How do you make a dream house even dreamier? Make it a DC Design House. As part of the seventh annual event, which raises money for Children’s National Medical Center, some of the area’s best designers renovate every nook and cranny of some of Washington’s finest living spaces. This year’s makeover is being done on an almost 8,000-square-foot stone colonial from 1929 formerly owned by Marshall B. Coyne, founder of the Madison Hotel, which is now the Loews Madison.
“This year’s house had a great history, with 60 years in the same family, and how amazing it is to have the DC Design House at Marshall Coyne’s home … which was filled with his [art and history] collections,” said Susan Hayes Long, chairwoman and corporate board member for DC Design House. “We love a home with local history, mystery or something unique.”
The house (at 4600 Linnean Ave., NW, in Forest Hills) sits on two-thirds of an acre and has six bedrooms, five full bathrooms, two half-baths, a three-car garage and a swimming pool. It sold in 2012 for more than $2.5 million and was donated to DC Design House by Coyne’s granddaughter, Suzi Wilczynski, president of Dig It! Games, which develops educational games for children.
More than 30 designers have about a month to transform 28 spaces — from hallways to the kitchen to the master bedroom — that they were chosen to remodel by the event’s volunteer selection committee.
Joanne Fitzgerald, owner of Gatega Interior Design in Rockville, Md., is a newcomer to the event. She’s taking a powder room from bland tan to shimmering chic.
“I love the intimate space a small bath offers,” Fitzgerald said. “I like to treat them like little jewel boxes, giving house guests an especially interesting, private experience.”
“For this home, in a nod to its classic styling yet from an era that was on the cusp of mainstream modernism, I chose as the focal point a very classic, British wallpaper, applied sparingly, yet front and center on the commode wall,” she added. “My objective was to straddle design styles to create a space that is at once elegant, playful and dramatic.”
She paired the jewel-toned wallpaper — from the Albemarle collection of Cole & Son — featuring Victorian peacocks on a shimmery, damask field, with iridescent wall tiles running vertically on the sink wall to visually elevate the room’s height. She also added an ornate Venetian glass mirror from the Wisteria home décor line. In contrast, she opted for sleek contemporary fixtures and an acrylic countertop.
Diane S. Taitt, founder and managing principal of De Space Designs on U Street and another Design House newcomer, teamed with Dennese Guadeloupe-Rojas, a show-house veteran who owns Interiors by Design in Silver Spring, Md., to redo the second-floor family room. Using water and the ebb and flow of life as their inspiration, the biggest change they made was adding a custom 3-D ceiling relief panel in rich purples and blues.
Using a palette of silvery textured beiges, blues and purples, they aim to take the room from mostly beige and boring to an inviting sitting room with cozy couches.
“The furniture elements, in simple, comfortable shapes and neutral shades, are grounded by a rug that reflects a water-inspired organic pattern in earthy grays and blues,” they said. “The ceiling relief, together with the organic rug, the accent wallpaper and the cool, crisp fabric colors, give a symbolic nod to the natural world.”
For the playroom, Katherine Vernot-Jonas of Katherine Vernot-Jonas Designs in D.C. drew on her 11-year-old daughter’s love for playing outside and how Washington’s unpredictable winters can get in her way. To do that, she is bringing elements of the outdoors in by hanging a ladder and rope on one wall and an outer-space-inspired climbing wall mural on another. In the middle of the room will be a rings-and-trapeze combo swing.
“My goal here is to convey the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle for children and their families, creating an environment of well being by promoting a break from technology, bringing the outside world in, while at the same time opening vistas and stimulating imagination,” Vernot-Jonas explained. “As a designer, I feel a responsibility to lead the effort to create fun and innovative ways to foster wellness by keeping our children and their families engaged and fit. It is my hope that even small changes in our homes will promote physical fitness and help us minimize childhood obesity, leading to a better quality of life.”
DC Design House was established in 2008 by Skip and Debbie Singleton, principals of DC Living Real Estate, as a fundraiser for Children’s National Medical Center and a showcase for local design talent. Last year’s event was the biggest yet, attracting more than 5,000 visitors and raising $250,000 for the hospital (also see “Upscale Property Becomes Home to Creative Laboratory of Design” in the June 2013 issue of The Washington Diplomat). To date, the fundraiser has donated $1 million to Children’s.
Once a volunteer group chooses a house, designers come in to select the spaces they want to renovate. Then they present design boards with their visions and a selection committee chooses the designers who best fit each space.
DC Design runs from April 13 to May 11 (with a preview day on April 12). Tickets are $25. For information, visit www.dcdesignhouse.com.
About the Author
Stephanie Kanowitz is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.