This Blank-Slate City Apartment Got an Eclectic Upgrade

With classic finishes and a fresh color palette, this compact Washington, D.C., home proves that a newly renovated space can still have an old soul.

When Kiera Kushlan got word that a sunny two-bedroom unit in an iconic Washington, D.C., building had just hit the market, she thought it must be too good to be true. And it was. While the location was a dream—a handsome pre-World War I structure on a picturesque street—the apartment itself was devoid of character of any kind.

As soon as she and her husband said “Sold!” Kiera began a top-to-bottom renovation focused on bringing the 100-year-old residence back to its former glory.

Once the nitty-gritty of the renovation was complete, Kiera set out to imbue the revived home with pretty, laid-back style. To do this, she enlisted streamlined furnishings and a fresh palette of black and white with pops of hot pink. The result is clean, modern decor that lets the old gal shine once more.

To maximize efficiency, Kiera closed up one of the two doorways in the kitchen. A dedicated entryway is the happy by-product of that modification. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases now line the entryway wall. In the hallway, a debonair midcentury dresser holds table linens and barware. Above it, a black-and-white riff on the D.C. flag fits the home’s color scheme.

One simple switch in the dining room—moving the heating and air unit by a few feet—made all the difference when it came to furnishing the space. An oversize mirror reflects natural light as well as a striking chandelier that brings a bit of circa-1900 panache.

plain living room wall before photo

Before the remodel, the living room was plain, bland, and boring. Lacking any real focal point Kiera knew some big changes had to be made in this space in order to make it feel more personalized and less blah.

Is a living room really a living room without a fireplace? Kiera didn’t think so. Enter her meticulously designed fireplace and flanking bookshelves that lend some turn-of-the-century appeal. The leather armchair, gray sofa, and glass-top table were all selected with the floor covering in mind. Adding to the newly warmed-up space is a colorful map purchased at a Paris flea market and a rug in complementing shades that Kiera scored on a trip to Morocco.

Cabinets that were falling apart and laminate flooring and countertops made for an unsightly kitchen. For a dose of drama in the revamped kitchen, Kiera nixed of-the-moment white cabinetry in favor of daring black.

Gleaming accents, such as white subway tile, Carrara marble countertops, polished nickel hardware, and a stainless-steel island, prevent the dark shade from overpowering the small space. Incorporating a few glass-front upper cabinets and leaving space for open shelves lighten up the heaviness of a dark finish in the kitchen.

To infuse the graphic kitchen with some warmth, Kiera incorporated floating shelves that tie into the new oak floors. The honey-hue planks not only keep dishware and cookbooks at the ready, but also offer an eye-pleasing visual break between the dark cabinets on either side.

Kiera took inspiration from the soft shades of green in an antique French poster and went with a cozy, woodsy feel in the nursery. To complement the earthy green tones, she chose a spindle crib with an organic, natural wood finish.

A mossy green hue is featured in a wrap-down paint job to highlight the home’s 10-foot ceilings. Large-scale accents, including the peel-and-stick wallpaper and plaid rug, further the cocoon-like feel. With frequent visits from grandparents, Kiera needed the nursery to double as a guest room. A linen daybed and trundle can host two overnight guests.

built-ins with window in dated master bedroom

Shoddy built-ins left the primary bedroom feeling narrow. Kiera wanted to optimize the space as best as she could for storage and functionality. She took inspiration from 1900s dressing rooms when designing the cabinetry of the primary suite.

Kiera’s less-is-more aesthetic is best on display in the primary bedroom, where black-and-white patterns—including the polka-dot wall decals—make for layered, nuanced style. Not one to miss an opportunity to incorporate some pink, Kiera chose a floral quilt that lends a feminine counterpoint to the more masculine brass lamps and mahogany nightstands.

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