After raising their two children in a sprawling traditional home in Potomac, Maryland, an active couple—he’s a prominent lawyer; she works in fashion and is involved in charity work—were itching for a change. They were ready to downsize and dreamed of being a bit closer to Washington, D.C., where many of their friends live, yet not in the midst of the city’s hustle and bustle. So when they found a second-floor condo in the Chevy Chase neighborhood—not right downtown, but close to restaurants, shopping and the Metro—that afforded lovely treetop views, they couldn’t pass it up.
What they didn’t love, though, were some of the home’s interior quirks. “It’s in one of those buildings that was built in the 1980s and the architecture was a little outdated,” says David Mitchell, the couple’s designer who was also responsible for the renovations of the home’s interior architecture. “So we cleaned it up to make it more linear.” This included removing some of the home’s existing walls. “We wanted it to have more of an open feeling to bring more light and air into the space,” Mitchell says. “But we didn’t want it to feel like a loft.”
To suit the couple’s new empty-nester lifestyle, Mitchell reconfigured the three-bedroom condo into a one bedroom with a more luxurious master suite. “We turned one of the bedrooms into a den, and the other into a master closet,” he says. “Their family lives in the area, so they didn’t need a guest room. I think that’s a big trend, choosing not to have a second bedroom, especially when moving to a smaller space.”
Of course, renovating within a multi-unit building wasn’t without its challenges. The plumbing and sprinkler system ran along a stack within the building so Mitchell couldn’t move the pipes or certain appliances. Instead, he reconfigured the new layout around them. After these plans were considered, the couple then decided that they wanted their new condo to have a different vibe than their home in the suburbs—more modern and a bit more glamorous—which suited the designer perfectly. To create the serene feel that the couple desired, Mitchell used a muted palette of ivory, gray, brown and a bit of blue throughout the home. “A lot of people think neutral has to mean beige, but it really doesn’t,” he says.
To add visual interest, Mitchell then incorporated textural materials wherever he could. “The wife is very much into fashion, so she prefers textures and pattern,” he says. “In the living room, everything’s gray and soothing, but the carpet has this unique character while the patterned fabrics produce surprising accents.” Mitchell’s firm created several custom pieces for the couple—from upholstered furnishings to a striking dual-wood console in the living room. “It has a modern damask pattern, and it’s all laser-cut,” he says.
Throughout the home, Mitchell also added elements that would lend coziness to the rooms. In the living room, for example, the beamed ceiling adds a bit of earthiness—and after nightfall, also offers a another delightful surprise. “The beams have LED lights hidden in them, and above the beams is silver-leaf tea paper,” he says. “So when you turn the lights on, it glows.”
And that’s just the kind of unexpected detail that pops up throughout the home, whether in artful light fixtures, richly textured materials or eye-catching artwork. After all, this was an opportunity to start fresh and be creative. As Mitchell says, “The owners didn’t want the same-old traditional design that they had in their old home. They wanted to be pushed a little bit.”