Guest Post: Andrea Houck

It’s always so much fun to see what our region’s designers can come up with for the annual DC Design House (which is still open—catch it before it closes on Oct. 30!). They take an entirely blank slate and turn it into a sumptuous space—and if you want to peek behind the scenes, one of the designers this year, Andrea Houck, posted a time-lapse video of how her “Mademoiselle Chambre” came together.

The Arlington designer does the same thing for real-life clients, of course, and I asked her to do a guest post on how she took two empty rooms—a living room and dining room—and transformed them, show-house style.

Take it away, Andrea!


My clients, a young couple with one small child and another on the way, had lived in their newly constructed Arts & Crafts style home for a couple of years when they approached me. The living and dining rooms were practically bare, which provided a perfect, unobstructed course for their toddler’s Little Tikes riding toys, but was less than ideal for the grown-ups, who wanted a sophisticated setting for entertaining and hosting holiday gatherings.

Here is a before look at my clients’ living room:

Living Room Before

Client's living room before

Our role initially was to negotiate between the husband and wife on the direction this blank slate should take. There was no clear consensus on style and palette preferences – the husband and wife each had a vague conception of likes and dislikes, but their lists didn’t always match up. Our design had to balance the wife’s adventurous tastes, including her love of fun florals and dramatic purples and plums, and the husband’s more conservative, masculine leanings (and fear of an all-purple house). We developed a color scheme – mixing sophisticated neutrals with judicious spots of color – that both could embrace.

A warm brown with a subtle plum undertone (Farrow & Ball’s London Clay) on the living room walls provides a rich backdrop. The upholstery fabric selections balance the masculine and feminine: the sofa is covered in a herringbone, while the two armchairs are dressed in an updated botanical.

Client Living Room After

Without a fireplace, the seating area lacked a focal point, so we installed a beautiful chest, with inlaid wood detail, to anchor the space and added a stylish, quatrefoil mirror above.

Client living room after

The living space adjoins the dining room, which was also a blank slate at the start. It looked like this (the first shot shows the before view from the living room, looking into the dining room):

Client dining room before

Client dining room before

A shared, updated palette and aesthetic now connects the two spaces. Farrow & Ball’s Charleston Gray wraps the dining room in warmth and sets an elegant tone. Again, the fabric selections combine yin and yang. We chose two dining-chair styles and unified them with a textured, metallic houndstooth. For added oomph — and as a nod to the wife’s love of florals — we covered the backs of chairs in one style with a cut-velvet, featuring oversize, purple chrysanthemums and trailing leaves.

Client dining room after

The tailored, silk stripe used for the window panels, on the other hand, references the husband’s classic preferences. A bench, outfitted in handsome gray leather and accessorized with luxe pillows, is a perfect perch for enjoying coffee or wine. The finished space speaks perfectly to both the husband’s and wife’s styles.

Client dining room before

Our clients couldn’t be happier that they now have grown-up spaces in which to entertain family and friends.