Home & Design

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a child, Ann Gottlieb loved buying fabric and making her own clothes. Though she flirted with a fashion career, a practical side led to pre-law studies at Virginia Tech—but those classes put her to sleep. Gottlieb finally found her niche after meeting an interior design major who inspired her to change her major on the spot.

After earning her degree, Gottlieb landed at Gensler, working in the architecture firm’s DC and Seattle offices on commercial and hospitality projects in the U.S. and abroad. She later joined Capital One as an in-house design strategist. Then the pandemic hit.

“I re-evaluated where I wanted to be and was drawn to residential design,” she explains. In January 2021, she launched her own firm. “I’ve trained under phenomenal designers,” Gottlieb asserts. “Each step of my career has taught me something I use every day.”

She says “the thrill of helping people feel their home is who they are,” drives her work, which always includes an element of surprise. “I love a ‘delight’ moment,” she admits. “I push clients to embrace a sense of the unexpected and I keep reinventing and trying something new.”

Interior Design: Ann Gottlieb, CID, LEED AP, ID+C, Ann Gottlieb Design, Fairfax, Virginia. Contractor: Nelson Huezo, N & M Remodeling Construction, Rockville, Maryland.

 

Growing up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Brandi Wilkins remembers driving around, “oohing and aahing” at residences in her hometown with her mom, who loved decorating. “I knew I belonged in a creative field, but just didn’t know which one,” she muses.

Though she started out as a dance major, Wilkins earned a communications degree from Jacksonville University. She worked for a DC-area association for years before launching her firm, Three Luxe Nine, initially specializing in events. A light bulb moment struck in 2018 after she planned a retirement soirée. “My client was on cloud nine and loved how everything looked,” Wilkins recalls. “It hit me at that moment: People can feel that way about their homes as well—I could have a longer-lasting impact on their daily lives in interiors.”

She switched gears and began decorating full-time. Today, Wilkins is busy finishing up a large project in Potomac and has a part-time assistant on staff. “My goal is to have clients feel connected to their homes,” she reflects. “I spend a lot of time getting to know who they are and what they want and try to bring that to life the best way I can.”

Interior Design: Brandi Wilkins, Three Luxe Nine, Urbana, Maryland. Photography (Laytonsville project): Laura Metzler.

Wilkins imparted a natural, spa-like feel to the owners’ bath with an accent wall of Thassos marble tile in the shower, a wooden vanity and a porcelain floor that resembles slate.

Modern Refuge

Michael Stehlik unites dual baths into one calming oasis steeped in light and style


Morning Glory

A dramatic Forest Hills retreat celebrates nature with refined materials—and killer views


Surf’s Up

A couple enjoys sea vistas in a Bethany Beach bath designed by Marnie Oursler

Playing up the vista of Rock Creek Park was high on the list when architects Patrick Cooke and Neal Thomson carved out the new primary bath in a Forest Hills home they were renovating for clients with two young daughters. In fact, they placed the Waterworks soaking tub in an alcove cantilevered so high above the greenery that window treatments were deemed unnecessary.

Designer Martha Vicas outfitted the refuge in crisp, modern style. A steam shower to the right of the tub is clad in statuary marble; the same stone repeats on the floors and the top of the vanity, situated on the tub’s left. Innovations wall covering made from recycled paper warms the material palette. “My clients, both men, wanted the space to be clubby, luxurious and masculine,” explains Vicas. “So we selected rift oak for the double vanity in a dark espresso color.” TV screens and outlets are hidden in the Robern medicine cabinets, she adds, “because they wanted nothing out on the countertops.”

Real espresso is also on hand, courtesy of a built-in Miele coffee machine tucked away in a handy bar opposite the vanity. “The idea,” says Vicas, “was that the owners can enjoy their espresso on the balcony off their bedroom, take a steam and a shower. Then, when their daughters wake up in the morning, they’ll be ready to begin their busy days.”

Architecture: Patrick Cooke, AIA; Neal Thomson, AIA, Thomson & Cooke Architects, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Martha Vicas, M.S. Vicas Interiors, Washington, DC. Contractor: ThinkMakeBuild, Washington, DC. Styling: Charlotte Safavi.

