Saturday, March 05, 2011

Masters of Illusion


By Beth Herman

For a West Coast family accustomed to sun and space, a new, bicoastal life with D.C. digs required a considerable adjustment. Downsizing, when in D.C., from their primary Orange County, Ca. residence to a two-story, 2,500 s.f. N Street Georgetown house, the homeowners charged JDS Designs Inc. with making visually larger rooms out of small ones, primarily without demolition that would alter the circa 1920 wood frame structure.

“We wanted it all to feel bigger, so we took the entire main floor living space and created a dining room/living room, putting it all in a very soft, muted blue-grey,” said Principal David Herchik, connecting the entire floor through color. Using one large carpet and leaving a wood border for emphasis, as opposed to employing multiple rugs, also opened up the main floor to emulate one large space. To add width, carpeting was selected with horizontal stripes, behind a pattern of vines, visually expanding the narrow rooms.

“Everything we did in the home on both floors was scaled and proportioned,” Herchik affirmed, noting the home’s relatively low, 9-foot ceilings were visually heightened with the use of sheer, light weight window treatments. “They had color, texture and pattern, but we started from the ceiling,” he explained, adding that walls were of the same blue-grey hue as the rug so as not to break up the space.

Size matters

Where furniture and art were concerned, and with scale and proportion essential, large pieces of art will often make a space feel large, rather than using a lot of smaller pieces, according to Herchik. “It’s a balance to create the feeling of space by using large where you can and small where you need to,” he explained, adding that situating as much toward the wall as possible is also key. To that end, some furniture of a slightly smaller scale that included Donghia and Louis Mittman/Edward Ferrell wing chairs, lounge chair and sofa, was used. A large dining room table was paired with exceptionally tall dining room chairs, creating the illusion of height.

The structure itself, resembling a farmhouse that had undergone a renovation in the early ‘90s, according to the designer, also warranted reconfiguration of the staircase. This included replacing “little oak railings” to make it more authentic to the era in which it was built, and finding a more period-appropriate fireplace.

With both the master bedroom and family room part of an addition during the previous renovation, the more modern family room was defined by an exposed brick fireplace wall which the architects left. Furniture and art were scaled bigger and taller, and seating was stretched to accommodate six or seven with the inclusion of bar stools that connected the family room through an opening to the kitchen. A tall family room shelving unit and tables with lower shelves increased storage space. “It was a different way to store things without using a big cabinet,” Herchik said. In addition to effectively manipulating space, unexpected objects like a French carousel pig over the fireplace punctuated the room, with Herchik and his team commissioning an iron hoop from Anvil Ironworks in Kensington, Md. so the pig appears to jump through it.

In the galley kitchen, a glass mosaic backsplash climbed to the ceiling, with the cabinets affixed to it, making a narrow space that wouldn’t even accommodate a breakfast table feel more expansive.

Turn on the lights

Upstairs, vibrancy was added to a 180-s.f. front bedroom (one of three) with bright orange paint. Floating wood bookshelves were selected so that wall color was revealed through the back, which made the room feel larger and lighter. A low-styled, 64-inch armoire provided storage without taking up a lot of extra room, leaving the wall space above it free for artwork. With both children now away at school, another bedroom became a home office with sleep sofa, desk, easy chair and TV.

Where the home’s lighting was concerned, sconces were used upstairs and original recessed lighting was augmented with tailored, smaller scale fixtures. In the dining room, eschewing a traditional large chandelier, the designers used an undersized, antique globe over the table. “It was smaller than most chandeliers but had a very large presence,” Herchik said. “Overall, to keep things cleaner and simpler is always a better answer.”

If you have a design story suggestion, email Beth at bh@dcrealestate.com.


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