This Federal-Style Home Features a Seamless Mix of Modern Elements

blue coffee station and wine bar
Photo: Helen Norman

Alexander Hamilton, meet Florence Knoll. Surprising pairings set the storyline for a family-friendly Washington, D.C., home designed by Lauren Liess.

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Modern Fusion

federal style home with blue door
Helen Norman

Federal style has lived in this Washington, D.C.-area house since it was built, and it still feels absolutely comfortable here. Yet Mies van der Rohe wouldn't hesitate to pull up a modernist chair, or kick back on a kid-proof slipcovered sofa. It's all part of the fusion formed by Lauren Liess, one of Traditional Home's 2017 class of New Trad designers.

"This is an older home that hadn't been touched in years," Liess says. "We modernized it to fit a growing family. Now it feels fresh but still has a traditional vibe in keeping with a Federal home."

Before the renovation, the house was gutted to the studs so some rooms could be reshaped for contemporary living. The impact of the change is evident from the first step inside the navy blue front door. "The architects moved the original stairs and designed a two-story foyer," Liess says. "Being able to see both the first and second floors in one glance is amazing."

The front door, clad in "Dark Night" from Sherwin-Williams, introduces a thread of blue that weaves through the house.

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Stately Entry Hall

Navy staircase with wood banister
Helen Norman

Navy stair risers, echoing the color of the door, ascend along with a wood banister to the airy white-painted upper hall, where built-in bookshelves embrace a light-drenched window seat. To match the scale of the soaring space, the designer hung a massive multi-arm globe chandelier. Its modern, Stilnovo-esque edge drops a not-so-subtle hint: While this family lives in a Federal home (and respects its heritage) they love a modern look.

A stately paneled hall guides main-level traffic to the living room.

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Mixed-Style Living Room

living room with leather chairs and slipcovered sofa
Helen Norman

The amalgam continues in the living room, where a slipcovered sofa converses with Barcelona chairs, the image captured in a Federal-style convex mirror. Clean-lined moldings, painted a beige-tinged gray, pop against white walls, while hits of color on drapery trim and pillow covers are juxtaposed with the stateliness of the fireplace surround. "A mix of old and new feels young and fresh but doesn't forget where the house came from," Liess says.

Eras (and a young family) come together in this space, an easy blend of Federal, mid-century, and contemporary elements.

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Modern Moment

abstract art above slipcovered sofa
Helen Norman

Abstract art from Natural Curiosities brings a modern touch to the Federal home.

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Classic and Contemporary Kitchen

kitchen with blue cabinets and white subway tile
Helen Norman

Eras also convivially mingle in the kitchen. A soapstone-topped oiled-walnut island sets a classic tone that's furthered by a backsplash of white subway tile. "The tile is handmade and completely flat for an authentic historical look," Liess says. "We used thin grout lines in charcoal to let the tile stand out."

Tile from Subway Ceramics nods to history while metal elements, including pendants from Visual Comfort, speak to today. A soapstone top contrasts the walnut island base and Silestone perimeter counters.

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Blue Cabinetry

wolf cooktop and bronze hood
Helen Norman

The white canvas stands in sharp contrast to banks of navy blue cabinets. "The family loves color, especially blue, so I wanted to bring that out on the kitchen cabinetry," Liess says. "Blue is the linchpin throughout the main floor."

A Wolf cooktop teams with a custom bronze hood, catering to the family's culinary adventures.

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Casual Family Dining

blue coffee station and wine bar
Helen Norman

Casual dining takes place at a handcrafted Lorimar Studios table off the kitchen, where a built-in with a coffee station and wine refrigerator adeptly handles both A.M. and P.M. traffic.

A separate blue-painted cabinet, home to the coffee station and wine bar, sits ready to serve the informal dining area. Here, Liess teamed Windsor chairs (hers are a "cleaner take" on traditional style) with a soft banquette. "It's covered in faux leather, so the kids can do their worst," Liess says with a smile.

Metals are also part of the medley here. "I like a mix of metals: unlacquered brass, stainless steel, and then bronze on the hood," Liess says. "It feels collected."

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Formal Dining Room

formal dining room with green velvet chairs
Helen Norman

In the formal dining space, a slightly darker wall color sets a moodier, more intimate ambience. An antique mahogany table pairs with side chairs slipcovered in a charcoal-hue linen that meshes with a modern light fixture. Sparked by hints of green in her curtain fabric, Liess covered Art Deco-inspired host chairs with bold velvet.

The antique table and a mix of chairs sit beneath a sleek Currey & Company "Jean-Louis" chandelier.

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Stylish Storage

buffet set in green wall
Helen Norman

Metallic grass cloth crowns the dining room with subtle shimmer. Dinnerware tucks into a built-in walnut cabinet next to the formal dining space.

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Kid-Friendly Family Room

colorful family room with desk
Helen Norman

The colorful family room is ready for anything. Kid-friendly linen armchairs and a pair of sofas are suited for movie-watching or conversation; a cozy window seat perfect for naps and reading is fortified with throw pillows; and a built-in desk in the corner is ready to tackle homework or bill-paying.

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Lively Art

colorful art behind orange linen armchairs
Helen Norman

Above the console table, the lively colors of the room are echoed in a piece of art.

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Neutral Porch Room

sun porch with accordion-style doors
Helen Norman

The palette gets toned down on the neutral sun porch where the family likes to host football parties. Accordion-style porch doors open up completely, allowing guests to spill out onto the patio while still keeping an eye on the score of the game.

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Well-Organized Mudroom

small mudroom with storage
Helen Norman

This petite mudroom is clean and orderly. Wooden crates stash boots and shoes while cabinet doors keep unsightly items tucked away. Hooks on the wall at high and low heights allow children and adults alike a spot to hang their belongings.

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Library Landing

library landing visible from entry
Helen Norman

Visible from the entry, the family's library creates an artlike element on the upstairs landing.

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Soft Shades

master bedroom with greens and blues
Helen Norman

Greens and blues, showing their soft side, reappear in upstairs rooms. "I wanted the primry bedroom to feel fresh, airy, and light," Liess says. Morning sun streaming against desaturated gray-blue walls sets the desired mood. Bedcoverings and curtains, layered over woven blinds, continue the calm, light look while a floral pillow fabric and a simple stripe on a settee infuse just the right zip.

An antique trunk and a vintage lamp bring age and character to this modern sanctuary.

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Traditional Bathroom

master bath with hexagonal floor tiles
Helen Norman

Liess used hexagonal floor tiles in the primary bath to get the traditional feel fitting of a Federal-style home. She juxtaposed them with a modern floating vanity.

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Blooming Guest Room

guest room with sunflower-print wallpaper
Helen Norman

Down the hall, a sunflower-print paper covering both the walls and the ceiling gives a cozy, old-fashioned attitude to the attic-like guest bedroom, where a modern camel-hue headboard contrasts a menagerie of vintage furniture pieces.

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Vintage Finds

black lacquered bamboo dresser
Helen Norman

Cowtan & Tout "Botanique Spectaculaire" wallpaper covers the guest quarters in coziness. A vintage chair and lamps comfortably share space with a new dresser that boasts the classic look of lacquered bamboo.

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Kids' Bedroom

kids room with blue headboards
Helen Norman

Cheerful color makes for a sweet kids' room. To get the children involved in the design process, Liess let them pick the pretty blue color used for their headboards.

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The Perfect Blend

designer lauren liess portrait
Helen Norman

Everywhere in this house, history lingers, never obtrusively, always willing to bend to the life and style of a modern couple and their kids. "The family and the house," Liess, pictured here, says, "became the perfect blend."

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