While shopping for a small, historic home, empty nesters hailing from Reston came upon the exact opposite—and were smitten. The sprawling stone dwelling on 100 rolling acres in Leesburg looked like it had always been there, but was actually built in 1995. And the landscape was overgrown. “At first we said no—but after tromping through weeds and grass up to our waists, we sat outside in back and watched the sun set over the Catoctin Mountains,” recalls the husband. “Then we said yes.”
As the couple, owners of an international management consulting firm, soon gleaned, the property held some surprises. Among them: the discovery that the original owner had tapped landscape architect Brian Katen, a professor at Virginia Tech, to design a 33-acre arboretum on the grounds—and that it showcased thousands of specimen trees imported from all over the country. “We had no idea,” marvels the wife. “When we moved in, you literally couldn’t see through the beds. It was a matter of cleaning them out and rediscovering the landscape.”
Meanwhile, the house also had a story to tell. Taking inspiration from the cottage-style Arts & Crafts estates of English architect and designer C.F.A. Voysey (1857-1941), local architect Kevin Ruedisueli devised the 6,600-square-foot, five-bedroom, eight-bath structure atop a hill with panoramic views of the mountains and Catoctin Creek. He embellished the interiors with built-ins, extensive millwork and six fireplaces; floors of dark-stained, hand-scraped oak still unify the main-level rooms.
Despite its great bones, however, the residence had become dated. “It was kind of frozen in time, with red-velvet wallpaper, heavy drapes and valances,” relates the wife. “Our vision was to simplify the spaces and let the outdoors in. Because we’ve traveled a lot, we’ve collected art and other items that we wanted to incorporate. And we also wanted to acknowledge Voysey’s influence.”
When it came to implementing their ideas, though, the couple found the scale of the rooms and size of the house overwhelming. “It became a hodgepodge very quickly,” the husband says. “We needed harmony and cohesiveness across rooms that have visibility to each other. So, we backed up and said ‘okay, we need an assist.’”
Enter designer Erika Bonnell, who was tasked with pulling it all together while guiding opinionated clients who worried about cookie-cutter results. “The project happened in a piecemeal way because they enjoy collecting and curating and didn’t want to be removed from that process,” Bonnell says. “They both have strong individual aesthetic styles that lean different ways. I needed to stay respectful of both.”
The owners’ eclectic preferences include Victorian antiques, mid-century and Scandinavian furniture and bold, modern art. To integrate such disparate elements, Bonnell established a neutral backdrop throughout that also achieved the goal of enhancing the views. “The outdoors is such a big part of the visual experience of this house, we wanted to connect with it at all times of year—from gray winter to full-blown summer,” she says. Understated rugs, upholstered seating in beige linen and pale, solid-hued draperies created the foundation she wanted.
Visitors enter the large foyer, which sets an eclectic tone for the interior spaces by combining vibrant Mexican art, a modern console and a pair of reproduction Voysey chairs inspired by originals on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum. To the right, the airy living room is grounded by a neutral sectional and swivel chairs that bring colorful paintings by Spanish artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo to the fore. To the left, the dining room is a statement-maker, clad in teal Schumacher wallpaper. “Even though it’s a busy pattern, there’s not a lot of contrasting color in it to compete with the summer views,” Bonnell notes. The husband commissioned an artisan in Newport News to craft a live-edge walnut table to the designer’s specifications; she paired it with Wishbone chairs and a dramatic Regina Andrew chandelier.
The open-plan kitchen/family room spans the back of the house, flowing out to a screened porch and a renovated stone patio. A few deft changes updated the kitchen, where dark granite countertops made way for white quartz slabs and a glazed, ceramic-tile backsplash. The island base was painted a fresh blue-gray and an eye-catching Hubbardton Forge fixture was installed overhead. “That oversized, sculptural chandelier made a big difference,” observes Bonnell, who selected dynamic, modern lighting throughout the interiors.
A wing off the kitchen features a solarium and the owners’ suite on the ground floor, with a guest apartment above. Four upstairs bedrooms are accessed via the main stair in the foyer, which showcases an extensive gallery wall, masterminded by Bonnell, of the owners’ art and artifacts.
