The charity partner is Cancer Support Community. Formerly called Gilda’s Clubs after the late comedienne Gilda Radner, the organization provides free housing to cancer patients and their caregivers who need to travel to receive treatment.
Considering we are such a large metro area, I was personally relieved to see a showhouse come back here — and with such strong partners, no less. “We’re always working to express the needs and desires of our clients, but showhouses are a wonderful vehicle for the designers to design for themselves,” Mary told me. “This is going to do a lot for those who are interested in design.” ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME, which is based in New York, is expanding into many other metro areas, including ours, and it’s developing a name for itself as a showhouse producer. It’s already done houses in Princeton, N.J., and Detroit this year, and will open another one in High Point, N.C., during Market this fall.
The 9,600 square-foot house at 952 Mackall Farms Lane in McLean is already being framed, and will go on the market for $6 million. It’s on a gently sloped property on one of the few open lots left in an enclave off Georgetown Pike, just past Langley High School. According to Harrison Design architect Mark Hughes, the design takes its influence from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the works of Palladio.
“Jefferson was looking at Palladio for Monticello, and we’re continuing that line of thought through history and doing a version with modern sensibilities,” Mark said. Though it doesn’t have a dome like Monticello, there’s great symmetry in the wings, Mark noted, and the interior gives a nod to Palladio’s Villa Rotonda with a central vaulted space anchoring every other room on the main floor:
Note: This is not a final design—for example, Mary has already switched the dining and living spaces, and added a coffered ceiling to what is now the living room off the foyer. Changes and tweaks are still being made, but this layout offers a general idea.
The great room is topped with a huge skylight framed with clerestory windows around the base, which will pour sunlight into the space. The second floor, opens down to the central area below, occupies just the front part of the home. You can see the outline of the skylight over the great room:
There’s lots more space on the lower level, with a media room, fitness area, and wine cave in addition to a large rec-room area, guest room and bar:
In all, there will be opportunities for more than 30 designers to work on the home’s interior spaces and landscape. According to the construction schedule, the house should be ready for designers to do a walk-through in October, said Steve Mandel, ASPIRE’s publisher. Selections will be made in December, giving the chosen designers more than four months to work on their spaces. “For the first time, there’s going to be ample time for everyone to get it done,” Mary said, noting that many show houses come together late, giving designers only 6-8 weeks to pull everything together.
Meanwhile, the team has already confirmed Bethesda-based KONST Siematic for the kitchen and cabinetry design; Dacor appliances; Pella Windows; and Sherwin Williams paint as sponsors for the showhouse. They are still evaluating other sponsors for plumbing supplies, roofing, lighting and flooring.
Unlike most of our past showhouses, ASPIRE is aiming for a mix of local and national designers. Anyone interested is asked to email an inquiry to email@example.com. For more information on the entire showhouse team, click here.
In other news (I’m way burying the lede here but will report further in another post this summer), I’m super-excited to report that I am also partnering with ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME to start producing a podcast! We’ll debut this fall—details to come soon—but one thing for sure is that we’ll be podcasting on the developments of this showhouse once the designers are chosen and the decorating is underway! Stay tuned.
Kevin Fusting saw Marika Meyer’s potential. The second-generation owner of Galleria Carpets & Rugs at the Washington Design Center, a longtime collaborator with the Bethesda designer, was enamored of her antiquities-inspired textile collection—so much so that he took some initiative.
“I started making some strike-offs” of rug samples in some of Marika’s patterns, Kevin told me at Friday’s launch of the Marika Meyer Rug Collection for Galleria Carpets & Rugs. “Then I walked into her studio with some samples—it was a total surprise. I thought this could be a fun collaboration, and I think our minds were in the same place.”
The Elliot pattern, as fabric (right) and as rugs. Each pattern can be ordered in custom sizes and colors.
“Seeing the way the patterns translated into rugs was a game changer,” Marika says, “and there’s nobody we’d rather partner with. They recognize the needs designers have, and the challenges.”
Marika Meyer and Kevin Fusting at Friday’s event
During the sunny rooftop gathering, three full-sized rugs were laid out on the terrace—plush wool that was oh-so-yummy to walk across.
The Edward pattern, foreground, was inspired by a detail on an antique book cover. Elliot, in the rear, was taken from the binding on another antique book in Marika’s personal collection.
