Mod­ern His­tory

Bethesda, Mary­land, de­signer Kel­ley Prox­mire de­tails how she gave an up­dated–and upbeat— com­plex­ion to a his­tor­i­cal home in Washington, D.C.’s, tony Kalo­rama neigh­bor­hood

Traditional Home - - Contents - WRIT­TEN BY KRISSA ROSS­BUND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY GOR­DON BEALL PRO­DUCED BY EILEEN A. DEYMIER

Kel­ley Prox­mire up­dates a his­toric D.C. home.

QThe ground-floor vestibule stuns with a strik­ing graphic state­ment. Why not let the larger liv­ing spa­ces un­veil the “wow” mo­ment?

AS­mall spa­ces are per­fect for ex­e­cut­ing some­thing dra­matic. The orig­i­nal door is full of curves and flour­ishes. I cre­ated ten­sion against those tra­di­tional cues with se­vere gray and white stripes and a shiny lac­quered ceil­ing. Ar­chi­tec­ture is high­lighted in black from the door and base mold­ings to the stairs that I had painted.

QWhat con­sid­er­a­tions were most im­por­tant in or­der to re­spect the grand qual­i­ties of the house?

AI didn’t only pay at­ten­tion to how the in­te­ri­ors read from the in­side but from the street, too. For in­stance, I wanted the stately liv­ing room win­dows to spot­light a beau­ti­ful piece whose glow would be seen out­side. So I placed a shapely gilded lamp on an acrylic ta­ble that dis­ap­pears into the back­ground and gives the ap­pear­ance that the lamp is float­ing. And nor­mally I would cover win­dows with wo­ven shades, but here I opted for an el­e­gant fab­ric that grace­fully frames the lamp with no com­pet­ing tex­ture.

QThe in­te­ri­ors are glam­orous with lots of gild­ing on fur­ni­ture and ac­ces­sories. How do you make so much shine work?

AThe gilded pieces were from the home­own­ers’ for­mer house and more than I would usu­ally use. I bal­anced them with mod­ern mo­tifs: a wo­ven ze­bra pat­tern on one chair, ir­reg­u­lar dots on an­other. In the din­ing room, the clas­sic wall­pa­per and gilded chairs are cur­rent in their neu­tral fin­ishes. I off­set their shim­mer with a ta­ble in stained wood. Brown fur­ni­ture has suf­fered un­pop­u­lar­ity lately, but it’s needed for lay­er­ing and con­trast.

QWhat are the keys to mod­ern­iz­ing a his­tor­i­cal house that is laden with or­nate ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures?

AKeep it clean. Mix it up. A fab­ric used for a throw pil­low on the gray sofa launched the gray-and-gold scheme. To keep the pal­ette in­ter­est­ing, I mixed pat­terns, fin­ishes, and tex­tures. It’s about the ra­tio. When se­lect­ing fur­ni­ture, I try to ad­here to a 60 per­cent skirts, 40 per­cent legs rule. Skirts soften a room. These houses are heavy with de­tails. I don’t like to weigh them down with ob­jects.

Ex­te­rior The Beaux Arts-style house was built in 1919. En­try Hand-painted stripes and a high-gloss ceil­ing tip the small en­try to a con­tem­po­rary style. Gilded brack­ets are a teaser for golden mo­ments in sec­ond-floor liv­ing ar­eas.

Din­ing room Two ex­ist­ing crys­tal chan­de­liers wel­come other shim­mery el­e­ments— hand-painted Gra­cie wall­pa­per, a gilded mir­ror, and a set of din­ing chairs. Liv­ing room A mix of con­tem­po­rary fab­rics makes the liv­ing room ex­tra chic. A cut-vel­vet ze­bra pat­tern cov­ers an old chair. Hor­i­zon­tal metal­lic stripes on win­dow pan­els guide eyes around the room. Two so­fas wear dif­fer­ent tex­tures—white linen with a loose tex­tu­ral weave on a skirted piece and sump­tu­ous gray vel­vet on a tufted form.

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