While improving the residence, the couple also revived the landscape, upgrading the pool and implementing English, perennial and vegetable gardens as well as an apiary and a fruit orchard. Says the wife, “We have been thrilled to be able to bring this property back to life.”
Interior Design: Erika Bonnell. Erika Bonnell Interiors, Sterling, Virginia.
Sofa & Swivel Chairs: kristindrohancollection.com. Rug: greenfront.com. Demi-lune Console: antique. Artwork above Console: Eduardo Arranz-Bravo. Wall Paint: Elmira White by benjaminmoore.com. Floor Lamp by Sofa: circalighting.com. Twin Stools: antique. Drapery Fabric: fabricut.com. Skirted Console Table Fabric: Lee Jofa through kravet.com. Lamps on Skirted Console Table: curreyandcompany.com. Wood-Framed Chair & Ottoman: thosmoser.com. Floor Lamp by Chair: owners’ collection. Hide Rug: trophyroomcollection.com.
Wallpaper: fschumacher.com. Sideboard: lumens.com. Lamps on Sideboard: vintage. Mirror Over Sideboard: madegoods.com. Wishbone Chairs: roveconcepts.com. Rug: greenfront.com. Chandelier: reginaandrew.com. Drapes: fabricut.com. Swan Picture Frame: framemasters.com.
Before finding his passion in design, Christian Daw flipped condos, finished law school and embarked on a law career. He’d always designed his own interiors and helped friends with their homes—but it wasn’t until he started an Instagram page to share what inspired him that a new path emerged.
“I realized that people appreciated my aesthetic and felt my taste was similar to theirs,” he says. “My first clients came from Instagram—they were patrons who invested in me.” These included a friend who offered to match his lawyer salary so Daw could decorate his home. Daw refused the offer—but by then, he and his husband (who currently reside in Bloomingdale with their one-year-old daughter) had moved from Southern California to DC. He was ready to take the leap—”though I knew I had school debt and no discernible pedigree in design,” he laughs.
His confidence was well-founded. Formed in 2017, his firm now employs six designers and part-time support staff. Thanks to the lure of his Instagram feed, which counts more than 400,000 followers, Daw has projects underway nationwide as well as in the DC area. “We have a lot of repeat clients,” he affirms. “We are happy to do everything.”
Interior Design: Christian Daw, Christian Daw Design, Washington, DC.
Michelle Tremont Boyd brings a wealth of experience to her growing design firm, launched in 2020. She followed a degree in architecture from Syracuse University with six years at Studio Sofield, a prestigious New York architectural design firm where she worked on luxury residential and retail projects. “It was a formative period for me,” she recalls. She subsequently spent four years as VP of store design and construction at now-shuttered Barneys New York.
During a recent three-year hiatus to have kids—now aged two and four—Tremont Boyd moved with her husband to Alexandria. Once there, the designer became restless.
“I wanted to get back to a creative space and missed the rigor and challenges of design work,” she observes. “Just as covid was at its height, I started networking—and I have found it to be a nice way to learn the community in DC.”
Tremont Boyd, who currently works solo and has five projects on her docket, favors a holistic approach. “I do interior architecture and design with a heavy renovation and construction component,” she explains. “I love to be part of the A to Z of a project—large scale and then zooming in to complete the details.”
Interior Design: Michelle Tremont Boyd, Michelle Tremont Boyd Interiors, Alexandria, Virginia.
Saudah Saleem, who hails from Brooklyn, has always been in love with fashion, history and art. After marrying and moving to Baltimore, she transitioned from a government job to a career in interior design. “I longed for the city life I’d left and its cultural diversity,” she observes. “Design helped me tune back into it.”
As is often the case, Saleem discovered early on that she had a natural affinity for home décor. Years of painting, refinishing furniture and helping friends with their homes showed her she could make a career of it; today, she employs a support staff of two and completes about 12 residential and commercial projects a year. Though she relinquished her downtown Baltimore studio when covid hit, it will reopen in July. “I find I like the separation of work and home life,” reveals the designer, who is a mother of five.
Saleem’s clients tend to be diverse, worldly and well-traveled, and share her interest in fashion and the arts. “I typically design with cultural infusion in mind; African and Asian influences are common in my work,” she relates, adding, “I love to see the potential in a space and to be able to transform it into something my clients will love.”
