.

A linear fireplace and TV are framed in WOW porcelain tiles from Architessa.

In the serene owners’ suite, a Century bed and nightstands occupy the window wall.

The primary bath was customized to fit a luxe Waterworks tub; sculptural marble tiles create an eye-catching backdrop.

A custom floating chest anchors the front entry. Sroka hung an Uttermost pendant in front of the porthole window to de-emphasize its off-center position.

Fine Finish

Skip Sroka imbues a Chevy Chase home with understated elegance and a touch of glam

It all began with a spec house in Chevy Chase, Maryland. In 2007, a couple with two kids purchased the Craftsman-style abode while it was still under construction, tapping designer Skip Sroka to help them upgrade and customize the interiors.

Fast forward to 2017. The owners—he’s in healthcare finance and she’s a retired CPA—were ready for a change. “We wanted to modernize, to relieve some of that Craftsman heaviness,” the wife relates. They turned to Sroka again and he, along with colleague Liz Bausch, formulated a plan for contemporizing the home—both inside and out. The exterior now boasts a clean-lined farmhouse aesthetic while a light color palette, simplified millwork and sleek, sophisticated details and finishes prevail in the interiors.

“It’s an ‘urban sophisticate’ aesthetic,” says Sroka. “Glam chic, but understated.” On the following pages, the designer reveals the process behind the décor.



What elements did you retain from the home’s previous iteration and why?
We bought much of the art during the first renovation and it has transcended both redos. It’s modern and goes with everything. In fact, we redesigned the fireplace in the living room to accommodate a canvas by Johnnie Winona Ross that the clients love.

How did minimizing millwork and moldings impact the interior spaces?
It really lightened them. The woodwork was extensive and heavy—in the living room, for example, there were nine ceiling coffers. Now, it’s a simple cove ceiling with concealed lighting that’s a nice surprise. We also altered the size of the moldings between rooms and eliminated some built-ins in favor of custom pieces.

How did the color scheme evolve?
We weren’t looking to make the house a definitive color. We just wanted a neutral background, which tends to be more modern anyway. We gravitated to soft, warm grays that would showcase the art. I had installed dark-stained, rift-cut oak floors the first time around, so we lightened them to a pale hue.

Overscaled lighting plays a big role here. How did you make your selections?
Because we had reduced all the moldings and taken things away, we now needed architectural focal points. I chose the lighting so you’d notice it, to give extra dimension to each room. For instance, the Visual Comfort fixtures in the hallway are meant to lead you to the living room.

Describe the kitchen alterations.
Working with Lobkovich, Inc., we remodeled the whole kitchen. We framed sections of the white cabinetry with cerused, ebonized mahogany to create focal points. In an all-white kitchen, this is a tool you can use to add interest. Oversized Tech Lighting island pendants also catch the eye.

Share your methods for enlivening a neutral space.
I lean into textures and finishes, such as the hair-on-hide rug and wood-look wallpaper by Elitis in the dining room, or the Phillip Jeffries wall covering in a herringbone pattern that I put up on the living room ceiling.

Explain your furniture-selection process.
I never think my job is to just install furniture. It’s about adding that extra level of creativity that elevates a space. For instance, I repeated the herringbone ceiling surface on the doors of two custom cabinets in the living room and trimmed them with satin-brass edging. You have to notice the details.

How do accessories elevate a space?
Accessories offer points of interest that keep a room from feeling staid. We bring in a lot of items and see what clients respond to.

What changed in the upstairs spaces?
Each bedroom got a makeover and its own bath. The owners’ bedroom, which used to have a lot of wasted space, has been reconfigured to allow for two closets. In the owners’ bath, we built a niche to fit a Waterworks soaking tub, with beautiful carved marble tile behind it. They enhance each other.

Current favored finish?
Brushed bronze. I apply it to table legs, edges, cabinetry—anywhere I want to add a soft sheen.

Rule of thumb for using textures and finishes?
I try not to do the expected thing, but I’m also careful not to overdo it. If I have a strong pattern that looks amazing on a sofa, I won’t put it on more than one piece. I also don’t want a room that looks uniform, like a furniture store.

What style is coming back?
I think the ’70s are making a comeback. I love ’70s style—it mixes well with mid-century, which is so popular, and there’s a little glam to it. I’m seeing recycled pieces made from plexiglass and metal on 1stDibs.

Design pet peeve?
People who follow trends too much. I see it with HGTV hosts all the time. They think something is the new rule and they apply it indiscriminately whether it fits a house or not. Farmhouse modern interiors are a good example.

How does this house reflect your design philosophy?
Interior design is much like making a painting when you might ask, “What is it I want to see? What do I want to feel?” My interiors tend to be warm, calm and inviting. I create the house you want to come home to, to recharge your batteries in. Imagine taking a bath in the tub upstairs! Perfect.


Renovation & Interior Design: Skip Sroka, ASID, NCIDQ, IDAA, principal; Elizabeth Bausch, project designer, Sroka Design, Inc., Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: Alliance Builders, LLC, Annapolis, Maryland. Kitchen Design: Lobkovich, Inc., Tysons, Virginia. Home Automation: A.B.E. Networks, Rockville, Maryland.

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