Designer Sally Steponkus knew almost instantly that her relationship with clients Marla and Barry Beck would be a symbiotic one. At their first meeting, the couple referred to an image on the designer’s website that they wanted to use as inspiration for their home; they had no idea it was a picture of Steponkus’ own living room. “The sofa in the photo encapsulated the look they wanted for their house: clean, crisp, tailored, and blue,” says Steponkus. “My challenge was to translate that one sofa into a look for an entire house.”
The Becks, founders of Bluemercury, the national chain of luxury beauty retailers and spas, bought their shingle-style Bethesda home in 2011 after falling for its “urban-suburban” neighborhood and its open floor plan. They worked with builder Phil Leibovitz, the home’s original builder, with consultation from Studio Z Design Concepts, to open up the public spaces even more by widening doorways and taking down a small interior wall. The kitchen, breakfast room, sunroom, and family room now make up one grand open space.
The couple was familiar with Steponkus’ work after admiring a room she designed for the DC Design House in 2010. So when they bought their home the following year, they knew whom to call. “I liked Sally’s energy,” Marla says. “She’s young, vibrant and creative, and her style is a mix of traditional and modern, which is what I wanted.”
The Becks envisioned their new home as formal enough for entertaining but durable enough to withstand a young and growing family—daughters Ariel and Sophie are 11 and 9, and son Luc is 7. And there had to be blue. Lots of it. A favorite color of Marla’s since childhood, it’s also what she wears most often. “Sally knew if she showed me any other color than blue it wasn’t going to work,” Marla says with a laugh. In fact, Steponkus says she and her designers now refer to a medium, dusty, light blue—her client’s preferred shade—as “Marla blue.”
To comply with the wife’s request, Steponkus incorporated blue tones in every room, mixing patterns and textures to keep things interesting. The designer paired it with other neutral shades such as white, gold, beige, cream, and caramel to create spaces that are soothing and sophisticated yet still fun and family-friendly. (She did, though, manage to persuade the Becks to paint an art room on the third floor a playful pale pink.)
In the sunroom, where the Beck family can frequently be found, Phillip Jeffries navy grass cloth dresses the walls and is framed and softened by floor-length ivory curtain panels with a navy tape trim. A sofa, upholstered in a Jim Thompson navy and white fretwork pattern with navy piping, sits next to a pair of blueberry-colored club chairs and a white grass-cloth-wrapped vintage game table with Chinese Chippendale chairs. “It’s my favorite room in the house,” Marla says. “I lay on the couch and read and look up to the trees and sky.” It’s Steponkus’ favorite, too. “The previous owners had closed off the beautiful view with shutters,” she says, “so I had the shutters removed to create an incredible sightline from the front door all the way to the backyard.”
The Becks moved into their house in June, and at their request, Steponkus had completely furnished the house by the time they returned from a summer at the beach in September. “Working on this project was intense but fun,” she says. “We had a really good time.” Adds Marla, “I’m so happy with the house. I wouldn’t change a thing.” Except, perhaps, the pink room. “I keep saying I’m going to change the wall color,” she says. “To blue, of course.”