Interior Design: Saudah Saleem, Saudah Saleem Interiors, Baltimore, Maryland.
While the world was shutting down in March 2020, great changes were afoot for the owner of a townhome in DC’s hip NoMa neighborhood. She had just moved from a longtime abode in Northwest and, as she recalls, “it was the perfect time to hunker down and nest.”
The new 2,000-square-foot dwelling, which replaced a vintage row house, is streamlined and contemporary. An open kitchen/living/dining area dominates the main floor, with two en-suite bedrooms downstairs. The owner, a healthcare consultant, decided to divest herself of her traditional furnishings and start fresh—with some help. She hired designer Pamela Harvey, whose portfolio of fresh, cheerful projects appealed to her. “I told Pam I love color, and that I want my home to feel happy,” the owner recounts. “Beyond that, I trusted her vision. It was a leap of faith.”
Harvey reimagined the interiors, embracing the home’s minimalist lines with a transitional aesthetic leaning toward modern. The designer selected an array of eye-catching wall coverings that lend verve to almost every room. “The place was sterile, a blank canvas,” she says. “I added color and pattern to make it warm and inviting—with touches of the unexpected.”
Q&A WITH PAMELA HARVEY
What were the project’s primary challenges?
The main floor is essentially one long, skinny room, so I had to be careful that what I did wasn’t going to be overpowering. The bones are contemporary, with steel stairs and a sleek kitchen; I needed to speak to that while keeping it warm and inviting. The client wanted it to feel modern, but not cold.
How did you strike that balance?
I used wallpaper throughout the house—but just as an accent, to add warmth and interest without being overwhelming. On the main floor, I papered one long wall spanning the living, kitchen and dining areas. It makes a statement and pulls everything together.
The living area combines strong patterns and colors yet feels calming. How did it evolve?
I tend to design a room as one unit; here, I found the rug, wall covering and pillow fabric all at once. To me, the rug and wall covering work together in an unexpected way. The pillow fabric is a modern take on chinoiserie from Brunschwig & Fils. The overall effect is harmonious.
How did you choose the wall covering?
Because townhouses like this often have few architectural features, you need something to bring in that texture and geometry. I chose the living area’s wall covering, which is a wood veneer, for that reason. It’s a geometric motif in a subtle, neutral teal with gold lines that add a touch of glam.
Discuss your vision for the small den beyond the dining area.
It’s separate and supposed to be more casual, like a family room. The gold palette is warm and the wallpaper is traditional grass cloth but with a graphic, modern print. I brought in teal accents with the lamps and pillows.
Describe the living-area furnishings.
They’re a mix. I combined the transitional CR Laine seating with more modern occasional and coffee tables from Bernhardt.
How did you select the color palette for the main level?
The art in the den was one of the few things the client kept. I used it as a jumping-off point for the color palette.
Share your philosophy on lighting.
For lighting to be complementary, metals need to have some continuity and the styles should be similar. I like to say that pendants and chandeliers don’t have to match but they should be going to the same party.
Is there a rule of thumb for pairing art and wallpaper?
The two should work hand in hand, usually through color or pattern. I use simple frames that don’t take away from the wallpaper pattern. Older homes can be more forgiving of mismatched art as it can create a collected look. A townhouse like this needs to be more of a piece.
Describe your lighting plan.
The modern pendants over the kitchen island were existing, so I chose a complementary chandelier for the dining area that’s a little modern and glitzy. The den fixture is a leather-wrapped shade with a brass interior that feels more casual.
How did you decorate the primary bedroom?
The room is small, but the owner chose an overscaled, king-sized bed and matching nightstands. I clad an accent wall in Schumacher Pyne Hollyhock wallpaper featuring oversized cabbaged roses with a vintage look. The pattern contrasts with the modern lines of the furniture and de-emphasizes its size, as your eye is drawn to the wallpaper.
Favorite design element?
I have loved wallpaper since the ’80s. These days, it’s a lot more creative—and a lot more expensive. Materials are much better. I think it’s really modern now.
What’s the next big thing?
When I was at Spring High Point Market, everything was upholstered in beige bouclé, a sort of nubby chenille. May be the next big thing—but I hope not!
What trend would you like to see?
A return to elegant living, with formal dining and living rooms. I think people are craving that. And a return to entertaining.