The Roman Fig pattern was inspired by a pediment detail on a Roman temple.
More samples displayed the three weaves that are available in the collection: A formal, tight knotted weave; a looser Turkish weave that works in slightly more casual settings; and an informal flat weave — all of them in 100-percent wool and made in Nepal.
“We’re so mad about the flat-weave,” Marika says of the pink and green samples on the far right, below. “Most of them are cotton, and they can walk on you and slip across the floor. Because this is wool, it stays put, and you don’t run into the durability issues.”
And here’s the thing: If anyone has ever ordered a rug to be made in countries like Nepal or Turkey, the hand-crafted work can take up to six months or more before it’s delivered to your doorstep. Marika’s rugs typically run on a 14-16 week lead time.
“The whole premise of our textile line is to be a tool for designers to create something unique for their clients,” Marika explains. And more than that, Kevin adds, her patterns represent a fresh new arrival to the rug market. Abstract patterns and splatter-like designs have been all the rage for some time, he says, so “to create something with more structure is really missing in the marketplace. The fact that they started off as textiles—you get all this texture. It’s a different art form, and with that, it has its own story to tell.”
The samples arrived in his showroom a couple months ago, and designers have already been placing orders, Kevin says. “It’s very gratifying to build a collection around one person’s aesthetic. We’ve never done that before. The idea was local supporting local.”
And that’s what I love to see—local designers with their own talents coming together to create something entirely new. And we were all out on Friday to support their efforts!
Designers Liz Levin, Marika, and Lauren Liess (from Liz’s Instagram)
Joe Ireland, Marika and me
Marika with designer Sally Steponkus (from Sally’s Instagram)
Lauren, Marika and me
All around, a great morning, plus a wonderful new addition to these designers’ toolboxes, with cookies to spare!
McLean is full of big, new houses, so news that a big new house just went on the market in McLean, well, isn’t exactly news.
Francisca Alonso, co-founder and CEO of AV Architects + Builders, recently invited me out to see the $3.5 million home they just completed after more than a year of construction. With nearly 1.25 acres to work with, they had the space to position this house so it takes advantage of the sun, untethered from the burden of facing the street. The house won Best in Show by the Custom Builders Council in the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association’s Parade of Homes earlier this month.
Photographs by Sean O’Rourke Photography, unless otherwise noted
That means the rear of the house gets the bright, warm southern light, where they placed a two-story family room that’s lined with windows and sliding-glass doors. And instead of placing the master wing adjacent to the home’s core—or even at 90 degrees—they put it at an angle suited for the sunrise, where the new owners can bask in the morning glow through floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls.
Photo by Jennifer Sergent
You could say that capturing light is somewhat of an obsession for Francisca, who made sure that every space in the house offers at least three sightlines toward the outdoors “so you’re always engaged with your surroundings,” she says. “Even the hallways have some sense of journey associated with them.”
An eye-level fireplace centers the divider between the hall and the family room.
She also elevated the windows themselves into modern art, framing them with Mondrian-inspired grids. “I love the geometry and the play of shapes,” she says. “It’s asymmetrically balanced.”
With more than 8,700 square feet and five en-suite bedrooms, the house was actually designed with empty nesters in mind, Francisca says. “It’s all about this new demographic,” she explains, meaning that folks around here are just hitting their stride professionally when the kids are leaving home, and they’re ready to entertain in a big way and have plenty of guests come to stay. They can also leave on a moment’s notice. Francisca pointed out that the house is built with engineered materials—fiber cement, engineered hardwood, and aluminum windows to name a few. Translation: it’s super low maintenance, so you won’t have to spend your weekends on upkeep.
But how does it live? I’ll go off on a small tangent for reference. When we bought our own house — an open-plan, post-and-beam structure in Arlington — my son said, “You can walk through the space; you don’t have to walk around things.” That’s exactly the case here, where the journey from one space to another is comfortable and airy and effortless. There’s no cramped feeling anywhere—especially in transitional spaces, such as the entry to living space, garage to the mudroom, and the stairs between floors. From a layout perspective, everything makes sense:
The kitchen has two islands—one for cooking and prep and the other for eating and socializing, so the cook and his or her guests can interact, but in their own space.
