Grace & Brian Take On The White Box

Grace & Brian Take On The White Box

Leah Moss
Jan 28, 2010

Name: Grace G. McNicholas, husband Brian and daughter Clementine
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland – 15 minutes outside DC
Size: 900 square feet
Years lived in: 3

Most people will agree that fascinating architecture is the first step to a fabulous home, but what hope is there for your typical 1970s white box basement apartment with low ceilings and wall-to-wall carpet? Well, you're about to find out!


When Grace and Brian outgrew their one bedroom DC apartment with the arrival of their daughter, they not only left the city but also the architectural character of a nearly 100 year old building. Faced with the challenge of a budget and the dilemma of fitting their "classic with a twist" aesthetic into the standard issue white box, Grace chose to create character through an ever-changing display of vignettes made from her collection of antiques, art, and flea market finds. Just as fine architectural details serve to draw the eye from one part a room to another, Grace's vignettes — composed of furniture, art, and interesting objects — distract the eye away from the lack of architectural character by providing pleasing points of interest throughout each room.

The gallery is arranged in the way in which you would walk through the apartment, beginning with the living room. To give you an idea of how Grace continually uses pieces that she already owns to change the look of a room, the gallery tour includes pictures from separate visits. See if you can spot the changes.


Apartment Therapy Survey:

Style: Classic furniture mixed with edgy accessories.

Inspiration: Probably the idea of France circa Revolution, American circa Revolution and Kennebunkport Maine — I know I'm all over the place but I love the idea of freedom and I am so deeply moved by the homes and landscape of Kennebunkport.

Favorite Element: None. We bought a place that was built in the 1970s so it's a challenging space to work with. I am more comfortable with compartmentalized home layouts and tall ceilings. Instead our place has normal height ceilings and an open floor plans that just drives me crazy!

Biggest Challenge: The open floor plan and the wall to wall carpets.

What Friends Say: That its really designed differently then my last home. I have one friend though who describes the Living Room as womblike — probably because the paint is a pink clay color.

Biggest Embarrassment: The exterior of the building. Since I live in a condo I have no say about the way the building looks. The building has out-of-date architecture and is basically all brown. I just hope when people walk into my individual unit they feel that it's a great surprise.

Proudest DIY: Probably painting the bookcase. It was a plain bookcase from IKEA. I painted it white, and once it dried I painted it light blue. I then took a dry paint brush and combed over the wet paint to give it a streaked Swedish look. It was a success! People can't believe the bookcase is from IKEA.

Biggest Indulgence: My coffee table and side chair.

Best advice: When choosing a paint color always chose one shade lighter then you originally planned. Often people chose a color they like in clothing and then are surprised when the color is hideous or too dark on a wall.

Dream source: French flea markets.

Resources of Note:

Appliances: Nothing memorable.

Hardware: I wish it was something exciting but it came with the condo.

Furniture: Pomegranate in Rockville Maryland, Slones & Kenyon Auction House and lots and lots of Estate Sales combed over every week.

Accessories: Lots of antique finds from various antique stores.

Lighting: I bought both basket chandeliers from Finials Antique Shop in NW DC. My other lamps are a mish mash of places. My favorite — the clear crystal one is a bargain I bought from Restoration Hardware.

Rugs and Carpets: Wall-to-wall came with the place. If I had the funds I would have black wood floors and carpets from Odegard and Stark available to the trade only, unfortunately.

Window Treatments: My bedroom: Next Day Blinds (which is not next day by the way, more like 4 week blinds) Living room and Clementine's room: Smith & Nobel- a good place for well priced basic window treatments.

Beds: Clementine's bed is from Restoration Hardware while mine is from Crate & Barrel.

Artwork: I pride myself on my art collection. I search high and low for artists whose work I am moved by. I have work from Jean Plunkett, Nicole Bourgea, Ricardo Roig, Matt Jacobs, Chris Rywalt and Michael Kachman.

Paint: Main room: Benjamin Moore Old Country, Hall: Benjamin Moore Grant Beige, Clementine's Room: Duron Tatiana Pink, Master Bedroom: Duron Handsome Blue

Flooring: Came with the place.


Thanks, Grace!

Images: Leah Moss

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