How important is accessorizing?
I have a saying: “It’s not the first $1,000 you spend, it’s the last $1,000 that makes all the difference.” You don’t need a lot of accessories, but they need to be the right ones.
Go-to shopping destination?
I always hit up the DC Big Flea in Dulles, which happens every quarter. I love vintage finds.
Interior Design: Pamela Harvey, Pamela Harvey Interiors, Oakton, Virginia, and St. Petersburg, Florida.
Designed by Lucia Carlomagno for Italian luxury-bath company Falper, the sculptural Lancetta freestanding tub is distinguished by an unusually high backrest that lends comfort and ergonomic support. Made of Cristalplant, a durable, stone-look engineered surface, in a matte finish. falper.it
Fanfare, a recent offering by Architessa, is a vibrant collection of Japanese-made, glazed-porcelain mosaics. Available in Aqua, Cobalt and White, the tiles come in circles, triangles, stars, scallops and more. Pictured above: Scallop Aqua makes a bold statement. architessa.com
Stone Forest elevates the classic trough sink with its elegant Trough Console. A honed Carrara marble basin sits atop the manufacturer’s Elemental Classic Trough Vanity Legs, pictured here in polished nickel. Find at area Ferguson locations. stoneforest.com; ferguson.com
British maker Studio Number 10 uses reclaimed wood sourced from historic buildings to create cabinet knobs and pulls, embellishing them with gold and silver leaf and a coat of clear resin. Find at Push Pull Decorative Hardware in North Bethesda. studionumber10.co.uk; pushpullhardware.com
A dynamic, undulating surface characterizes Artis White, a 3-D ceramic wall tile made by Porcelanosa. The sleek, 13-by-40-inch tiles come in bronze, silver and matte or high-gloss white; pictured here in an airy, modern bathroom masterminded by Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath. Available locally at Marblex in Fairfax, Virginia. marblexinc.com
ON THE WALL
Designed with a 24-by-12-inch-tile look, Fibo’s Crescendo collection of three-dimensional, 24-by-94-inch wall panels offers easy installation and an affordable price point. The line includes four hues; Gris Grande is pictured. Find at USA Cabinet Store locations. usacabinetstore.com; fibosystemusa.com
BACK TO NATURE
Woven from acrylic Perennials yarns, Samuel & Sons’ Terrace outdoor passementerie collection of fringes, borders and tapes marries soft earth tones and organic materials. Find at Hines & Co. samuelandsons.com; hinescompany.com
MADE FOR THE SHADE
Clarence House’s Outdoor collection includes light-fast, stain-resistant trimmings. Six cheerful motifs come in a range of colorways. Find at Holly Hunt. clarencehouse.com; hollyhunt.com
Inspired by classic tweed, Batyline Elios is a line of high-end outdoor upholstery by Serge Ferrari Group—known for innovative, recyclable composite fabrics. Woven of soft, textured yarn and available in 10 colors. sergeferrari.com
Brunschwig & Fils conjures delicate paisleys, lush blooms and subtle abstracts on polyester textiles in its En Vacances II indoor-outdoor collection. Pictured above from left: Rougier, in two colorways; Les Touches II; and Brassac. Available at Kravet; kravet.com
In partnership with Samuel & Sons, Lori Weitzner launched her first indoor-outdoor collection of performance trims. Dubbed Regatta, the line resembles linen and jute but is made with heathered outdoor yarn using ombré techniques to convey nature’s shifting hues. samuelandsons.com
Velvet, a quintessential look for plush interior spaces, now belongs outdoors—courtesy of Romo’s Nicoya, a line of solution-dyed acrylic stripes and solids with a velvety feel. romo.com
EASY DOES IT
Blurred Lines is a collection of outdoor fabrics conceived for Holly Hunt by Assemblage. The designs were inspired by the Arkansas firm’s bespoke wallpapers, translated onto performance fabrics that are hardy and easy to clean. hollyhunt.com
The Royal Norwegian Embassy and Chancery in Washington claims an enviable perch between the Vice President’s residence and the National Cathedral—and a recent transformation secures its place in this rarified company. Conceived by the DC office of Fentress Architects, the renovation brings the 30,000-square-foot, 1977 building into the 21st century, employing native resources such as copper and wood to reflect Norway’s traditions of woodworking, ship-building and fishing.
