It’s a tale as old as time: husband seeks comfort, wife focuses on style; happy life ensues in a well-designed space. But in the case of a New York couple in search of a Washington, D.C., pied-à-terre for the husband, a high-powered executive who commutes to the capital every week, utilitarianism was the guiding principle.
A one-bedroom loft in the district’s chic Metropole building piqued their interest, but since they weren’t familiar with the big picture of small spaces—they come from the suburbs—the couple enlisted the help of an expert. Enter designer Paul Corrie, who gladly proffered his opinions on such property particulars as floor plan workability. Sure, the petite square footage was generously cut for a single-occupancy situation, but what if the wife comes into town? And what if the couple’s two college-age sons, and their plus-ones, are ever in need of a D.C. crash pad? This is to say nothing of get-togethers with the husband’s clients and colleagues.
“I told them I loved the scale of the space, the layout and the finishes,” says Corrie, referring to the ceilings, which soar 20 feet tall at their apex and create the “soft transitions” between spaces that make for flexible furniture arrangements. Plus, the rustic white oak floors, he felt, were a beautiful counterpoint to the modernity of the loft. After all, a little farmhouse flair always goes a long way in taking the edge off an urban dwelling.
Corrie’s approach to the design was only subtly provincial, however in an 18th-century French countryside kind of way. For example, a quiet, natural color palette of cream, tobacco, and blues and greens—built around the clients’ existing upholstered bed, a neoclassical beauty from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams—emerges in the plush linen seating. Delicately carved furniture frames add to the artistry of the overall design. The look is understated, elegant and above all, versatile—an essential strategy for modestly sized domains.
“I love the space challenges of city dwellings,” says Corrie, who worked alongside Aurelian Ababei of A&A General Contractor to install new hardwood floors, replace kitchen cabinetry, paint the entire condo, and relocate some of the electrical outlets to accommodate the space in a new way. “It’s important to design with multifunctionality in mind,” explains Corrie. In the great room, an antique trestle-style dining table hosts four on any given day but in the event of a soiree turns into a serving space for hors d’oeuvres. The dining chairs are stylish sovereigns in their own right and pull away to become extra seating for the living area, integrating seamlessly into the refined tableau. Other chairs around the home, like the one parked upstairs at the wife’s secretary desk, also possess this kind of chic adaptability.
“Furniture doesn’t necessarily have to be used for one purpose or be confined to one space,” says Corrie. Other graceful transition pieces in the home include a Restoration Hardware reclaimed-wood bathroom cabinet, which the designer transformed into a media center for the living area, and a slipcovered sofa, which unfolds into a full-size bed. When this happens, voilà—the mezzanine-level den shifts into spare bedroom mode.
For the most part, this switch-hitting style is just a bonus feature for a home that’s ultimately meant for the husband’s comfort. Chances are, he forgoes the living area’s leggy, custom-designed couch—as lovely as it is—to kick back with a newspaper on the more relaxed sofa in the den. Most of the time, the dining table serves as a beautiful desk rather than a place to eat meals. And that sleek Caesarstone island in the kitchen? A generous surface on which to splay restaurant takeout, not elaborate mise en place. In a way, it’s the ultimate ineligible bachelor pad. “Yes, it’s pretty, but the husband isn’t tiptoeing around a staged movie set,” says Corrie. “It just feels like home.”