A retired couple embarks on a new life in an airy Chevy Chase condo boldly reimagined by designer Sandra Meyer
The prospect of downsizing from a grand, Shaker-style home to a two-bedroom condo was daunting enough. But a couple relocating from Connecticut also had to contend with woefully outdated interiors in their new Chevy Chase digs. So before moving south, the twosome hired designer Sandra Meyer to overhaul the entire residence and outfit it in fresh, modern style.
“It was a gut renovation,” recalls Meyer. “We took the apartment down to the studs and replaced all the floors, doors and trim.” The makeover focused on creating comfortable yet chic spaces that could play multiple roles. A game table and reading nook add functionality to the living area, while the TV room houses a sleep sofa to accommodate overflow guests.
The owners envisioned a streamlined departure from the traditional look of their former manse, so Meyer pushed the décor in a modern direction. “I’ve found that when downsizing, many of my clients drastically change their style,” she reports. “I did one huge presentation for these clients and they didn’t say no to a thing.”
When they finally moved into the finished home, the owners were thrilled with every space, from the living area that revolves around entertaining to the sunny kitchen complete with bespoke cabinetry. Recalls Meyer, “They were pretty blown away.”
What role does texture play in the living room?
I used a combination of velvets, linens and reflective fabrics throughout. The living room sofa is covered in Zimmer + Rohde velvet while accent pillows in a Great Plains viscose cotton add sheen. There’s a simplicity to the room because the colors are very even; if we hadn’t added so much texture, it wouldn’t look as sophisticated.
Why was this apartment renovation tricky?
In this project, the ceilings are cement so we couldn’t add recessed lights. I had to get creative.
Do you employ lighting to create drama?
Lighting is a central part of a room, especially when you’re going for a statement. I love the Moooi fixture we found at Illuminations for the dining room. Little LEDs come out of the bottom and reflect on the mesh above.
How did you visually expand the kitchen height?
The kitchen has low ceilings, so I chose white upper cabinets that don’t extend all the way to the top, which makes the space feel airier. And I didn’t use hardware on the upper cabinets so they’d look super-clean.
What drove your countertop and backsplash choices?
We selected white quartz, which is very versatile, for the countertops, and a marble backsplash to add a bit of movement and tie it all together.
What is key to a successful kitchen redo?
I look at kitchens as a whole in terms of style and function. I’m a stickler on making sure you know where everything is going to go and how you’re going to use it.
Explain your strategy on designing built-ins outside the kitchen?
I think about function first and then I determine whether I want a wood or a painted finish. This decision depends on whether you prefer a built-in to stand out like a piece of furniture or recede to showcase what’s on display.
Is it okay to mix woods?
In a palette on a board, we designers get concerned about things working together perfectly. But in reality, I think just about any woods can work together. After all, woods are together in nature.
How did you take the powder room in a glam direction?
Often, clients who come to me for a cleaner aesthetic want to go all out in their powder rooms. In this project, it was about making the powder room super moody. We selected Phillip Jeffries wallpaper, which is very reflective, and I painted the ceiling gray.
What drove your design of the owners’ bedroom?
They wanted something serene. My goal was to make sure the room wasn’t too cold, given all the windows. We draped them like crazy in a sheer Romo fabric with stripes that add a bit of interest. All of the fabrics have a ton of texture and the wall-to-wall carpet is tonal but has an abstract pattern.
Why was the owners’ bath a challenge?
When we ripped out an old Jacuzzi tub in the space, we realized the drain had been raised. Fortunately, we were able to drill down into the cement to get it out.
Explain your approach for clients who are downsizing.
As I did in this apartment, it’s important to make sure that every space has multiple uses.
Renovation & Interior Design: Sandra Meyer, Ella Scott Design, Bethesda, Maryland. Renovation Contractor: Ted Floros, FRP Contractors, Gaithersburg, Maryland. Millwork Fabrication: D. William Sapp, Definitive Resources, Brinklow, Maryland. Styling: Charlotte Safavi.
What furniture possessions will you keep forever?
I’ll never part with my 1960s orange vellum-covered side tables from David Bell Antiques.
Share your favorite retails sources.
Crump & Kwash in Baltimore and Coil + Drift and Fair in New York. And CB2 for accessories and kids’ furniture.
How do you kick off a project?
I don’t have a rule. Sometimes I start brainstorming floorplans, then develop an idea for furniture. Or I’ll start with fabrics.
What’s a bold move you want to try?
I’d like to use more colors—like burgundy, green or turquoise—in bathrooms I design.
What makes or breaks an interior?
Lighting is my favorite thing. There are certain elements you might not notice in a room, but a light is hard to miss. When considering where to spend, lighting is not where you should cheap out.