Home & Design

Neutral upholstery in the living area focuses attention on a favorite piece: a Made Goods coffee table clad in a hair-on hide Dalmatian print.

In the entry hall, a Palecek mirror made of shells complements a circa-1980s console wrapped in pink fabric.

A bar cart from Anthropologie fronted in mother-of-pearl anchors art found at a Paris antiques market.

A beaded RH Teen chandelier hangs above the counter-height kitchen table.

In Schwartz’s home office, vintage Vladimir Kagan chairs pull up to a custom desk.

A hall bath is “an homage to conservative DC,” says the designer, who chose a traditional toile wallpaper for it—but in a hot pink motif depicting humorous urban scenes.

The restful primary bedroom embraces a black-and-white scheme favored by the designer.

Graphic art and a CB2 bench partially obscure the view.

Large-format, feminine wallpaper by Milton & King adds zest to the primary bath, where Schwartz installed additional storage.

Designer Dana Schwartz.

The living area’s gallery wall was designed around a 1970s rattan console by Gabriella Crespi; a Samsung Frame TV above it showcases an image by Miami photographer Dean West.

Creative Flair

Dana Schwartz imbues her charming DC apartment with color, style and whimsy

I love color and having meaningful things around me,” declares Dana Schwartz, standing in her chic and playful Adams Morgan abode. The designer’s surroundings perfectly speak to her preferences, as family pictures and beloved finds pop against a deep-blue backdrop.

Schwartz followed up design school with stints working for local mainstays Swatchroom, Erica Burns Interiors and Anthony Wilder Design/Build, then hung out her shingle in 2019.

She fell in love with her current digs two years ago while apartment hunting; the building was new, and her ninth-floor unit boasts drop-dead city views—including a closeup of the Washington Family Church National Cathedral and the Capitol on the horizon.

“The unit was just an empty white space when I moved in,” recounts the designer, who uses one of the two bedrooms as a studio. “I started with neutral basics to ground it, then let my accessories do the talking.” A Q&A with Schwartz chronicles her approach.

Would you call yourself a maximalist?
I’d say my personal style is maximalist. I love the things I’ve collected so much and they make me happy. But in the same way I want my home to reflect my style, I believe in designing for my clients and their personal styles. I’m there to bring their style to life.

How did you select the blue paint for your walls?
I thought of navy as a neutral here; there is so much natural light, I felt I could go dark. The color, Sherwin-Williams’ Indigo Batik, is perfect—it reads as dark yet brightens up in the light. With the white linen curtains and furniture, patterns and other colors can come to life.

What is your philosophy on color?
The key is that it has to flow together. Balance is important; I won’t have a lot of color in one spot without making sure it crops up again somewhere else. That’s the stuff we learned in design school: symmetry, balance and light. I take photos of spaces as I’m installing them and look at them at night to map those things out.

What inspired the quirky gallery wall in your main living area?
During covid I became obsessed with vintage shopping online. I love ’70s style so when I found the rattan console and stool, I had to have them. They’re out of scale with the Samsung Frame TV, but I thought I could get away with it if I built a gallery wall around the console and the TV, which looks like art anyway. I already had most of the framed pieces.

Share the story behind the neon quote.
I’d seen a picture of a room with a funny movie quote in neon lights. I thought it was a cool idea, so I picked this iconic, hilarious quote by LuAnn de Lesseps from “The Real Housewives of New York City” because I’m a huge fan. I had the sign made on Etsy. I like that it shows I don’t take things too seriously.

Share the story behind the front hallway’s gallery wall.
I wanted to do something special with the hallway. I started collecting burlwood frames a few years ago to use for older family pictures that have meaning to me. The black frames hold rotating friend and family photos. I love to walk in and see people I love.

How did you make the builder-grade kitchen your own?
I switched out cabinet hardware and added a fun, tactile chandelier. I had the counter-height table made to go under it because there was no island. It’s custom-colored to match a silver- and-turquoise box I bought in Santa Fe that is one of my favorite pieces; it sits on the coffee table.

Explain your furniture plan.
The main goal was to keep the space open. I wanted to be able to entertain— I can actually seat up to 17 people.

How did the look of your bedroom evolve?
I had a studio apartment before with a huge electric panel on the main wall. I covered it with curtains from Anthropologie and loved how they softened everything. I also love black and white, so when I moved here, I decided to recreate that space in the bedroom, with the curtains on the wall behind the bed. Though the view is amazing, I chose to lean a big canvas against the window to allow more privacy but still let in the light. Plus, there was no wall space to hang it.

What if you find something else you want and there’s no more room?
These spaces are ever-evolving, so I guess I’ll need to rotate things out. Luckily, I haven’t gotten to that point yet!

Interior Design: Dana Schwartz, Dana Schwartz Design, Washington, DC.


Ask Dana

Tips for creating a gallery wall?
It’s a real undertaking. The one in my hall took a year of planning, curating and mapping out, then about five hours to hang. Having a cohesive subject can be helpful.

What’s your process for collecting?
If something speaks to me, I will trust my gut, particularly if it’s a vintage item. If I don’t have space for it, I might get it and hold onto it or see if it will work for a client.

Shopping secret?
Check out RH Teen and RH Baby & Child—their stuff is playful and fun.

Describe a recent furniture rehab.
I finished an old brass headboard in high-gloss blue and gave it a whole new life.

Favorite color or brand?
Benjamin Moore is usually my go-to. I just paired Elephant Gray, which has a hint of purple, with a Phillip Jeffries wall covering. Going bold, Bainbridge Blue looks great on bunk beds I installed recently.

 

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