Call it a case of the cobbler’s children not having any shoes. Susan Gulick, whose eponymous interior design firm is in Great Falls, Virginia, moved into her condo in nearby Reston in late 2007. And although she had ideas for the place as soon as she saw it, she didn’t finish the interiors until 2011. “I’m a designer, so I’m always the last on the list,” Gulick jokes. The move was a big one. Gulick was downsizing from an almost 8,000-square-foot home, and from a suburban environment to a pedestrian-friendly urban one, where on weekends, she says, “I don’t even drive.”
Along with a major lifestyle change, Gulick’s move required her to do some extreme editing. She ended up bringing a few favorite pieces: a chartreuse leather midcentury chair, an antique armoire and a fairly new dining table and chairs. But for Gulick—who before becoming a designer had studied fine art—her most treasured possessions are her paintings and prints, and the miniature boxes she has been collecting for over 30 years. “Something with a lid and an unknown inside really appeals to me,” she says. “Every culture seems to do a box. I collect them on my travels.”
Before decorating, Gulick made minor changes to the interiors, including changing out all the doors from wood to sandblasted glass to let in more light, replacing ho-hum hardwood floors with bamboo, and simplifying the master bedroom closet.
When all that was taken care of, she shopped the showrooms for new pieces in the “soft contemporary style” she favors and designed several, such as the family room console, herself. In rooms where the artwork would be a dominant feature, Gulick let it set the tone. “Art is very strongly a part of an interior,” she says.
In the living room, for example, the blue, white and black palette of William Willis’ painting Waltzing Wutaishan is reflected in the dark teal Holly Hunt sofa, off-white Place D’Alliance club chair and black Alessio ellipse cocktail table. In the master bedroom, the silvery-blues seen in a quartet of drawings by Robert Berguson continue in the bedding.
In the family room, the soft inky grays in Vivian Springford’s Expansionist Series are repeated in the furniture, which centers on a large leather ottoman by Christian Liaigre.
Because her box collection now numbers about 100 pieces, Gulick rotates them on the living room’s lacquered chest. Among her favorites: a Fabergé-style egg box (a gift from her son and daughter-in-law), an enameled pair from travels in Florence and a silver one with a topaz stone from a visit to India.
With her new home, Gulick has created a little jewel box of her own—although it took a bit longer to complete than she originally bargained for. But she’s not complaining. “When I come upstairs and open my door, there it is, my place,” Gulick says. “I love it.”