There are also separate counters and cabinetry in the breakfast area—a convenient spot for a coffee bar—and in the connector between the kitchen and dining room—the perfect display for wine and stemware.
A huge, walk-in pantry is located at the intersection of the kitchen and dining areas (across from the wine bar in the above photos). Not only do you have space for food storage, but plenty of shelving for china, cookware, serving dishes and platters. “My pet peeve is when you have this big house, but no pantry,” Francisca says. Amen.
The office isn’t an afterthought. That’s crucial in an age where more and more of us are working from home. We shouldn’t have to commandeer the dining table or take up shop in what used to be the baby nursery. This office has some serious square footage, a large closet for supplies—and big windows!
The second-floor hallway connecting the guest suites doubles as a balcony overlooking the family room. The clerestory windows sending light into this large volume illuminate the upper passageway at the same time.
Storage and accessibility get lots of care and attention. “I tell people it was designed by a woman,” Francisca says—and it shows.
The coat closet at the entry has shelves and cubbies for bags and purses. Guests don’t have to find the nearest bedroom to put things down.
Photo by Jennifer Sergent
The mud room is huge, with cabinets, a sink, a pull-out for trashcans, and space for a new owner to put the laundry machines (not to mention cubbies for each member of the family to place coats, shoes, bags, etc). “A mudroom is your everyday entry. It needs to feel like a nice entry,” Francisca says.
Every bedroom closet is a walk-in, and contains shelves in addition to hanging racks. Francisca designed each one to be big enough to double as storage for towels, bed linens and other supplies. There are no hallway linen closets—everything is stored right where it needs to be used. Bonus in the master closet: built-in laundry hampers.
The front steps are nearly non-existent. “It’s almost at grade,” she says. “There are no barriers.” Sure, there are steps between the levels, but with a main-level master suite, the owners seldom have to leave the first floor.
The stairs are easy. There’s only a 7-inch rise between each step, and the steps themselves are 11 inches deep. You won’t get out of breath climbing these gentle inclines. Builder-grade stairs tend to be much steeper, sometimes 9 inches high, and only 10 inches deep, so you can’t fit your whole foot onto them. That’s where you get that cramped, uncomfortable feeling as you move through a house.
The front and back porches are covered. Why shouldn’t the back porch, where you dine and lounge in privacy, get the same ceremonial treatment as the front? From here, you can enjoy the wide back yard (big enough for a future pool), that gently rolls down to a wooded stream.
These kinds of details are making me think about houses in a different way—like the one under construction near my house that has so many steep steps climbing a mountain to the front door that I get tired just looking at them. Francisca admits that it’s definitely not cheap to design and build a house that makes living in it so easy, but she points out that the same accommodations can be designed into a 2,000-square-foot house as well as this much larger one. It’s always those little, day-to-day details, after all, that define your quality of life.
[Disclaimer: I have received compensation for my post and review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by AV Architects + Builders, and/or its affiliates in any way.]
For several years now, I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with the Marymount University Graduate Department of Interior Design to host would-be designers interested in becoming professionals in their field. It’s that time of year again, and the university is having a luncheon on May 17—among other spring events—to introduce its design department, faculty, and programs.
Katie Redmiles, Marymount’s Interior Design graduate enrollment coordinator, is here to explain:
As an interior designer, innovator, and artist, it’s important to cultivate creative instincts, an eye for detail, an understanding of the human needs within the built environment, and the ability to provide a unique aesthetic expression.
If you’re looking to nurture those skills and boost your career opportunities in interior design, it might be time to consider a graduate degree. It’s an edge that sets design lovers apart from intentional, human-centered design innovators.
Marymount University’s Master of Arts in Interior Design strives to nurture your intellectual growth, independent learning, and capacity to engage in intentional interior design practices. The coursework of Marymount’s M. Wilhelmina Boldt Interior Design program gives you the knowledge, skills, and techniques that elevate decorators into designers, and it provides the foundation for students to specialize in specific areas of interest within the profession—even those that might not be obvious, as this project shows from the school’s Design-A-Thon:
Marymount University - Strong by Design-athon Spring 2017 - Vimeo
Both tracks focus on teaching students to understand, use, and conduct scholarly research to become leaders in the field. A few notable features to consider:
100 percent of the program’s graduates found interior-design related jobs within six months of graduation
Each track focuses on design knowledge, skills, and programming to master a comprehensive design process
The program promotes scholarly research through coursework, independent learning, and thesis projects
The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) has been accrediting the first professional degree program since 2005, which qualifies graduates to sit for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam
Marymount University is proud to claim a host of ambitious, intelligent, and forward-thinking Interior Design alumni and expert faculty members. Tyler Wisler, for instance, is an HGTV expert, world traveler—and a Marymount University alum.