“While providing functional, accessibility and sustainability upgrades, our architecture makes Norway’s rich heritage visible on one of the most culturally significant streets in the United States and the world,” says Steve White, the project’s principal-in-charge.
A restored limestone shell comprises much of the outer structure; openings in its façade admit generous daylight and views of the gardens and street. A window wall around the entry sends a message of transparency and welcome.
Inside, a finned curtainwall of Norwegian spruce forms a cocoon around spaces including the lobby atrium, where an open stair connects to a two-story social hub. Diplomatic offices are demarcated by a copper-clad timber hull that recalls Viking ships.
Sustainability—a tenet of the embassy’s mission—was a key project goal. Almost half the site is green space, planted with pollinator-friendly species. Bioretention planters and permeable pavements manage runoff, eliminating any burden to the Rock Creek watershed. Indoor water use is 25 percent less than baseline and thermal envelope upgrades abound.
Renovation Architecture: Steve White, FAIA, LEED AP, BD+C, Fentress Architects, Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: Whiting-Turner, Baltimore, Maryland.
The Lynx Professional Grill Series LPZA 30-Inch Outdoor Oven produces stellar pizza thanks to its fast-heating infrared burner that reaches 700 degrees. But the oven, which boasts 400 square inches of cooking surface, can also turn out such varied fare as apple cake, braised lamb shanks and grilled salmon. Available at AjMadison in Tysons. lynxgrills.com; ajmadison.com
Versatility rules in Cuisinart’s Twin Oaks Pellet and Gas Grill, which combines a smoker, griddle and grill with 900 square inches of cooking surface. Bluetooth readouts monitor progress via LCD remote or the Cuisinart app. Windows and halogen lights make viewing easy. cuisinart.com
Artisanal pizza moves outdoors with the Dometic Delta Heat 30-inch pizza oven. Burners in the dome and hearth reach 43,000 BTUs and heat-retentive tiles line the oven’s interior—so delectable pies are ready in minutes. Find in a built-in or countertop version. deltaheat.com
Nexgrill’s smartphone-enabled Oakford Pellet Grill not only smokes meats to perfection, but it also grills, bakes, roasts, braises and warms. Available in three sizes, the grill is made from hammer-tone steel in a black powder-coated, high-gloss finish. nexgrill.com
Coyote Outdoor Living’s C series 36-inch Built-In Gas Grill is equipped with 875 square inches of grilling space, 80,000 BTUs of output and five cast-stainless-steel burners. Extras include interior lights and an optional wind guard. Find at area Appliance Distributors Unlimited locations. coyotegrill.com; adu.com
Tired of their dark, dated kitchen, homeowners tapped designer and architect Charles Almonte to reimagine it. First, Almonte tackled issues of function and flow caused by a separation of the pantry and double ovens from the rest of the kitchen. “We integrated one oven and added a breakfast bar with storage and functional counter space,” Almonte recounts. “The clients liked the idea of a walk-in pantry, so we designed a full-height cabinet that feels like a traditional pantry but doesn’t take up additional floor space.” The redesign also accommodated a spacious island and larger appliances, including a built-in Sub-Zero fridge and a Wolf range.
Dark-cherry cabinetry made way for white peripheral cabinets, while the island and pantry cupboard were painted in Sherwin-Williams’ Naval for contrast. A marble-tile backsplash in a herringbone pattern animates what is now the hub of the home.
Interior Architecture & Kitchen Design: Charles Almonte, AIA, ASID, Charles Almonte Architecture | Interior Design, Silver Spring, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: Accent General Contracting, Inc., Gaithersburg, Maryland.
A two-bedroom apartment was comprised of compartmentalized rooms that made the interiors feel dark and dated. The owners hired Studio PHH Architects to orchestrate an overhaul that would gut the apartment and rethink its overall circulation and flow. “The goal was to bring efficiency, openness, light and unity of materials,” says founder and project architect Pierre-Henri Hoppenot. “We kept some acoustic and visual separations while providing a communal feeling within the main rooms: living, dining and kitchen.”