 

THE DETAILS
Light Fixture: alliedmaker.com. Sconces: jonathanbrowninginc.com. Vanity: carolinaheartwoodcabinetry.com. Medicine Cabinets: robern.com. Marble Floor Tile & Countertop: marblesystems.com. Tub, Cabinet Hardware & Plumbing: waterworks.com. Wallpaper: innovationsusa.com.

The new owners of a transitional Chevy Chase home wanted to break free of the confining twin bathrooms in their primary suite. “Hers was pink and his was green,” recalls designer Michael Stehlik, who was tapped for the makeover. “The baths felt clunky and though the property backs up to a wooded park, the only spot with a view was the tub.”

Inspired by spa-like baths they’d enjoyed on past vacations, the couple envisioned a peaceful escape with simple materials and dramatic views. “They found peace in open spaces that felt very minimal, so we tried to translate that,” Stehlik explains.

His plan opened up the baths into one large volume and positioned a soaking tub and steam shower on the outside wall to take advantage of the view. On the opposite side, an enclosed WC with frosted-glass doors mirrors the shower’s footprint. Other geometric forms instill a sense of symmetry, from a floating double vanity and tall storage cabinets to ceiling coffers that diffuse daylight through existing skylights. Hooks and towel bars in the WC keep clutter at bay.

White accents and charcoal-gray porcelain tile on the walls and heated floors create a quiet stage that lets scenes of nature play out through oversized windows. The owners can display artwork or light candles in a niche by the tub. “They wanted this to be their sanctuary,” says Stehlik. “Now they can enjoy the bath together in a very functional way.”

Bath Design: Michael Stehlik, Stehlik Design, Washington, DC. Contractor: DMV Kitchen & Bath, Inc., Gaithersburg, Maryland. 

THE DETAILS
All Tile: porcelanosa-usa.com. Tub Deck, Shower Bench & Vanity Top: silestoneusa.com. Tub: us.kohler.com. Tub & Sink Faucets & Shower Fixture: hansgrohe-usa.com. Sinks: duravit.us. Plumbing Source: build.com. Custom Shower Enclosure: dmvkitchenandbath.com. Shower Door Hardware: crlaurence.com. Vanity & Cabinetry: adelphikitchens.com. Vanity & Cabinetry Hardware: emtek.com. Pendants: sonnemanawayoflight.com. Art: edruscha.com.

The owners’ suite perched atop a custom Bethany Beach getaway built by Marnie Oursler has it all. A dedicated staircase leads to the private, fourth-floor lair, which boasts a bedroom, sitting room, sun deck and glass-enclosed luxury bath. “The rooms have the feel of a really nice hotel suite or penthouse,” says Oursler, who runs Bethany-based Marnie Custom Homes and hosts her own show, “Big Beach Builds” on the DIY Network.

She also designed the beach house interiors for her clients, whose primary home is in Jessup, Maryland. “In the bath, we tried to create a vibe that is very calm and relaxing,” she explains. Ocean views take center stage in the space, whether the owners are in the sculptural tub, the shower or the glass-enclosed WC. “You can even see the ocean reflected in the mirror,” she adds. Thick quartz countertops add a modern edge to the white double vanity. Automated shades drop from the ceiling for privacy.

Twenty-four-inch porcelain tiles resembling classic marble clad the bathroom floor, while single porcelain slabs add drama on the shower and window walls. In the shower, Oursler covered a steel support with the same material, creating a clever seating ledge.

“Getting the vein pattern right on the focal wall was a challenge,” she recalls. “Our goal was for the tile to serve as a work of art that makes a statement when you walk in.”

Bath Design & Contracting: Marnie Oursler, Marnie Custom Homes, Bethany Beach, Delaware. Styling: Kristi Hunter.

THE DETAILS
Floor Tile: gstile.com. Wall Tile: atlasplan.com through gramaco.com. Countertop: corian.com through gramaco.com. Vanity: decorcabinets.com. Tub & Sinks: mtibaths.com. Bath, Sink & Shower Faucets: us.kohler.com. Showerhead: deltafaucet.com. Sconce: rh.com.

Iantha Carley, Dennese Guadeloupe Rojas and Shawna Underwood literally took their show on the road for The Kaleidoscope Project—a show house exclusively featuring the work of designers of color. Twenty-three designers from around the country were tapped to transform guest rooms in the 18th-century Cornell Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts. More than 30 sponsors, including Circa Lighting, Benjamin Moore and The Shade Store, supported the project; proceeds from ticket sales will go to scholarships for students of color interested in pursuing careers in art or design.