He’s appeared on NBC’s George to the Rescue, Good Morning America, The Home Show, and HGTV’s Design Star. Tyler was also involved in a design-competition reality show called The Apartment, which required him to travel throughout Malaysia and Singapore.
“I chose Marymount because they had one of the more reputable Interior Design programs in the D.C. area, and they also offer undergraduate degrees in Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising. I think interior and fashion design play off each other’s energies, and I’m a firm believer in surrounding yourself with a variety of disciplines. I also chose Marymount because I knew that wherever I got my education, I wanted it to be in a large metropolitan setting. The design aesthetics are much different in D.C. or New York City than in more rural areas. And that’s inherently what I’m about: In cities, we embrace the new, and we embrace forward thinking.”
Want to join his ranks? Consider one of Marymount’s upcoming events:
[Info Session] Interior Design Luncheon on Friday, May 17 (in-person informational luncheon will cover Marymount University’s graduate Interior Design program. From admissions guidelines, curriculum content, and unique features of the programs — our faculty will cover it all.)
I hope these resources will be helpful to you, and if you have questions about either of Marymount University’s upcoming information events, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can set up an appointment with me online or by phone.
ASPIRE’s publisher, Steven Mandel, asked me to conduct those interviews for videos that will be placed on the magazine’s website. This was my first foray into on-camera work, and I (surprisingly) had a blast. I’ll share those videos when they’re up.
Because I was so busy, I didn’t have much time to wander the show, but now that I’m back and perusing all the exhibitor images from the press kit, I wanted to share my favorites.
I did get to visit British garden sculptor David Harber‘s booth, and met the man himself. This was exciting because I’ve written two narratives about gardens here in the DC area that have Harber sculptures in them. One of his latest sculptures, the Torus disk with a watery mirrored surface, just blew me away.
And if you want a classic armillary in your traditional English garden, Harber is where you go. Period.
And because I (clearly) love seeing designers and makers whose work I’ve written about, I was also loving this apartment setting designed by New York It Girl designer Sasha Bikoff, whose Memphis Style wallpaper in the Kips Bay Showhouse stair hall wowed the design world last year.
Photograph courtesy of the AD Design Show
I wrote about one of Sasha’s early design projects in New York’s Hudson Valley for Luxe Magazine, so I already knew this was a woman with a serious point of view!
And here’s some fodder for a debate that can get highly emotional: Are libraries for reading, or just for decorating? If it’s the latter, Booth & Williams can curate your shelves in any colorway or genre. (Bonus: They’re real books, so you can read them, too.)
I can’t stop thinking about Tucker Robbins‘ Teardrop chandelier, made in Bali with handwoven rattan and rice paper, that stopped me dead in my tracks.
Now, from the Press Kit, here are the drool-worthy items I wish I’d been able to see in person:
I don’t know why, but I’m OBSESSED with this light by Brooklyn artist Hayoung Lee. I want I want I want:
OK, and who wouldn’t want this “Purl” chair by durodeco for a young girls’ room?
So I get that exposed bulbs in lighting are totally having a moment—and it might not last very much longer, but WOW this sconce by Pax Lighting just grabs me. Won’t let go.
We’ve been on the lookout for two-person benches that can go at either end of our new, live-edge dining table (I need a Craigslist gold metal for that find!), and this walnut Shoreman’s bench by Hamilton Holmes might fit the ticket—though I don’t yet know how much it costs, but I can’t stop thinking about it:
And finally, I was delighted to discover these new textile designs by Stevie Howell, a painter, printmaker and textile designer in San Francisco. Not only are her fabric designs bright, organic and happy, but the way they are styled is equally gorgeous:
NEXT UP: High Point! I haven’t been down in a while, but there are lots of new lines I’m eager to see, in addition to events that ASPIRE is hosting in advance of the Fall Market, where they’re sponsoring a designer showhouse along with Fabricut, Cosentino and Lee Industries. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.