The design team removed the wall between the kitchen and dining room to create a warm yet minimalist kitchen. “The project is unified by materials which repeat,” notes the architect, who paired white oak cabinetry from Abernathy Sticks with countertops and backsplash in book-matched Chateau Noire quartzite that also frames the living room fireplace. Engineered white oak flooring unifies the space.
Renovation Architecture: Pierre-Henri Hoppenot, AIA, Studio PHH Architecture, PLLC, Brooklyn, New York, and Washington, DC. Renovation Contractor: Jeffco Development, Rockville, Maryland. Photography: MPI.
For DC-area residents longing for a quick getaway, Gibson Island has its allure. This private enclave fronting the Chesapeake Bay and the Magothy River near Annapolis is blessed by abundant woods, a bird sanctuary, golf and tennis—and nary a traffic jam. It certainly appealed to a DC couple with three young teenagers who were looking for a vacation house. “We wanted an easy-to-get-to retreat from city living that would make us feel far away,” the wife explains. “We also wanted access to family activities—and Gibson Island definitely offers that.”
Since the Maryland island harbors only about 190 residences, a dated 1980s abode perched above picturesque Otter Pond presented a real opportunity when it came on the market. The couple—he works in global development and she in education—quickly bought the house and tapped architect David Benton to overhaul its interiors. “David helped us realize what the house could be and how to make it work for our family,” the wife relates.While the owners initially sought a simple update, Benton recognized that to achieve their goals, a deeper dive was necessary. “They wanted to expand their livable space, so we needed to open the interiors up,” he recounts. “Their aesthetic leans toward modern so we embraced that—not sterile but with a lot of color and detail.”
Sited 30 feet above the pond on a steep bluff, the 2,900-square-foot home opens to a narrow rear yard via a lower level containing the kids’ bedrooms, a rec room and an in-law suite. Visitors enter the house on the main floor. The spacious living room is straight back, with the kitchen and dining room on one side and the owners’ suite on the other. The pond is visible through numerous windows on the main level, where rooms open out to a wraparound deck.
When Benton began, however, the layout was more compartmentalized. There was no dining room, and the closed-off kitchen and breakfast nook felt cramped. A two-season sunroom had one wall covered in exterior shingles while the other three took in views through “a hodgepodge of sliding doors and windows that didn’t line up,” recalls the architect. By removing the wall between the sunroom and kitchen, he created a vastly improved great room encompassing the kitchen and dining room. A row of clerestory windows remains, but lower doors and windows were replaced for a cohesive look; beadboard details the vaulted ceiling.
The revamped kitchen centers on an island with seating. The door connecting the kitchen and living room shifted to accommodate a new range wall; floor-to-ceiling cabinetry now lines the former breakfast nook, keeping the rest of the kitchen free of upper cabinets for a streamlined look. What Benton terms “a peekaboo window” overlooks the stair down to the kids’ rooms, maintaining a convenient connection to the lower level through which the owners can communicate with people downstairs and see who might be at the front door.
In the living room, extensive built-in shelving replaced a wall of outdated cabinetry. “The clients love reading so we created more of a library feel,” the architect says. “Shiplap shelf backs and picture lights above dress it up.” The fireplace surround—formerly a giant inset mirror—is now clad in variegated limestone veneer that picks up colors found in nature.
Additional updates include an overhaul of the primary suite and its spacious bath, a redo of the downstairs kids’ bathroom and the conversion of a storage area beneath the former sunroom into an ensuite guest room.
When it came to updating the aesthetic, Benton made a big impact by painting the orangey oak woodwork throughout the house white, including all the window frames. “Painting out those windows really brings the view in,” says the architect, who recently relocated to South Carolina. “That oak color was sort of in your face before; the crisp white allows you to see beyond the divisions in the window and makes the view the focal point.”
He also replaced a mishmash of tile and wood flooring with engineered white oak floors that streamline and unify the spaces. The owners selected furnishings and accessories in a palette of blue-gray and white inspired by fond memories of time spent living in the Pacific Northwest. Says the wife, “We wanted this house to be modern but warm, meant for family. And we aimed to honor the natural beauty outside our walls.”
Renovation Architecture: David Benton, AIA, Benton architecture + interiors, Bluffton, South Carolina. Renovation Contractor: David Stevens and Brad Stevens, David B. Stevens, Glen Burnie, Maryland.