Colleen and Jonathan’s Modern D.C. Townhouse

published Jun 3, 2015
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(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)

Name: Colleen and Jonathan Healey, daughter Parker, son Graham, and Tucker the dog
Location: Shaw; Washington, D.C.
Size: 1,700 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years; Owned

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Jonathan was my thesis advisor in the interior design program at the Corcoran College of Art + Design, and while he guided me and my classmates through the design of our imaginary spaces, he and his wife, Colleen, were busy renovating this very real house in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood.

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The view from the kitchen into the dining room, living room, and the front garden through the doors. (Image credit: Natalie Grasso)
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)

In the nearly three years since, they’ve completed the reno, had Parker and Graham, and, just a few weeks ago, sold the house. When I arrived to snap photos, the place was “realtor ready,” scrubbed perhaps of some of the residue of family life, but not so much that their personalities and design prowess didn’t still shine through.

“It was always our goal to make the home, through the process of all the various projects, a place for people and kids and pets to make memories together,” said Jonathan. “So we’re moving on to the next one feeling quite emotional, but satisfied.”

(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Modern.

Inspiration: Colleen gets a lot of a inspiration from her work at McInturff Architects, and we also looked at how David Adjaye brings light into a space, skylights, light washing down walls, reflecting off of mirrors, etc. Mostly we were inspired by the idea of designing a house for first a dog and then kids.

Favorite Element: Colleen: The stair. We designed it to be overgenerous for such a small townhouse but it does a lot of work—it intertwines with so many parts of the house, the bottom step peeks out into the kitchen, the handrails slip down to the entry hall bench, and the smallest bedroom has a little window that steals light from it. It has become a gathering space for putting on shoes in the morning and our daughter likes to read in the window that overlooks the side courtyard at night. The light is constantly changing in that volume so it’s always a new experience every time that you move through it.

Jonathan: Our concrete countertops. Our good friend Sal Pirrone created a beautiful deep nebulous gray that blew us away. He also let us fuss with the chamfered edge so they look a little thinner than a typical concrete installation.

Biggest Challenge: Building it. We did a construction loan combined with our mortgage and so from the day that we saw the house to the day that we moved in was very fast. We owe a lot of favors to a lot of friends for all of the time that they spent helping demo, paint, move bricks… typically in exchange for a six pack of Natty Boh.

What Friends Say: “You don’t have any doors?!” We didn’t have any doors except one bathroom door until just a few weeks ago. We lived that way for five years with just curtains. Now that we have them all our daughter wants to do is slam them… it’s like a new game! But really we laid the rooms out so that they had a good threshold that gave you a sense of privacy built-in so it didn’t really ever bother us.

Biggest Embarrassment: Our cooktop—it’s always dirty. We have this beautiful cooktop that we got because it was a sample being discontinued from Viking. It’s beautiful, it’s white, and we are terrible about cleaning it.

Proudest DIY: The metal “art” pieces in the stair hall. We got them for $6 because they were scraps from a local engineering school that was cutting out machine parts. We had them mounted on three inch standoffs so that they float off of the wall and create great shadows in the afternoon.

Biggest Indulgence: The master bath. We waited four years to finally finish it. It has a large skylight, dual shower heads, six drawers of storage, and a marble sink. The shower is huge so the kids and dog love to get in together. Also, it doesn’t really count because we got it at a huge discount but the gas SPARK Modern Fires fireplace is pretty spectacular in the winter!

Best Advice: If you can, put in skylights, and always make them larger than you think. Also, don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. It took us a year to find the right cooktop and we lived with a single burner plug in with no problem. It’s hard to follow our own advice on this one but it’s always worth it in the end.

Dream Sources:

  1. Paulistano Chair by Paulo Mendes da Rocha
  2. The Bluff City Light by Atelier Takagi
  3. Anything designed by Antonio Citterio
  4. Platner side tables
  5. Room and Board
  6. Bedding from Restoration Hardware
  7. Anything Chilewich
  8. Ikea (can’t beat their price or their fun glossy finishes)
  9. CB2 for colorful furniture
  10. West Elm for sheet sets


(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • Hardwood throughout – Salvaged 5 1/2” wide plank ash originally from Carlisle flooring, re-sanded and refinished with a country white stain from Universal Floors
  • Paint on kitchen wall – Benjamin Moore Dill Pickle
  • Paint elsewhere – Benjamin Moore Super White in Regal Select
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • Fireplace – Spark Modern Fires
  • Art above fireplace – Evan Roth
  • Orange chair – Millenium Decorative Arts second hand store
  • Chrome chairs – on loan
  • Teal sofa – CB2
  • Lamp – Room and Board
  • Art – Lines by Carl Lostritto and shapes by Marissa McInturff
  • Carpet – Crate and Barrel
  • Orange coffee table – Miss Pixies
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • Table – Room and Board
  • Built-in cabinets – Ikea Besta
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • Cooktop – Viking via Hadco
  • Range hood – Zephyr via Hadco
  • Countertop – Concrete countertops by Sal Pirrone
  • Table – CB2
  • Chairs – Old workshop chairs from Jonathan’s grandfather
  • Rugs – FLOR and Chilewich from Home Rule
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • Bookshelf – Salvaged pine bookshelf from Colleen’s office, painted white, Ikea legs
  • Closet – Ikea kitchen wall and base cabinets; Elfa hanging system
  • Green chair – Vitra
  • Colorful boxes – Ikea
  • Yellow Lamp – Vintage find from Millennium Decorative Arts
  • Tall orange lamp – Garage sale seven years ago in Cleveland Park
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • Vanity – Ikea
  • Countertop – Corian
  • Sink – solid marble, from Marmara Marble’s overage inventory
  • Faucet and shower fixtures – Hansgrohe
  • Light – Ikea
  • Three way beveled mirror – Colleen bought at a vintage store in high school
  • Rug – West Elm
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • Bed – Ikea
  • Bookshelf – Michael’s craft store cabinet with Ikea legs; stained black by Colleen
  • Rug – CB2
  • Vogue prints – Vintage from Colleen’s grandmother
  • PEH letters – from a small store in Cambridge, UK
  • Curtain and storage baskets – Land of Nod
  • Elephant light – Land of Nod
  • Ceiling Light – West Elm
  • Sleeping bag – Made by Parker’s grandmother
  • Art deco print – Original Erté, gifted from a client
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)


  • Bed – Ikea
  • Side table – Found on side of the road
  • Dresser – Yard sale
  • Shaggy Rug – Room and Board sample sale
  • Small bench – Inherited from Colleen’s grandmother
  • Pillows and bed spread – Crate and Barrel

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Thanks, Colleen and Jonathan!