“We felt as if we had bitten off more than we could chew,” says a young wife and mom who recently purchased a home in Chevy Chase. “We put a contract on the house the day before I gave birth to our second son, so we were completely overwhelmed and began to feel buyer’s remorse.”
Although the owner and her husband weren’t convinced that they wanted to stay in the residence, their attraction to its simple detailing and spacious floor plan never wavered. “It was almost a blank canvas,” she says of the brand-new developer-built structure. “It had a great sense of flow and a layout that really worked for our family. But then we got in and recognized the difficult task of turning that blank canvas into something that we felt was ours.”
To help them meet that challenge, the couple turned to designer Lori Graham. “Lori had designed a friend’s house,” says the wife, “and it was modern and glamorous, but still grounded in traditional pieces. I knew she’d be able to give our space some personality.”
Graham, the creative force behind the custom furniture line LG Place and the newly opened D.C. shop Showroom 1412, describes her style as “an eclectic chic mix of old and new, masculine and feminine,” and she approached the project as she always does, by starting with the architecture.
Because the house didn’t need any significant structural changes—it featured simple Craftsman-like moldings combined with tall ceilings and large-scale rooms—she was able to focus on the finishes. “They wanted a bit more drama and contrast,” says Graham. “The house had a very monochromatic feel, and they wanted more of an urban metropolitan look.” Graham remedied the situation by putting a dark stain on the wood floors and refinishing the moldings with high-gloss paint.
As she selected furnishings, Graham kept the contrast going. In the living room, the chocolate velvet covering two sofas from her LG Place furniture line sets off walls previously coated with a light but saturated blue tone. “With the blue as pronounced as it is,” says Graham, “you need some strong warmer elements.” A chair from Ralph Lauren Home, upholstered in deep red velvet, does the trick, while a two-tiered coffee table pulls the arrangement together.
Tall, French-style pocket doors made of wood and glass slide away to connect the living room and the dining room, where Graham kept visual continuity by choosing a creamy colored rug with blue accents. Since the two adjoining spaces are used primarily for entertaining, “we were able to let things be grander in scale,” says Graham. A large drum-shade pendant designed by Michael Vanderbyl for Boyd Lighting hangs above the clients’ own dining table, which the designer encircled with an unexpected mix of wood-frame and upholstered chairs.
In the master bedroom, Graham repurposed more of the clients’ existing furniture, which they had purchased for their previous house not long before moving. She arranged their sofa, rug and coffee table to form a stylish sitting area on one side of the room and placed the bed beneath a dramatic Murano chandelier in the center. “This room feels like the presidential suite at a boutique hotel in Tribeca,” says Graham, who ramped up the glamour by wrapping the room with a boldly patterned metallic-and-flocked wallpaper from Osborne & Little.
“The whole house is a study in contrasts,” says Graham, “and the family room is the most fun and casual space. This is where we could really beef up the juxtapositions in a way that might be a bit more trendy than you’d want in the formal spaces.” To keep the room engaging for the whole family, she placed colorful graphic pillows on a curved sofa and a playful round chair. Low Saarinen tables, one for each of the boys, are paired with floor cushions, and brightly colored trunks from CB2 keep toys smartly accessible.
Although originally unsure how they felt about their new abode, the couple know now that they made the right decision. “The design completely changed our view of the house,” says the wife. “It’s warm, comfortable and stylish, and it really feels like us. Now, we enjoy living here. We’re staying.”