Please let me know if you’ll be there this weekend — I would love to connect!
It’s been a while since I’ve had a guest post here, and I can’t think of a better way to make a comeback than with DC designer Mariella Cruzado, the talent behind Splendor Styling.
In this post, she takes us through a dramatic—and colorful—upgrade to a formerly drab foyer, living room and dining room in a Woodley Park home. Take it away, Mariella!
With a cheerful Caribbean heritage and a fine eye for timeless design, our lovely client asked for a traditional approach with a sparkling feel for her Washington DC home in Woodley Park.
We did it in phases, one room at a time, with infusions of color at each step. I got inspired by the traditional bones of the house, the beautiful cherry blossom tree blooming in her backyard, and some great pieces my client already had. Her gold dining chairs and the violet-toned calacatta marble on her fireplace mantel were the starting point for a color palette that evokes the tropics – and reminds us of her native Dominican Republic.
First, the foyer got a coat of deep blue paint that brought new energy into the space. A bold capiz-shell chandelier is a happy statement that welcomes you home.
All finished photography by Laura Metzler
[Before]Shades of blue naturally flow from the foyer into the living room, where arm chairs, table lamps and grasscloth wallpaper work together to look like ocean waters. The pops of color create a lively contrast against white pearlized wallpaper by Thibaut, which brightens the space and elevates the look.
[Before]I also wanted the living room to complement the garden views through its windows. A multicolor floral fabric by Vervain does the trick for the built-in bench, paired with lilac and blue velvet pillows that have a touch of magenta.
As a final touch, a whimsical butterfly mirror above the mantel becomes the star of an elegant, all-white vignette that’s visible as soon as you enter the house.
“Quiero que se un color apetitoso y que se vea bello a la luz de las velas – I want an appetizing color that looks gorgeous under candlelight.”
The dining room was designed last around the idea of endless banquets and gatherings filled with laughter and joy. The walls are covered in a yummy violet shade to complement the blue foyer and reinforce the color combinations coming from the living room. The entire space reminds us of a delicious raspberry mousse with a bit of meringue on top. A big gold chandelier and a pair of bone-inlay mirrors create balance and with the traditional pieces and antiques from our client’s collection.
The result is a sparkling home full of color and a Caribbean feel for a family of five that knows how to live cheerfully.
It’s here again — I can’t wait! Starting Feb. 21 at the National Building Museum, there will be an entire weekend of films dedicated to architecture and design. I basically took a vacation from my family last year to attend as many as I could. And this year is shaping up to be the same.
Here’s a sampling of what you’ll see — starting from my most geeky favorite: A film about the structural engineer who made the World Trade Center buildings so high—and kept them standing for as long as they did on 9/11:
“Leaning Out: An Intimate Look at the Twin Towers Engineer Leslie E. Robertson”
Leaning Out Official Trailer - YouTube
The festival is also featuring films about major architects such as Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano.
Frank Gehry serves as the film festival’s opening-night star, with a film focused on his advocacy for better prison design:
The Future of Prison: Frank Gehry and Gehry Partners Advanced Design Studio - YouTube
Renzo Piano will later hold forth on the architecture of light itself:
The ART Newspaper Russia FILM FESTIVAL Trailers: Renzo Piano, The Architect Of Light - YouTube
and here’s a study on Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion:
MiesOn Scene (Trailer) - YouTube
I’m also eager to see a documentary about the German industrial designer Dieter Rams, whose work with Braun and Vitsoe influenced the way so many of today’s consumer products look and function.
Rams - Teaser (Objects) - Vimeo
And while we’re on the topic of design, this film takes on the notion that graphic design can capture the very essence of an entire country: Canada
“To know a country’s graphic design is to know its history” —Wired Magazine
Design Canada – Documentary Film Trailer - YouTube
So much of what I write about for magazines is the striving by architects and designers to blend indoor and outdoor space. The Swiss-born Albert Frey counts among the pantheon of architects who pioneered this technique, using the American landscape as his muse and Le Corbusier’s modernism as his method.
