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“The clients wanted to restore the architecture,” says architect David Jones of the renovation he designed for a 1913 Colonial Revival house in Chevy Chase, Maryland. “But they also had four younger kids and needed the home to work for their family’s needs.” Over the years, the house had suffered from hodgepodge additions, both cosmetic—such as the ironwork on the porches—and structural, such as a single story add-on to the back that housed the den and master bedroom. “I removed those,” says Jones, “and went back to the original 3,300-square-foot rectangular home, with two upper bedrooms.”
From this point on, the proper renovation began, taking the house to a fully functional 6,800 square feet, with five bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, as well as a new family room, library and eat-in kitchen to complement the existing foyer, living and dining rooms on the ground floor.
“Because the home is in historic Chevy Chase, all outside changes had to be approved,” says Jones. “We actually improved the historic quality of the house by removing the inappropriate additions visible from the street. We also used the same materials and worked in a similar style to the original structure, from the stucco first floor to the painted-shingle second story to the low-pitched slate roof.” Inside, Jones added baseboards and crown moldings throughout the home for visual continuity.
Once the basic bones were in place, the homeowners turned to Washington, DC, interior designer David Mitchell to develop the architectural details and orchestrate the décor. “The house became a real mix, with a conservative exterior and an inventive interior,” says Jones.
Mitchell’s stamp is as much on the inside as Jones’s is on the outside. He designed architectural elements, such as the fireplace mantels, the tile work in the kitchen and bathrooms, the grand staircase and the millwork, including the library’s wood paneling. He then approached the décor of the home with characteristic passion.
“We started from scratch,” says Mitchell. “I was given a beautiful house, with a beautiful layout and well-proportioned rooms. It was a joy to decorate.” Mitchell drew inspiration from the Chelsea Editions fabric used for the living room drapes—a classic hand-embroidered nature print in apricot, blue, teal, brown, yellow and green on a cream background. The fabric not only suggested the color palette, but also defined the overall décor.
“It set the tone for the house with its light airiness and organic base,” says Mitchell. “I coupled this approach with the homeowners’ interest in antiques. I had fun mixing periods.” In the living room, for example, a pair of 1930s Jean-Michel Frank armchairs shares space with an antique Biedermeier bibliothèque and a vintage Michael Taylor tufted sofa. The soft hues and natural materials visually tie the furniture together. Equally important, however, is the balanced blend of pattern and texture, which Mitchell employs throughout the house.
“When a home has an organic feel,” he says, “you can’t use a lot of flat things. The furnishings need to have a tactile quality. This can be achieved with different patterns, as well as with multiple textures.” Mitchell deftly works both elements into his design scheme. On walls, he may use an elaborate patterned Osborne & Little paper, as in the dining room, or a simple striated linen finish, as in the breakfast nook. He mixes wood, marble, metal, stone and glass furnishings. His upholstered furniture is covered in organic fabrics such as chenille, cotton or linen, and either stamped with bold prints or embellished with subtle details, such as embroidery, tufting or matelasse. The same theory applies to area rugs and window treatments. “I want the décor to be harmonized,” says Mitchell, explaining how he transitions from room to room. “But I also want different moods in a house. I’m a big believer in color affecting mood.” So, the kitchen is bright and yellow; the master bedroom, calm and blue; the family room, cozy and dark-hued; and the library, a serene space with streamlined, neutral furnishings, drawing interest from Mitchell’s signature mahogany paneling. “The clients are very family-oriented, so I wanted a certain level of prettiness,” says Mitchell, “a home that would stand the test of time and have a high level of comfort. It’s a beauty that is not precious; there’s nothing you can’t touch or sit on.” Mitchell has achieved this—and more—with tailored yet casual furnishings, eclectic antiques, unique patterns and timeless textures, creating rooms that speak of elegance, freshness and ease. Of his decorative and architectural collaboration with Jones, Mitchell concludes, “The homeowners wanted a house their family and friends could enjoy. It’s a complete success. This is their dream home come true.”
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