From the moment you cross the threshold of this 1865 row house in downtown Washington, you’re awed by the tapestry of contrasts: black and white, historic and modern, relaxed and refined.
There’s always a balancing act in interior design, and this project is no exception. On a recommendation from their real estate agent, the home’s new owners enlisted designer Edith Gregson to reimagine the space. The couple—one works in finance and the other in media—wanted their retreat to be comfortable and homey, modern and fresh, while paying homage to its past. It also needed to be upscale and sophisticated to align with the casual and cultured aspects of their personalities.
Although the 4,245-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bath home showed well, upon closer inspection some details begged for a facelift, including millwork (a mishmash of brown and black), built-ins and outdated lighting. Before embarking on furnishings and décor, Gregson and her clients assessed the home’s architectural details and considered which should stand out and which ones should recede. “It was all about determining what historic parts of the home were most special,” says the designer. In addition, she decided on a palette in which deep blues would pop against crisp black and white and tones of silvery gray.
The main level is wide open from the foyer through the living room and into the dining space. After deciding to paint the walls white to offset accessories and plants, textures and fabrics, Gregson opted to finish the crown molding in a high-gloss white, so the detail would be evident on close inspection. In contrast, the homeowners loved the original bay windows, so Gregson chose black paint and oversized café shutters to draw them to the forefront while grounding the space with black base moldings.
The designer called attention not only to traditional elements but also to modern features that she introduced. She devised sleek, white built-ins for the fireplace wall in the living room and employed black trim to accentuate their modern lines. Opposite the living room, black underscores the foyer’s traditional banister and ornate stringers.
While the millwork and clean-lined fireplace gave the living room a refined feel, the homeowners—after some trepidation—chose a sectional to serve as the main seating. “My concern was that it would be too casual and would not necessarily fit with the design we were going for on the first floor,” says the finance pro. Ultimately, Gregson found just the right sectional at Design Within Reach that delivered comfort with tailored styling; its curves, alongside those of the accompanying club chairs, temper the room’s geometry.
“There’s a lot of structure, and I felt a need to soften it with furniture and textures,” Gregson explains. “Our fear was that the space would come off as too harsh, too modern. We made sure it felt inviting, cozy, layered and ready to welcome friends and family.” Even the vibrant blue Made Goods coffee table adds warmth with its faux-linen texture.
The adjoining dining space conveys elegance and whimsy. The chandelier in black and brushed bronze is reminiscent of an Alexander Calder mobile, while a tucked-away wet bar occupies a space the homeowners speculate was once a dumbwaiter. The newly fashioned cabinetry preserves a vertical pass-through to the kitchen from a previous remodel but enhances it with glass shelves that display the couple’s fine glassware.
Taking leave of the bright-white main level, the second floor, which includes the primary bedroom and bathroom and a home office, transitions to a rich, moody palette of Yale blue and gray. In the bedroom, Gregson called out the millwork with high-gloss black paint to enrich the darker palette. Floor-to-ceiling windows with full-length draperies accentuate the room’s 14-foot height. Serena & Lily grass-cloth wall covering and a canopy bed tighten the scale, creating a sense of coziness. Layered rugs and facing Lulu and Georgia chairs in blue leather look right at home in front of the hearth. “One of the things that stands out is the existing faux-painted marble fireplace. It’s original, as far as we can tell, and really detailed,” says Gregson. “We gave it space to hold its own since it’s a unique element.”
In the office across the hall, deep blue hues blanket walls via grass cloth and a painted custom bookcase with a built-in desk. House of Hackney wallpaper in a dark but lively floral print backs up the desk in a bold and playful twist. Leather drawer pulls and brass light fixtures speak to the antique library theme.
“We’ve never lived in a home like this, and we’ve never gone through a renovation in such detail,” observes the media expert. “One thing Edith said to me that resonated: ‘Don’t be afraid to go large.’ In selecting some pieces, she encouraged us not to be afraid to use the spaces in a way that ended up being very impressive.”
Interior Design: Edith Gregson, Edith Gregson Interiors, Washington, DC. Contractor: Kevin Delgado, DelgadoBuild, Columbia, Maryland. Home Automation: American Automation, Bowie, Maryland.
Home Automation: americanautomation.com. Art Consultant: addisonripleyfineart.com.
STAIR & VESTIBULE
Bench: rousehome.com. Art: Clients’ collection. Paint on Staircase: Black by benjaminmoore.com.
Table: arhaus.com. Chairs: rousehome.com. Chandelier: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Mirror: rh.com. Sideboard: rousehome.com. Painting over Sideboard: frankhday.com through addisonripleyfineart.com. Sculptural Lamp on Sideboard: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Rug: mcgeeandco.com.
BEVERAGE BAR NICHE
Cabinetry Design: edithgregson.com. Cabinetry Fabrication: Custom Millwork Design Group; 703-915-8954. Countertop & Backsplash: marblesystems.com. Sconces: schoolhouse.com.
Sofa & Fabric: dwr.com. Barrel Chairs & Fabric: burkedecor.com. Coffee Table: madegoods.com. Rug: nourison.com through georgetowncarpet.com.
Built-in Design: Custom by edithgregson.com; Fabricated by delgadobuild.com. Wallpaper Behind Shelves: houseofhackney.com. Wallpaper on Wall: serenaandlily.com. Paint: Chantilly Lace and Black by benjaminmoore.com. Lamp on Desk: vintage. A-Frame Wood Chairs: roomandboard.com. Sofa: Clients’ collection. Pillows: rh.com; crateandbarrel.com. Roman Shade: theshadestore.com.
Wallpaper: serenaandlily.com. Bedstead & Bedding: rh.com. Bedside Lamps: vintage. Nightstands: rh.com. Poufs: article.com. Rug: mcgeeandco.com; stantoncarpet.com. Chairs by Fireplace: luluandgeorgia.com.