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Cover story: Styles blend at 2012 DC Design House

- - Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Blue House, at 4951 Rockwood Parkway NW in the District, provides the setting for the 2012 DC Design House, but it's the interior designers who add the pizzazz.

The DC Design House, a benefit for Children's National Medical Center founded by Debbie and Skip Singleton, showcases the talent of some of the city's most experienced interior designers. This year's home, built in 1956, belonged to Dr. Francisco Aguirre and his wife, Gladys. They raised six children in the 10,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom home and entertained numerous prominent Latin American political and business figures.

The nickname, "Blue House," stems from the family's decades-long tradition of adorning the residence with thousands of blue lights during the holidays.

While the formal spaces for entertaining offer splashy spectacles, some of the most appealing rooms in the Design House are those meant for quiet and private family moments. Annette Hannon, owner of Annette Hannon Interior Design in Burke, transformed a bland parlor into a warm yet sophisticated space by adding architectural details.

"This space had very little interest to it and tended to be a room that people could pass through on their way to the adjacent ballroom," Ms. Hannon said. "We narrowed the entrance from the parlor into the next room a little to make it cozier, than added a 'soft' coffered ceiling without a lot of depth. To bring the eyes up we added panels above the fireplace mantel and details across the top of the curtains."

Ms. Hannon replaced a closet with a custom-designed cabinet equipped with a wet bar and four narrow paneled doors for additional architectural interest.

"There's a fine line between serene and boring," Ms. Hannon said, "so we kept the color palette neutral while adding layers of interest in the ceiling, the moldings and the cabinet doors."

The master suite, including the bedroom, a private deck and the master sitting room, each have a different style yet blend elements of traditional and modern taste.

Sharon Kleinman, owner of Transitions in Potomac, said the master bedroom was a boxy space with too many doors and not enough architectural interest.

"I took my inspiration for the color scheme from the garden outside, because one of the best features of the room is the view of the garden through the sliding glass doors," Ms. Kleinman said. "The walls are a rich brown shade with a touch of aubergine for drama."

The luxurious-looking bedding in shades of green is actually made of durable fabrics that can be cleaned easily, while underfoot is a fluffy white mohair rug. Ms. Kleinman added architectural interest by installing extra trim separated by an inch of paint to the crown molding, an inexpensive way to make the molding look more luxurious.

The master sitting room, designed by Tricia Huntley, owner of Huntley & Co. Interior Design in the District, offers an eclectic mix of traditional, luxurious styles and mid-century modern touches.

"I chose this gem of a space to design because I love the symmetry of the built-in bookcases, the windows on either side of the fireplace and the luxury of the elaborately carved fireplace mantel and intricate moldings," Ms. Huntley said. "I like the idea of this being a luxurious space for both the morning and evening, a place that is quiet but also a little bit flirty and sexy.

"I like adding tension to a space with contrast, so you notice the carving of the mantel more because above it is a very sleek and modern op art mirror from the 1970s."

Ms. Huntley designed her own round leather ottoman, which doubles as a table in front of two curving couches that fit the space perfectly while softening the edges of the room.

The master balcony, designed by Shanon Munn and Amanda Welch, of Ambi Design Studio in McLean, is a private oasis with shaded fabric covers and interior-style furnishings. The 6-foot, 6-inch by 40-foot space challenged the designers, who opted to bring the indoors outside with lounge-style furniture.

"We added art panels, which function like wallpaper, on the outside of the house and covered the deck with four durable exterior rugs and used light fixtures that resemble interior lights," Ms. Munn, owner of Ambi Design Studio, said.

Ms. Welch and Ms. Munn placed wood pedestals and low wood benches along the perimeter of the balcony to cover some of the existing wrought-iron railings, then added plants and accessories to reinforce the indoor/outdoor feel of the space.

Nancy Twomey, principal designer with Finnian's Moon Interiors in Alexandria, specializes in designing children's rooms, so naturally she chose to design a little boy's room in the Design House.

"Kids come into a space and mess it up with their trinkets and their personality, so I opted to design the room with a calm, neutral palette," Ms. Twomey said. "The ideas for this room started with the fabric for the window treatment, which has whimsical animals. I added little touches of the forest and animals in the room without it being 'theme-y,' such as upholstering the legs of the bed with stripes so they look like giraffe legs."

Ms. Twomey added giraffe hooks to the wall, set at child height, along with a small bookshelf that looks like a modern tree. Instead of building in a window seat, she added two movable storage bins with cushions for seating on top.

"I always think kids' rooms need lots of flexible seating for their friends," Ms. Twomey said. "It's also important to have a lot of storage options, so I added nightstands with closed storage."

Another fun touch is a shiny red wagon repurposed for storing books.

Across the hall from the boy's room is a bedroom designed for a teenage daughter by Susan Nelson, owner of Susan Nelson Interiors in Great Falls.

"I imagined this girl who has some sophisticated tastes and is interested in travel and fashion, yet she keeps some of her favorite childhood pieces around her," Ms. Nelson said. "The cozy armchair covered in a confetti print fabric and the hand-painted dusty pink dresser represent her childhood, but the daybed has a far more sophisticated fabric."

Ms. Nelson established the color palette for the room with patterned wallpaper that covers the ceiling as well as the walls, and then added 14 more patterns in fabric throw pillows, window treatments and a pale lavender and cream Turkish wool rug. Whimsical notes in the room include a fluffy pale green prom dress hanging on the closet door, with scuffed cowboy boots and a baseball cap on the adjacent coat tree, which actually resembles a tree.

The DC Design House will be open to the public from Saturday through May 13, from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Tickets are $20 per person and may be purchased at the house. No food or drink, children younger than 8 (including infants), photography, pets or high heels are allowed. For more information, visit www.dcdesignhouse.com.