his living room, with its massive scale, huge windows and double-height ceiling, had become orphaned from the rest of the house; the homeowners simply didn’t know how to incorporate it into their lifestyle and weren’t using it,” recalls interior designer Kirsten Kaplan of Haus Interior Design, when speaking about the McLean living room she helped bring back into the fold.
When Kaplan first saw the space, she could see why the homeowners—and their three children (12, 15, 17)—felt intrinsically unwelcome in the room. Not only was it large, eating up much of the main floor plan, but it was also painted a dated butter yellow with traditional white moldings.
The homeowners wanted to use the living room for fundraisers and entertaining, but more importantly, they wanted it to be a warm, welcoming space where they and their children could gather.
“Our main challenge was to make the space cozier and less cavernous: It would remain grand but become inviting,” she adds.
Palette was key. Inspired by an existing artwork owned by the family, Kaplan went with a warm, monochromatic palette of grays.
“We painted the walls in slate hue, and the window moldings and the fireplace in a rich charcoal color. The palette instantly anchored and helped ground the room, making it welcoming and less daunting,” she says.
Once the refuge for random furniture that didn’t fit elsewhere in the house, appropriately scaled furnishings and a well-planned layout further transformed the room. Upholstery choices, like washed velvet and soft chenille, felt good to the touch and were cozy.
“We also created multiple seating areas in the room, creating ‘moments,’ like you can sit in the intimate corner armchairs and have a conversation, or nap on a sofa, while someone else is reading the paper on another one,” says Kaplan.
Of course, the Christmas tree is put up in this room, where the fire roars throughout the season, and the family now truly enjoys and spends time in what was once wasted space.
Warrenton-based Casey Sanford has an eye for making neutral spaces vibrate with life. When called upon to design a formal living room for a young family (husband, wife and three kids) in Oakton, she readily embraced the challenge.
“The room was 15-by-12 feet, but it had four large windows facing the front of the home. I wanted to design a refined, transitional-style space that was inspired by the trees and greenery right outside,” says Sanford.
An existing abstract landscape painting above the fireplace mantle also contained the organic, neutral hues that ultimately became the formal living room’s understated palette: soft creams, light greens and gray-blues. The Oushak rug sourced for the space also had hints of faded rust in its pattern, which carry over into some of the warmer metallic finishes used throughout.
“For metals, there is the antiqued silver and brass of the two-tiered glass cocktail table, as well as the bronze of the French drapery rods. They add dimension, patina and interest to the neutrality of the room,” says Sanford.
Previously, builder-grade blinds closed off much of the light coming in from the windows. These were removed early on in the design process and replaced with custom pinch-pleated drapery panels, enhancing the natural brightness of the room, while adding warmth to it.
“Though the space is traditional in feel, we implemented transitional pulls throughout, with clean furniture lines and simple upholstery choices,” she says.
For example, the sofa is covered in a pale, soft linen, while a wingchair is cloaked in a buttery-cream leather. The transparency of the glass-and-metal cocktail and side tables keep the smaller-scaled room open and airy, allowing the eye to travel through to the fireplace.
“The homeowners use the room to entertain their guests and family, especially during the holiday season,” says Sanford. “It sits right off the foyer at the front of the house, so it is a warm and welcoming beacon for each of its visitors.”
When Caroline and Liam Coakley reached out to Vienna-based Studio 320 to help redesign what they wished to call their ‘gathering room,’ it was very clear from the start that they had their four children (ages 15 and under) in mind.
“It’s the main living space in their home; they wanted a fully functional place where everyone could spend time together,” says principal designer Andrea Maaseide of the Mclean home.
The homeowners were also looking to shift the traditional vibe of the living room to something fresher and approachable in a transitional style. The existing beautiful, stone fireplace—the hearth and heart of the room—was a starting point for palette inspiration, as was the Oushak carpet selected for the space.
“Our client fell in love with the area rug during our first visit to the Design Center,” says Maaseide of the wool Oushak. “It features pale blues, soft creams and warm taupes in a washed pattern.”
The living room had previously been filled with dark leather and wood furniture in browns and beiges. Studio 320 introduced the lighter colors, as well as the transitional style furnishings in tactile family-friendly fabrics, like the plush ‘velvet’ blend upholstering the quartet of swivel armchairs.
“In addition to freshening and brightening up the space, the homeowners wanted that updated transitional look, but everything needed to remain traditional enough to stay consistent with the rest of the home,” she says.
Floor-to-ceiling curtains added warmth and coziness to the open floor plan and tall coffered ceilings, but the layout, with distinct areas for different tasks, made the design feel complete.
Behind the propped art is a mounted television for enjoying movies or ballgames from the comfort of the sofa. Meanwhile, armchairs swivel for conversations or viewing. There is also a game table set up in one corner, and, in another, a secretary that doubles for correspondence or a place to set a laptop.
“This is now the true heart of the home, where the family spends quality time together,” says Maaseide.