Home & Design
Vintage lamp on 1970s Italian marble table.
Vintage lamp on 1970s Italian marble table.

A glazed bust salvaged from a turn-of-the-century Ohio building and a vintage lamp grace a 1970s Italian marble table.

Sculpture by 19th-century animalier Antoine-Louis Barye on teak-and-rush Noir Furniture chest and James Twitty painting
Sculpture by 19th-century animalier Antoine-Louis Barye on teak-and-rush Noir Furniture chest and James Twitty painting

A sculpture by 19th-century animalier Antoine-Louis Barye rests on a teak-and-rush Noir Furniture chest; a bold James Twitty painting makes a statement in the corner.

18th-century Italian chair and modern graphite-and-concrete piece by Stephen Benedicto
18th-century Italian chair and modern graphite-and-concrete piece by Stephen Benedicto

Preston juxtaposed an 18th-century Italian chair and a modern graphite-and-concrete piece by Stephen Benedicto in the living room.

Tom Preston
Tom Preston

Tom Preston combs art fairs and antiques markets in search of one-of-a-kind gems.

Kitchen with postmodern Italian stools in iron and rubber
Kitchen with postmodern Italian stools in iron and rubber

Postmodern Italian stools in iron and rubber pull up to the kitchen island.

In the kitchen, a bench by Frank Gehry for Kartell holds a pyramidal ice bucket by Aldo Tura.

Hung above a vintage console, a portrait by artist Omer van de Weyer greets guests in the entry.

 A 1920s Navajo rug, a lacquered mirror and a neoclassical, Victorian-era urn populate the hallway that leads into the open living area.

Preston enveloped the bedroom in earth tones. He hung a 1950 abstract behind the bed, anchored by drapes from The Shade Store.

Vintage table lamps and a 19th-century Campaign chest impart an eclectic vibe.

Antiques and modern treasures in living room.
Antiques and modern treasures in living room.

Antiques and modern treasures mingle in Tom Preston’s living room. Brass finials salvaged from an 18th-century bridge in Japan stand sentry behind the sofa.

Time Travel

In his Logan Circle apartment, designer Tom Preston weaves a stunning tapestry of art and vintage finds

Maybe it was the dichotomy of discovering rare antiques in a hip, modern apartment building. Or the thrill of an indoor, in-person meet-up after a year of virtual connections. But a visit to designer Tom Preston’s new digs felt like a moment suspended in time, where furniture from many eras and contemporary art forge an unexpected camaraderie.

Just before the pandemic hit, Preston settled into Liz, a new building on 14th Street designed by New York architect Annabelle Selldorf. Located on the former site of Whitman-Walker Health’s Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, the mixed-use building pays homage to Taylor, an ardent supporter of the non-profit’s HIV care and LGBTQ-focused advocacy. As a partner in Liz, Whitman-Walker now has offices and a cultural center on-site.

Preston was drawn to the building for its legacy, its sleek architecture—and its world-class public art collection. “Art and design have always been in my blood,” he muses.

A promising art student in high school, Preston was accepted into the fashion program at Parsons, but quickly pivoted to earn a fine arts degree at Bennington College and later, a master’s in graphic design at MICA. While working as a freelance illustrator in the late ’90s, he landed a job at David Bell Antiques in Georgetown—an auspicious entrée into the world of interiors.

“David Bell was a catalyst to forming my aesthetic and developing my love for antiques,” says Preston, who eventually became a partner in the business and remains involved today. “David is so connected with designers that I learned to think like an interior designer early on.” He later spent 10 years working as a principal designer at a DC firm before launching Thomas Preston Interiors in 2017.

Preston’s new apartment is a testament to his keen eye and penchant for unearthing vintage treasures. “I started with a clean slate and identified new pieces I would need,” he says. “Most of the items in my place are vintage or antique.”

A deft mix of furniture, art and decorative elements in the one-bedroom flat merges styles and centuries. The living room assembles diminutive 1980s Minotti chairs in red leather, a bronze coffee table handmade by the late Joe Niermann and a contemporary teak-and-rush chest that channels a French 1940s look. Circle motifs on two 18th-century Italian side chairs play off a modern mixed-media work by DC artist Stephen Benedicto in graphite and concrete. And behind the sofa, bronze finials salvaged from an 18th-century bridge in Japan stand watch atop pedestals acquired in the Hamptons.

“I like to bring in something old and make it look 21st century,” Preston reflects. “The harder you can push the juxtaposition between items from one century and another, the more electric the outcome will be.”

The designer notes that even though the apartment is small, many of the items in it are not. He traces the ability to play with scale to his graphic design days. “I tend to do edited layouts and compositions,” he remarks. “It’s all 100-percent related.”

Equipped with lacquered Scavolini cabinets and top-flight appliances, the kitchen is open to the living area; Preston tempered its sleek veneer with organic touches like rattan pendants and an antique African stool repurposed as a fruit stand. Floor-to-ceiling windows also bring in nature, with views of the building’s expansive green roof.

Crisp, white walls in the living area give way to saturated color in the bedroom, where the ceiling and walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Willow Creek. “I wanted a cocoon,” says Preston, who furnished the space with a 19th-century ebonized Campaign chest, a vintage Turkish rug and a modern portrait in social realist style.

Preston has filled his home with art that resonates. “To me, one’s art collection is a form of self-expression,” he avers. His personal favorites include an orange abstract by Washington Color School painter James Twitty that hangs in the living room and a 1960 portrait by a Belgian artist in the entry hall. “The quality of the rendering blows my mind,” says Preston of the latter, which depicts a man seated on a mid-century chair smoking a cigarette. “I’m captivated by him to this day.”

Now that it’s complete, the designer views his new apartment as a calling card of sorts. “Using vintage is important to my aesthetic; it gives clients a one-of-a-kind product as opposed to mass-produced furniture,” he explains. “When buying vintage, you increase what’s available to source exponentially. It makes it a lot harder—but also lot more fun and fascinating.”

Interior Design: Thomas Preston, Thomas Preston Interiors, Washington, DC.







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