The Ideal Space for a Successful Singleton
by james servin
Excited about buying her new condominium, a two-bedroom flat in trendy Penn Quarter, Donna Jones sought out interior designer Tricia Huntley to create her ultimate dream home. Jones showed the designer a trove of photos featuring rooms and furnishings that inspired her; the images, she says, showed a preference for ornate elements and thoughtful details—all things tufted, quilted, or carved. But it was her visit to a particular high-end shoe boutique that further solidified her desire for romantic and feminine décor.
“I was inspired by the Jimmy Choo store in Chevy Chase. There are twinkling lights, dashes of color everywhere, so much for the eyes to feast upon, and it all flows seamlessly,” says Jones. The daughter of a Southern business executive and a journalist, Jones, a world traveler who counts Patagonia and the Umbria region of Italy among her favorite destinations, communicated her game plan to Huntley using one phrase as a touchstone: “Single, professional woman.”
The 36-year-old Jones, a former congressional scheduler, viewed more than 70 apartments until she found the home of her dreams. What impressed her most about the 990-square-foot space was that it felt uplifting even before a stitch of furniture was put into it. “There are 15 windows throughout the home,” says Jones. “Immediately, when I first walked in, I saw the place flooded with light, and I said, ‘I found it. This is it.’”
Huntley, a designer known for her unexpected, inspired details and her ability to mix the modern with the traditional, clicked immediately with Jones, and the two proceeded fearlessly with the renovation. The kitchen was transformed by opening up a wall between it and the dining space, and replacing the refrigerator and stove with sleeker models by Fagor and Miele. Counter-to-ceiling mirrors were also installed. “It now feels three times as big,” says Huntley. “I mirrored the heck out of that kitchen.” The entry was also gutted, mirrored, reconfigured into an octagon, and crowned with a dramatic spiderweb-like fixture by Global Lighting—a sculptural sparkler worthy of that Jimmy Choo boutique—like its counterpart in the dining area, placed over a marble-topped circular table. (The jutting crystal “looks like it was taken out of Superman’s palace,” notes Huntley.) “We could have hung traditional chandeliers in the foyer and dining area,” the designer says, “but I wanted the spaces to feel light and airy.”
All the while, Huntley’s sophisticated eye (her film inspirations have included “anything that’s really stylistic, like Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Age of Innocence, Out of Africa”) kept the single-in-the-city motif from veering into cliché. No leopard print can be found in this girly dream pad. “I try to apply my inspirations in such a way that I keep the glamour,” she says, “but make the home livable.”
Jones approved of this sensible approach to stylish living. “I’m 4-foot-9, and I have a disability” that requires the use of crutches, she says. “I wanted the home to be accessible to me because of my height and disability, but I did not want it to look like it is handicapped-accessible. I also very much did not want a house that was too contemporary,” she adds. “My home evokes a feeling of being very feminine, very inviting, beautiful, calm, and elegant.”
Nods to tradition, like the tufted upholstery on the living room ottoman, and a woven kitchen stool bring warmth to the space. Adding even more character, Huntley brought in Calacatta marble for the kitchen countertops—precisely because it shows wear. “People forget that marble is from nature, it’s been sitting in the ground. I don’t think it needs to be pristine,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with it showing signs of life, of having soul.”
Huntley’s appraisal also entailed casting a cold eye on some of the interior’s challenges. “Apartments that have great views, like this one, are usually the most awkwardly shaped, because they’re often situated in the corner of a building,” she says. “It’s not like it’s a great manor with great bones. Keeping the color tones—a range of pinks, lilacs, creams, and taupes—very consistent helped give the rooms a feeling of flow.” Curved furniture and rich, velvety upholstery also soften angles in the main room and allow for easy movement within the space. Slightly distressed oak floors in a custom pale finish offer a grounding counterpoint. “The floors, all in the same neutral tone,” Huntley says, “blend well and are not jarring to the eye.”
Today all the problem areas have been addressed, and the client’s wish was fulfilled—Jones wanted, and got, a top-notch audio-visual system—leaving the home to truly sparkle, like its globe-trotting resident. “Now I walk into a Jimmy Choo store and miss my home,” Jones says. “It’s my little gem.”
Blocks away from Capitol Hill, with easy access to the Metro, top restaurants like Rasika and Tosca, the National Portrait Gallery, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Verizon Center for sporting events, Penn Quarter is “hot, hot, hot, [and] really a fun place,” says Prudential PenFed Realty Realtor Judi Seiden.
“Young professionals are moving there in droves. The more mature crowd—lots of empty nesters—is also enjoying the convenience of urban living here, with so much at their door.” An area whose revitalization was spearheaded in the ’90s by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (who became one of its first residents), Penn Quarter is packed with condominiums. Prices range from $300,000 for efficiencies to millions for penthouses. (Rentals for two-bedroom units begin at $3,000 per month.) When it comes to real estate in Penn Quarter, “the supply does not meet the demand,” she adds. “Multiple offers are not uncommon, and most properties either retain their value or enjoy some appreciation.”
photography by kevin allen
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.