"Frey" Documentary Series Trailer - Vimeo
I remember so clearly when I was in college, seeing the Berlin Wall coming down through pictures taken by my friends studying abroad and also in newspapers. Portions of those heavily graffitied walls are now in the Newseum here in DC, where I’ve taken my kids. But I never thought about other old communist relics that have been splashed with rebellious tags over the years since they’ve fallen out of use. That’s why I’m excited to see this film:
I fell in love with Dutch design a couple years ago when I went to a design festival in The Hague, but this film explores other Dutch innovations that go way beyond the “white teacups.”
Enough White Teacups - Trailer - YouTube
And considering how much my kids are into their video games, I should at least be able to demonstrate that they can be used for legitimate purposes as a life pursuit. This film asks the question, can games change the world?
Gaming the Real World Trailer - YouTube
So now I’ve saved the coolest—AND WEIRDEST—for last: A film about a bunch of artist outliers who built this thing in Santa Fe:
Meow Wolf: Origin Story - Official Trailer - YouTube
If you’re interested in going to the festival—and of course you are!—the ticket information is on the ADFF website, right here. Here’s a link straight to the film schedule. Hope to see you there.
Years ago when I was doing a product page on fabric for Washington Spaces magazine, I had a deliriously fun time romping through the Washington Design Center, pulling fabrics from different showrooms, and then coming back to the office and throwing all the samples on a conference table and mixing them up until I found my perfect combinations.
I found myself playing house again with Madcap Cottage‘s John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon’s collections from Robert Allen for Calico Corners, after they were in DC this week to cut the ribbon on its new store in Alexandria. “We give you pieces that you can really layer and create,” Jason said.
John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, layered with some of their new patterns for Robert Allen at Calico Corners
John and Jason have designed three collections for Calico, and Jason and I chatted about their approach to color and pattern. “It’s all about timeless. If you can be on trend but never trendy, that’s a good thing.” As you can see in the above mix, he said botanicals, florals, chinoiserie, embroidery and ethnic patterns are of the moment right now, but they’re also timeless.
It’s all a matter of how you present the pattern, he explains. Take Chintz. in the 1980s, when Prince of Chintz Mario Buatta rose to fame, the florals were tightly grouped and the fabric itself had a crisp sheen to it. Now, Jason says, “there’s a little less polish, and the patterns are a little less dense. The cabbage rose is not quite as twee as it once was!”
Here’s how I would imagine some combinations in a fantasy sun room or breakfast room using their updated florals:
Jason said he’s seeing amped-up color combinations come to the fore (maybe that’s the influence of the old House Beautiful). “David Hicks was the harbinger of some of those trends in electric color—and that’s coming back, but in a different way.”
He’s also seeing yellow and green come back. That combination used to be rooted in my (distasteful) memory of the green polyester pinafores we wore over yellow blouses for our school uniform in the fourth grade. But the Madcap team is doing a good job of replacing that mental image.
John and Jason are currently decorating a new-construction house in our area that Jason calls “a very fresh take” on the influences of 18th-century English country houses designed by Robert Adam. A quick image search of Adam’s interiors look like an uncanny antecedent to the Madcap palette.
They must have English pedigrees, because Jason also pointed to the iconic British department store Fortnum & Mason during a conversation about classic shades of green. Exactly no one fondly recalls the avocado tint of 70s-era appliances, but the greenish-blue Eau de Nil of the Fortnum sign? Still looking fresh and happy more than 300 years later.
I think the Madcap duo has become so popular because their work is about refreshing and reinterpreting color, style and patterns that already exist somewhere deep in our psyche, whether it’s from visiting grandmother’s house as a child, or touring historic homes, or indulging our healthy addiction for shelter magazines over the years.
The new Alexandria location for Calico joins stores in Arlington, Fairfax and Great Falls, so we won’t have to travel far to see their delicious designs!
This time last year, demo had just started on our master bath; we had to move into our guest room (not knowing it would be a three-month stay); and the contents of our walk-in closet got moved to rolling racks the living room so the workers could access that space behind the bathroom walls.
Needless to say, we’ve come a long way between this:
All finished photography by Stacy Zarin Goldberg.
We started the design work in the summer of 2017, and the layout went through many iterations as we tried to decide how best to use this fairly ample space. (You can see our thought process in this previous post.) The one thing that never made sense to us was how small the shower stall was, tucked way back into the corner:
My poor husband Jim, who’s 6-foot-4, either knocked his head on the frame or stubbed his toe on the curb every time he tried to get inside that stall. And it was so tight in there that I developed a permanent bruise on my elbow from knocking into the soap dish on the wall.