Carley, Rojas and Underwood made several trips to the Berkshires for the event, which ran from May 16 to June 6. “I was thrilled to have been asked to participate,” says Carley, “and to show the community at large that we’re a talented group who need to be recognized equally.”

Unlike typical show houses that are dismantled after they close, the Cornell Inn is keeping the rooms intact so guests can check in and luxuriate in the designers’ creations first-hand. In her space, Carley put a fresh spin on classic British style. “I was taken by how much the Berkshires reminded me of the Lake District in the UK,” explains the designer, who dubbed her room the Bennet for her favorite literary heroine, Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. In lieu of chintz, Carley honed in on geometric motifs; large-scale plaid Phillip Jeffries wallpaper and a headboard and bed skirt in Cowtan & Tout checks convey a modern vibe.

Rojas was tasked with reimagining an entire apartment. “I wanted to create spaces that are calm and soothing,” says the designer, who named her unit the Doreen Suite after her late mother. Rojas played up a neutral palette with pops of color, such as an armchair in violet fabric.

Underwood packed a punch in a small suite that she called the Hudson—her maiden name and one that is significant to the region. “I utilized prints, color and scale to make it feel impactful but also cozy,” she reveals. Painted trim offsets floral wallpaper; a bright velvet headboard and pillow, she says, “bring richness and modern texture.”

Underwood was honored that her first show house was dedicated to designers of color. “I hope the project sends a message that the industry is open to showcasing different perspectives,” she reflects. “It shows that there is opportunity and the design industry is starting to welcome it.” thekaleidoscopeproject.com; cornellbb.com

Chic Fabric Afoot
Margaux, a luxury shoe brand, and Schumacher partnered on a spring collection, released in May. Schumacher’s first foray into footwear, the collaboration features five classic silhouettes dressed up in playful florals and prints. Above, left to right: the Pointe in Cassis, the Mule in Campagne, the Flat Sandal in Exotic Butterfly, the Ballet Mule in Le Castellet and the Demi in Cabanon Stripe. From $198; margauxny.com

Graphic + Novel
The Etriviere shoulder MM dynamo bag by Hermès marries a technical mesh material and an adjustable cowhide strap. Made in France, the unisex piece is perfect for summer jaunts to the mountains or the sea. $2,650; hermes.com

The Eyes Have It
These feminine cat-eye shades by Alaïa make a bold statement, with oversized lenses and an elaborate petal pattern engraved inside the temples. $455; available at Intermix in Georgetown or maison-alaia.com.

Perched on the edge of Mirror Lake near Lake Placid, New York, the Mirror Lake Inn welcomes summer guests to launch boats from its sandy beach, loll by the pool or relax on its dock. Meals are served at two restaurants, while the spa offers an array of treatments, from massages to salt-room sessions and cryotherapy. The inn’s 130 rooms and suites—including the Lookout Room (pictured above)—are appointed in Craftsman style and boast lake and mountain views. Rates from $449. mirrorlakeinn.com

Since its March opening at The Wharf, Nara-Ya has wowed guests with inspired interiors by Alexandria designer David Anthony Chenault. A VIP table boasts a faux bois base and a zinc top, while Osborne & Little velvet in an updated kimono pattern lines a banquette. Sous chef Albani Caolo and executive chef Lucas Irwin put a spin on tradition with dishes such as vegetable sushi and smoked zuke tuna. 88 District Square, SW; 202-301-8145. nara-ya.com

Rand, a Danish motorboat manufacturer, brings quiet, eco-friendly alternatives to the fore with a fleet of electric-powered models. The new Mana 23 can travel at 12 knots for up to 30 nautical miles on a single charge of its lithium battery. The 10-passenger, 23-foot vessel starts at $82,900 for an electric motor (gas-powered models are also available). randboats-usa.com

HOME&DESIGN, published bi-monthly by Homestyles Media Inc., is the premier magazine of architecture and fine interiors for the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia region.

The company also publishes an annual H&D Sourcebook of ideas and resources for homeowners and professionals alike. H&D Chesapeake Views is published bi-annually and showcases fine home design and luxury living in and around the Chesapeake Bay.

The H&D Portfolio of 100 Top Designers spotlights the superior work of selected architects, interior designers and landscape architects in major regions of the US.

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