Homeowner Michael M. Meldon may not be Virginia born-and-bred, but his ties to the commonwealth run deep.
“I first moved to the D.C.-area in 1981 and have always lived in Northern Virginia,” says the Pittsburgh native who purchased his two-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot Cameron Station townhouse in 1999.
Meldon, a senior financial advisor by trade, was also educated at the University of Virginia and is a huge fan of Georgian architecture. Located in the City of Alexandria, Cameron Station is a planned, mostly residential community of Georgian-style townhouses modeled after their 18th- and 19th-century counterparts, with red brick facades and pleasing symmetry. The neighborhood emulates nearby Old Town, but is newly imagined for the 21st century.
“I’d been living in an older Alexandria home at the time,” shares Meldon of moving in during the community’s initial phase of development. “I’d wanted an updated, brand-new house, but with architectural character. Cameron Station was perfect for me. It’s also in a great commuter location—close to both I-395 and the Beltway—and is very neighborly.”
Though one of Cameron Station’s earliest residents, Meldon waited until the spring of 2016 to refresh his interior decor. The home’s bones were good: polished oak floors, neutral walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s “Filtered Sunlight” and collected furnishings, including several walnut pieces. But it was time for a redo.
“I decided to work with a decorator for the same reason that I consult my CPA, attorney and physician,” he says. “I believe that it’s always best to work with professionals.”
A good friend who lives nearby in Old Town referred Meldon to an area decorator, Alexandria Davenport. Davenport, whose business is now called Decor Decorum, used to have a brick-and-mortar store by the name of Tchoupitoulas Furnishings in Old Town.
“Michael came by the old store,” recalls Davenport. “He initially wanted to hire me to redo his living and dining rooms, which are open to each other on the second floor. He was looking to change carpets and switch out fabrics, get new artwork and some fresh furnishings.”
Meldon already owned core furniture, like the dining room set and the desk and chair in the living room. After all, he had been living in the house and collecting pieces for more than a decade, but he wanted to give his home a fresh style and a sense of cohesion.
“The house looked completely different before. It was darker, heavier, clubby and masculine,” says Meldon. “I wanted something lighter, brighter and more welcoming. A comfortable, vibrant and elegant place, where it would be a joy to entertain friends, or simply to settle in alone and read a good book. I like the look of a classic English country home, but with the cozier elements of French Provencal decor.”
The former living room’s furniture included a dark green leather sofa, a heavy Oriental carpet and a pair of stuffed armchairs. Davenport began the redesign by repurposing these pieces to a home office on the first floor. Then she took stock of the public rooms, which included the living and dining rooms on the open plan, as well as the kitchen visible through a door casement, and began coming up with suggestions for achieving Meldon’s vision.
To her, commissioning the living room’s handmade wool-and-silk carpet was an early design decision that helped set the decor’s palette, tone and direction.
“We had the carpet custom-made based on an existing carpet in the French Ambassador’s parlor at France’s Embassy in Washington, D.C.,” says Davenport. “Our carpet was designed to fit the living room, with its pattern done to scale. The rug company sent us several sketches and a loomed sample, so we could tweak the pattern and refine the colors.”
The living room carpet has a soft cream background, with a classical Wedgewoodblue pattern, and is bordered in deep red. It fits the space perfectly, and makes a strong aesthetic statement.
“The rug’s palette and graceful pattern reminds me of my parents’ parlor growing up in Pittsburgh,” adds Meldon, becoming nostalgic about his childhood upbringing in a well-to-do part of Pittsburgh, as well as his open admiration for his parents’ impeccable taste.
Next came a tailored, yet traditional sofa in a red linen blend, which also plays off an existing artwork hanging above it in the living room. An upholstered armchair and a bergere chair provide additional comfortable seating. The furniture is laid out peripherally in the space, so as not to block the carpet’s visual presence; the cocktail table has a transparent glass top for the same reason, while its wrought metal base works with the French Provencal theme.
“I wanted to balance the French country vibe,” adds Davenport. “Michael lives in the city and has refined taste. He’s educated, cultured and traveled, so I made choices for fabrics and patterns that are true to the Provencal look but also have an underlying degree of sophistication. I pulled in a lot of silk.”
Davenport skillfully weaves in updated takes on botanicals, plaids and checks as patterns, but keeps the palette quiet in soft blues, celadon greens and rich creams, rather than loud in the primary yellows and blues one associates with traditional French Provencal decor.
Meanwhile, Meldon commissioned his window treatments and bedroom linens through Valerianne, an iconic Northern Virginia home and design store, specializing in luxury textiles, located in Herndon. The proprietress, Aimee Wedlake Lange, consulted with Meldon, and the resulting floor-to-ceiling Chinoiserie curtains in the living room tie the room’s palette together well, while imparting understated elegance. They also work with the French feel.
“We added a bench, with turned legs, by the fireplace,” says Davenport of some finishing touches to the space. “Michael loves to entertain. Sometimes, he has 20 or more people
around for dinner or cocktails. In the summer he has the balcony doors open; in the fall the fireplace is on. I thought it would be nice to have a flexible, practical piece of seating that wouldn’t block any through-views.”
Next up was the dining room. John Brown of J Brown & Co.—a longtime Old Town home store—also happens to live in Cameron Station. Meldon, who enjoys exploring Old Town’s boutiques, bought some of his home’s accessories from Brown, including the glass-and-gilt bar cart, which sits in the dining room.
Davenport’s challenge in the dining room was how to tie that space, with its existing walnut wood furniture, to the adjacent living room, while still giving it its own sense of identity. The plaid silk selected for the dining chair cushions was pulled directly from the custom pillows on the living room sofa.
“We also thought selecting the right art would be both impactful and spatially defining,” says Davenport. “Michael had always wanted a piece by Geoffrey Johnson, who is carried at the Principle Art Gallery in Old Town,” she continues. “We narrowed down the options to three different paintings, and Michael chose this one. It was selected for its subject matter—a Central Park, New York cityscape—and vibrant palette.”
Once the art was hung and the dining chair cushions—“We gave them Velcro straps, instead of bows, less frilly and more clean-lined,” Davenport adds—were in place, it became clear that the old carpet there wasn’t going to work.
“We sourced a similar handmade carpet to the one in the living room with respect to palette, but in a different style. Neither of us wanted an extreme departure, as the rooms are open to each other, but we wanted it to have its own look. The idea was for it to complement but not compete with the other one,” says Davenport.
The abstract linear pattern of the new carpet is almost a contemporary take on the plaid of the dining chair cushions, while having a thread of celadon woven in, borrowing directly from the dining room’s artwork.
In the kitchen, the look is a bit more traditional French Provencal, but again with a lighter touch. There may be a pair of rooster pillows, but they sit in an elegant cream French settee in the eat-in nook. Its’ gently curved frame adds chic balance to the cozy spot, as does the glamorous beveled glass framed mirror also acquired from J Brown & Co.
“Again, we didn’t want to go French country all the way,” says Davenport, who sourced custom silk toile and plaid chair cushions, with piping details, for the kitchen’s existing bar and bergere chairs. The palette here is also subtle, tone-on-tone blues, pulling from the carpet. “We didn’t want to be all roosters and chickens, heavy brocades and tapestries, and overly bold colors. It’s still Provencal but more sophisticated,” she adds.
“My home matches my lifestyle perfectly now,” says Meldon. “It has that balance of bright beauty and warm comfort. When I’m home, it makes me happy.” He pauses and then adds, “It also reminds me of my parents’ old home. It was always my desire to one day decorate a house, like they did, in the manner I love to live and entertain, and I feel like Alex helped me finally to achieve that.”