Edith's Cool, Calm and Collected U Street Apartment

Edith's Cool, Calm and Collected U Street Apartment

Catrin Morris
Sep 14, 2012


Name: Edith
Location: NW Washington DC
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 1+ year

When I walked into Edith's apartment in Washington DC's U Street neighborhood I felt immediately calm. Her apartment is bathed in soft whites and neutrals but feels neither sterile nor overly beachy. It's a cool apartment but not at all cold. I could tell right away that Edith (who falls in that enviable 20-something age bracket) loves to entertain.

Edith's living room and dining room are comfortable for lounging and chatting but also very elegant and just so pretty. She lights up when talking about her home and her shopping expeditions at the growing number of excellent thrift stores and decorating boutiques in DC.

This is the home of someone who obviously gets a genuine kick out of decorating; and that's a good thing, given Edith's vocation as a decorator with a local Washington interior design firm! But somehow the place doesn't look like a decorator's home (or what we imagine a decorator's home would look like!). It isn't overly orchestrated and self-conscious. Each little corner has a special personal touch; and there is a story behind every purchase. But what I really love about this apartment is that Edith is not afraid to mix high and low and old and new; from IKEA to West Elm to designer fabrics and antique gilt mirrors.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I like an uncomplicated and serene style. I never wanted to have my home feel too new or too one dimensional by following a single track, so I tried to show off the fact that pieces have been collected from different places, people, and from different times. I wanted my place to feel calm and understated with a sort of "accidentally sophisticated" feel.

Inspiration: The inspiration for my apartment would have to be my boss, Joe Ireland (of J.D. Ireland Interior Architecture & Design). He is known to pair clean architectural bones with a layering of modern pieces, antiques, and ideally family heirlooms. There were few decisions made that didn't echo a style lesson learned from him, or that he didn't have a hand in....quite literally when it came to installations. The antique bar cart was a gift from him and was something I "just had to have". What can I say, we bring our work home with us :)

Favorite Element: I love the tall ceilings and arched windows. Every room in the apartment has a window, so light and air just flood through the space. The curvature of the windows softens the corners and harsh lines of the rest of the apartment. Living on the 2nd floor puts me at about tree level, so I always feel like I'm in an adult tree house, with birds-eye views and greenery all around.

Biggest Challenge: When I first moved into my apartment there were a pair of aggressively modern sconces that made the space feel cold and commercial. The angular glass shades and chrome arms made little sense of the existing architecture. Furthermore, they cut up the wall, making it hard to place artwork. I removed the sconces, capped the wires, and screwed plate covers in place. With the sconces gone, I hung two large paintings across the wall and further focused the seating area by putting my flat screen on a funky console from Ruff & Ready (from the old days of the 14th Street neighborhood).

What Friends Say: I've heard friends describe my place as feeling like a hotel (semi-dressy white hand towels go a long way apparently). With a fervor for de-cluttering, I've stripped the place of most knickknacks. Everything has a special "landing pad" (the mail sits in a chrome basket and the remotes in a vase with river stones in the base). I think it's the sense of order that make people feel like they're in a hotel. It also creates a great environment for entertaining. The door might as well be a revolving one with friends stopping by for cocktails and "family" dinners. Something about the uncomplicated atmosphere makes everyone able to unwind and relax.

Biggest Embarrassment: I have yet to redo the Kitchen. The massive commercial fluorescent rectangle that floats in the center of the ceiling doesn't exactly have that "wow" factor....or not the "wow" factor you want. I've covered the light switch with a vintage metal mirror and have hung a small pendant from the ceiling as a quick fix. It helps distract the eye from the scary truth and gives warmer lighting than the fluorescent fixture would.

Proudest DIY: I purchased my dining table and chairs from Miss Pixies a few years ago. The lines were great, the table expanded with additional leaves, and the whole set (table, 2 arm chairs, and 4 side chairs) was only $325.00...gotta love the Pixie! One problem: The chairs were upholstered in a fabric that looked like a bad shirt from a Hawaiian luau...yikes. And the table top was painted white. So, I borrowed a sander from a friend and went to town the on table top. I had hoped to rough up the painted finish to then paint it black, but I found beautiful wood veneer beneath. Upgrade! After a few days of sanding, I used a satin polyurethane to seal the wood. The chairs have been reupholstered in a cream fabric from Hines, which is dangerous considering the amount of red wine and bourbon consumed at that table. The trick is, I scotch guard the fabric a few times a year (3-4 coats each time). The table legs and chair frames are black, which has proven to be great since I can touch up any nicks or scratches with a black sharpie. The entire set has been transformed and has withstood the test of time... and friends :)

Biggest Indulgence: The chandelier, from West Elm, was my biggest indulgence. It just needed to happen. The existing fixture was too small for the space and looked sad. The dining table has always been the center of celebrations with friends, so I knew I needed to step it up and create an ambiance that would make people want to gather around. The fixture can be seen from the moment you walk through the door and seems to visually pull people into the space. While the chandelier demands attention, it is still neutral enough to keep the space feeling airy and bright.

Best Advice: Move into your place and LIVE there before going crazy with designing/decorating your space. No matter how convinced you are that you want a certain sofa or have a focused game plan for a layout, the way you actually live in a space can be very different than what you project before moving in. Furthermore, pay attention to the dimensions of a room and the scale of furniture (especially in DC). I originally planned to have two additional chaises in my living room....the space could never have held that amount of furniture without feeling like a furniture show room.

Dream Sources: Ochre and Pucci are my dream sources. They're modern and streamline but still playful. They produce pieces that are simple but not sterile. Ochre boasts beautiful chandeliers that can be seen at Bar Dupont (their Arctic Pear chandelier, I think).

Resources of Note:


    • No info available on this, but it's probably a warm white from Benjamin Moore.


    • Paris prints


    • Ikea Kivik sofa
    • Pillows designed and made by JD Ireland with fabric from J. Lambeth.
    • Arm chairs from Miss Pixies
    • Green urn compliments of a George Washington University pottery class. My one item not worth throwing out.
    • Console from Ruff & Ready
    • Coffee table- heirloom
    • Antique chest from a Paris flee market
    • Family paintings re-framed by Paula at Framesmith (the best Frame shop in the city!!)
    Miss Pixies arm chairs from 7 piece dining set


    Miss Pixies dining set
    • West Elm Large Rectangle Hanging Capiz Pendant white
    • Ikea dressers as buffet
    • Stag sculpture from Good Wood. This is probably my favorite item in the house! I originally bought it to use to hang jewelry in my bedroom, but I liked it so much I decided it deserved a more prominent spot in the home.
    • Mirrors from Good Wood and Paris flee market
    • Bar cart from Good Wood
    • Column from Ruff & Ready">Ruff & Ready
    • Cloisonné vases from Good Wood
    • Silver hammered bowl from Bloomingdales
    • Vintage records from Miss Pixies and a Birthday gift from a clever friend who was well ahead of the style scene back in high school.


    •Ikea barstools
    • Ikea cabinet for barware


    • One nightstand is Ikea and the other is from Ruff & Ready. I added new hardware to both to make them relate. The one from Ruff & Ready was sanded and painted white and I added pieces of a cut dowel to the feet so that it matched the height of the Ikea dresser. It's all about the details!
    • West Elm table lamps
    • Ikea mirrors and bookcases
    • Family heirloom marble clock
    • Framed fabric scrap- a DIY move from a low key Sunday with too much time on my hands.

Thanks, Edith!

(Images: Lauren Ackil Photography )

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