October 18, 2017
By Mary Jo Bowling, Houzz | July 26, 2017 | Home & Real Estate
Before its most recent remodel, this home had a classic face and a modern heart. Located in Northern Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C., it was built in 2002 with a Georgian-manor-style exterior. Inside, on the main level, it was mainly one open space. When interior designer Raji Radhakrishnan and her family moved in 10 years ago, she started to put her style into the structure. “It has been my design lab, and it’s gone through various incarnations,” she says. The latest one, completed last year, was all about enclosing some of the spaces and making them more private and adding architectural details that gave the interior some heft.
Georgian Manor 1: Raji RM, original photo on Houzz
Houzz at a Glance Who lives here: Interior designer Raji Radhakrishnan and her family
Location: Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Size: 5,000 square feet (464 square meters), 4 bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms
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Prior to the remodel, Radhakrishnan says that when visitors came through the front door, they could view the entire first floor. “You could see all the way back to the family room from the entry. Sometimes I like to be back there in my pajamas relaxing with my cereal, and I wanted some more privacy,” she says. “Also, I like classical architecture, and I wanted to bring some of the feeling of the outside inside.”
She started by creating an enclosed entry, a hexagonal foyer anchored by a wooden sculpture the designer chose for its large scale and graceful curves. Not only does it make a dramatic entry statement, but it helps screen the family room, so Radhakrishnan needn’t worry about being caught in her pajamas on a lazy Sunday morning.
“There wasn’t much molding at all before the remodel,” she says. “The ceilings are high here, so something large felt appropriate.”
The glimpse of the eight-sided family room you catch around the sculpture doesn’t reveal one of Radhakrishnan’s more novel design moves: adding floor-to-ceiling photo murals in the now-more-classically-apportioned rooms (her company now manufactures the wall coverings). The one seen here at left is a shot the designer took of the London underground (that’s the subway to us Yanks).
“I love 1930s- and 1940s-era French furniture,” Radhakrishnan says. “I like the lines of Georgian architecture, and I used some of the fundamentals of it, but I didn’t think I needed to be a slave to a federalist style — especially since this is a new house. For me the classic lines were just a starting point, and I mixed in different styles.”
“I think the mural brings a sense of motion and modernity to the room,” she says.
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Her affinity for art deco–era furniture from France was born of a lifetime of travel. “I grew up in India, where I studied classical dance and went on several international tours,” she says. “The many cities I visited then influence my aesthetic today.”
The artwork throughout the house is the result of a long marriage. “My husband and I started gifting art to each other back when we could spend pennies and shop at yard sales,” she says.
Georgian Manor 2: Raji RM, original photo on Houzz
Another large mural, this one showing a portion of Louis-Léopold Boilly’s meta-painting depicting a crowd viewing an artwork illustrating the coronation of Empress Josephine, the wife of Napoleon. “I’ve always enjoyed watching people,” Radhakrishnan says. “I love looking at the expressions of the people in the painting.”
The designer says that blowing the image up to mural size (it takes up 90 percent of the wall) has created the ultimate people-watching experience — viewers can study the small gestures and expressions on the painted viewers.
Because the mural and furniture are powerful, the designer used a quiet wool rug, white save for some subtle black lines, to balance things out.
Georgian Manor 3: Raji RM, original photo on Houzz
In the same room, a vintage lithograph by Al Held crowns a console Radhakrishnan designed by placing mirror behind an architectural artifact. “It was once the ironwork on a French balcony,” she says.
As for the chair by Marc Newson and the Karl Hansen sconces: “You have to have seating and lighting, so why not make your choices the most interesting possible?” says the designer.
Georgian Manor 4: Raji RM, original photo on Houzz
When company comes, this dining table can be expanded to seat 12, but on other occasions it is kept small. “Only during the holidays do we have a large number of people around the table,” Radhakrishnan says. “Keeping the table to its smallest size makes entertaining for small groups more casual.”
The blue sofa brings additional function to the space. “I love tucking seating into a dining room,” the designer says. “It makes it so much more usable. Guests sit here before and after a meal. I often talk to my kids here.”
Georgian Manor 5: Raji RM, original photo on Houzz
Radhakrishnan tweaked the kitchen by removing the doors of the upper cabinets, painting their backs blue and reimagining them as shelving. “I love my white servingware,” she says. “Putting them against blue allows them to stand out.”
The house is mainly white, so Radhakrishnan added some relief by painting the library black. “It breaks the monotony,” she says.
Georgian Manor 6: Raji RM, original photo on Houzz
Upstairs the mural behind the bed comes from a sketch the designer found on an old book plate. “I photographed it and enlarged it,” she says. “Here I’ve framed it with molding so it floats on the wall.”
When asked if her latest remodel is the final one, Radhakrishnan doesn’t make any promises. “This may be to the dismay of my family, but I like to change things,” she says. “I can’t help it, because it’s so fun to play around.”