Because neither of us take baths, we spent 18 months after we bought this house envying all the space it was taking up. I’ll say this without apology, despite a story in the latest House Beautiful saying tubs are necessary for resale — we both are over the moon with our huge new open shower!
The porcelain slab is by Neolith in “Calacatta Gold”; the brushed-steel shelf and towel hooks are by Agape through Poliform|sagartstudio in DC; the fittings (and sink faucets) are from the Litze collection by Brizo; the floor tile is from the Aristocrat collection through Architectural Ceramics.
The plumbing was re-routed from the partial wall on the right to the back (and behind that is our walk-in closet, so you can see why we had to get everything out of there), so now we’re not squeezing into the corner, but using most of that back wall where the tub used to be.
Working with designers Nadia Suburan, Megan Padilla and Kelly Emerson of Aidan Design, we looked at lots of different tile options for the shower wall, but on Jim’s suggestion, we went with natural stone, which came from just down the road at Sisler’s in Falls Church. It echoes the stone fireplace that anchors the open family room/kitchen/dining area.
So: I’m seriously burying the lede here, but The Washington Post has just profiled our bathroom! The reason I mention it here is because the writer asked us about the cost, and I answered: $60,000. It hurts to write that number, and suffice to say, we didn’t go in thinking we would spend that much, but we don’t intend to leave this house, like, ever.
Isn’t the stone wall beautiful though? The stone itself is a lot cheaper than tile, but the mason spent three days cutting it and placing it just so, ensuring that the stone coloring would be arranged evenly and that each piece of the puzzle would fit perfectly. Kelly worked with him to get the grout color right — originally we were thinking maybe a gray tone, but Kelly nailed it when she asked for a coffee-color tint to warm it all up.
Another big part of the bill was the hand-finished cherry cabinetry by Wood-Mode.
The cabinet hardware is by Ashley Norton through Caprio & Deutsch in Arlington. The concrete-style countertop with the built-in trough sink is Caesarstone. The tall cabinet on the end holds our towels, bed linens, toilet and tissue paper, and other supplies — something I’ve always wanted.
The mirrors with built-in LED lights are by IB Mirror, inspired by similar ones in our room at a Westin hotel on Hilton Head Island. The tree-like sconce in the reflection is by Arteriors Home.
We first considered more budget-friendly painted cabinetry, but with all the natural elements going into this room, we concluded (with advice from my friend, designer Victoria Sanchez) that the natural wood would be a better fit in the space. Now that it’s in, I completely agree.
A commenter on The Post story said, “My husband would fall over dead if I suggested spending 60k on our master bath!” Ouch. It’s true, this was expensive, but as I get older, the phrase “you get what you pay for” reasserts itself again and again. We paid for great design, and we got it.
One of Nadia’s mood boards as our design started to take shape
Without a designer like Nadia and her team, we wouldn’t have had any idea where to source things like the trough sink in the countertop (thanks to Nadia’s brother, Richard Suburan, for making that happen), or the Neolith slab and glass panel for the shower (kudos again to Richard for handling all the measuring and logistics).
And that’s nothing to say of the invaluable assistance we got with the space planning and all the technical measures that have to go into consideration before we chose all the pretty stuff. One day, Nadia’s husband (yes, Aidan Design is a family affair!) came in to figure out how we could get a plumbing line through the ceiling beam so we could attach the shower head—and which kind of specs we needed to order the right product so it would fit. If we had to figure that out on our own for the contractors, it wouldn’t have turned out so nicely.
I also benefitted from the help of Vincent Sagart at Poliform, where I discovered the amazing steel shelf where we hold the soap and shampoo bottles. Behind that front panel, the shelf has slats on each side where the water drains. It’s a piece of sculpture, made to order through Agape in Italy. Vincent also helped me order lights by Delta that hide behind the beam in the shower to wash the Neolith wall in light that seems to come from no discernible source when it’s on. It’s almost embarrassing how much we paid for those things, but they make showering an ethereal experience—one that we get every day. As for price, another good designer friend memorably told me years ago that “you only cry once.” If you get cheap stuff that cracks or breaks or wears down or gets dated, you end up crying again and again!