by Beth Cope
Current Newspapers staff writer
Reprinted, with permission, from the April 9th edition of the Northwest Current. Download the paper to see the full-color photos of some of the redesigned rooms.
Not in the market for a new home but dreaming of sprucing up your own? Inspiration abounds at this year’s DC Design House, a benefit for Children’s National Health System [that’s open through Sunday, May 11th].
The annual event, now in its seventh year, takes an empty house, adds a massive team of designers and then reveals dozens of meticulously decorated rooms full of ideas for visitors.
The home at 4600 Linnean Ave. in Forest Hills features 29 spaces that have been dressed to the nines. There’s a huge range of styles — something for everyone, organizers say — but guests will find common trends as well, including lots of light gray, varied metallics, bursts of bright color and strong use of texture, including a number of sisal rugs.
Right inside the front door is a space that emphasizes bright color. Its creator is Bethesda’s Camille Saum, whose taste for bold shades is revealed by her standout costumes, including last Thursday’s head-to-ankle orange.
Orange is great — but chartreuse “is my most favorite color,” she revealed, pointing to the lime green paint that coats the ceiling in the entryway and staircase. She acknowledges that it’s an uncommon choice for a ceiling, but says she was aiming for a design that was elegant but also “fun and whimsical.”
Other eye-catching aspects of her space are her signature drapes — in this case, fuchsia on one side, chartreuse on the other, made voluminous with two layers of crinoline — and a painted checkerboard floor. “If I can do a painted floor, I do,” she said.
A more subdued palette turns up in the two nearby rooms created by Bethesda-based designer Nadia Subaran: the kitchen and butler’s pantry/wine room. Subaran said she drew her inspiration from the brown, gray and blue colors of a fieldstone wall in the breakfast room that separates the two spaces. The kitchen might at first be mistaken for a dining room, as all the appliances are hidden behind burnished cherry cabinets. The cabinetry even extends to the refrigerator and separate freezer (Subaran said she loves the “modular refrigeration” trend, which allowed her to fit far more preservation space than with just one unit).
Accompanying her cherry cabinets are dark soapstone counters and porcelain floor tiles that look like slate but cost less. Together they reveal that all-white isn’t the only option for a modern kitchen.
“A white kitchen would have felt a little sterile here,” she said, saying that dark is “definitely not out.” She sets off the heavier shades with two gleaming slabs of porcelain marble as backsplash and polished-nickel accents. Subaran’s butler’s pantry/wine room has similar colors but a more sophisticated feel. “It’s a little bit of a departure,” she said of this space, which is “all about entertaining.”
The room, which offers storage for china and space to preserve and serve wine, features extensive cabinets with slate gray fronts and a knockout brass chandelier. “I think people are understanding the merit of built-ins more and more,” she said.
On the far side of the first floor — past the dining room, powder room, living room, library and pool dressing room — are two more of the most popular spaces in any home: the family room and playroom.
Jeff Akseizer and Jamie Brown of Alexandria created a serene getaway in the former, where a custom entertainment center takes center stage. A pickled finish makes the wood cabinetry feel fresh, and a Sparks linear gas fireplace adds warmth. The room is awash in pale gray, from the wallpaper made to look like oak to the Romo fabric-covered sectional to the sisal rug and binding. Black-and-white photography pops on the walls, and brown-gray beams that the designers installed on the ceiling contribute to the cozy ambiance.
“We always like to be the soothing room at the end of the house,” said Brown.
Less soothing, but equally useful, is the eye-popping playroom next door, designed by D.C.’s Katherine Vernot-Jonas. While style is front and center here, Vernot-Jonas hasn’t neglected play, installing four different ways for kids to climb from the floor to the ceiling — along with a hanging rings/trapeze combo.
“Basically my idea was, how can I get the playground in the playroom,” she said.
Vernot-Jonas also incorporated a space theme, installing a large mural looking from the moon to Earth and then adding stars (chandelier), sun (a bright wall clock) and Earth (a tree-shaped bookshelf).
In the actual outdoor areas surrounding the home, design teams have created welcoming spaces as well. Out back, Country Casual brought warmth to the pool patio with light wood furniture, and Botanical Designs built a loggia and sitting area nearby.
In the front, where guests must climb a winding stairway to access to the door, Country Casual helped create a resting spot on the landing by contributing a bench. David Benton of Rill Architects designed the rest of the entry, creating a strong first impression by painting the front door a high-gloss greenblue and adding shutters and light fixtures. Blake Dunlevy and Gina Benincasa spruced up the garden.
That’s just a taste of the spaces to check out in this year’s design house, where enthusiastic visitors can go home with more than just ideas: All furnishings are on sale, with 20 percent going to Children’s.
Tickets to tour the house, which are available at dcdesignhouse.com, cost $20 for general admission (which also goes to the beneficiary). The house, which will also go on the market for $3,850,000 on Friday [April 11], will be open through May 11.