Although they are nice to receive, family heirlooms can turn into weight as one moves into a smaller space and must decide what will stay and what will go. Such was the dilemma a long-married couple faced when downsizing from a 4,500-square-foot home in Northwest Washington, D.C., into a less spacious condo nearby. The previous residence was a study in formality, where the French Provincial, Victorian and many gilded furnishings the couple inherited over time looked right at home. The new space—clean-lined and in a midcentury high-rise—demanded something different. “Even though they were sentimental about the pieces they had in their home for many years, they didn’t want a replica of what they lived in before,” says interior designer Barbara Franceski. “They’re a fun-loving and creative couple, and the wife is artistic. So they wanted their personalities to shine through.”
Combining two one-bedroom corner units created the now two-bedroom apartment. One of the spaces had never been updated, and the other was renovated in the 1980s. The new layout—designed by architect Anthony S. Barnes and carried out over a two-year period by American Property Construction—now features a long hallway on either side of a newly fashioned center foyer.
During the renovation, Franceski was referred to the homeowners by a Georgetown furnishings store where the husband and wife often shop for accessories. “They saw that I like to use a lot of formal pieces, but mix them in with contemporary and transitional ones to create a more relaxed vibe,” she says. “So we met and clicked.”
What also clicked for Franceski were the living room’s existing black-and-white marble floors from the ’80s makeover. Franceski liked them so much that she had the floors in the new foyer crafted with similar black-and-white honed marble, but in a different pattern “for a more contiguous feel.” Playing off that geometry, she designed a coffered ceiling for the living room. On the walls, a light lime by Farrow & Ball accentuates the apartment’s fantastic natural light while adding a touch of elegance.
Because the homeowners brought with them so many of their own furnishings, Franceski changed things up by having pieces recovered or placed in new locations. For example, dining room chairs that had sentimental value—they had been in the family’s restaurant—were lacquered white and reupholstered. A Victorian mahogany table that had been in the library of the previous house now graces the living room along with a hooded chair from the prior home’s parlor. “I love to mix shapes and scale,” says the designer. “The hooded chair is incredibly fun in this very long room.” Franceski kept the palette of the new furnishings neutral, since pops of color are provided by green walls, multimedia artwork and a few inherited pieces—such as a citron yellow French Provincial chair in the master bedroom.
New furnishings that add modernity to the mix include the living room sofa by Lee Industries and seats by Hickory Chair, all covered in linen. Crate & Barrel’s Roxey rug, made of coin-sized felt pieces, contrasts with the sleekness of the floor and the formality of the antiques. “It adds a little bit of whimsy to the room,” Franceski says. The combination of new and old, formal and fun creates an expect-the-unexpected feel throughout. In the media room, a graphic rug from CB2 joins an antique gilded chair, the wife’s minimalist paintings and a petrified wood sculpture.
With such precise mixing of old and new, it’s no wonder that the homeowners couldn’t be happier with their fresh modern dwelling. “Your living space is a reflection of your personality,” Franceski explains. “And this space really reflects who they are and speaks to this new phase of their lives.”