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Before and After: Take a Peek Inside this Jaw-Dropping Washington Home Renovation

After looking at several homes, our client instantly knew that a 5,200 square foot architectural gem overlooking Rock Creek Park was the one—and it became one of my favorite before and after home renovations with Lorla Studio. The home was originally designed by Stephen Muse Architects, a highly regarded DC-based architecture firm. Our client, a leading legal professional working for one of the country’s largest venture capital firms, fell in love with the home’s location, its strong bones, and the amazing layout. Located in the Northwest D.C. neighborhood of Forest Hills, DC, the home also overlooks Rock Creek Park. Despite all that it had to offer, though, the 1994 home was still very much stuck in the 1990s and did not reflect our client’s aesthetic and lifestyle. We were brought on to reimagine the home for modern living and turn the unfinished basement into a family rec room and game room specifically catered to the client’s 10- and 13-year-old children. 

Apparatus studio lighting and sculptural furniture shine in contemporary living room design

Top Priorities for This Before & After Home Renovation

Preserving the home’s layout and connection to nature 

During this before and after home renovation, we did not change any of the home’s the existing exterior architecture, which allows for high ceilings and an abundance of large windows that look out onto the park below. With regard to the interior, we didn’t want to make any changes that would compete or take away from the gorgeous views of the park that are visible from almost every room of the house. To allow nature and the large windows to take center stage, we were very intentional about the colors and furniture that we introduced. For instance, the only rooms that have window treatments are the four bedrooms, and we kept to limited color palettes of dark greens, browns, tans, grays, and whites, all colors that are seen in nature. The home’s millwork is walnut, black stained oak or painted black wood. Black paired beautifully with the richness of the walnut, giving an elevated and masculine edge to the home.

Converting the Unfinished Basement

Our client relied on Lorla Studio’s services during this before and after home renovation in order to convert the unfinished basement, measuring 1,400 square feet, to include a large family room, kitchenette, game/pool room, guest bedroom, a full bathroom, a half bathroom, a home gym, and storage room. In this space, hardworking luxury vinyl tile, which is a very convincing version of white oak flooring, covers the concrete floors and is virtually indestructible. A low to the ground, giant, modular sectional encourages family movie nights and game nights. The game room has a warm and cozy portal limewash in dark green for a sophisticated, club-like vibe. It’s accentuated by the chic pool table and ceiling-mounted shelving—a family game room has never looked better! The kitchenette carries the dark and chic theme with black millwork offset by a Moroccan cement tile backsplash. 

Ensuring the Home Reflects Its Residents 

Another main priority of this before and after home renovation was transforming the home so that our client saw himself and his family reflected in the redesign. In doing so, we worked together and opted for a look that is minimal and sophisticated but still warm and inviting. We were inspired by nature, classic cars, vintage watches, and modern architecture, which all reflect the client’s interests. These elements are all reflected in small but impactful details throughout the home, such as integrated walnut handles on coat closet doors and integrated pulls throughout the kitchen cabinets. These interests also informed the browns, blacks, and tans that you can see in our color palette implemented throughout the home. 

Our client selected Lorla Studio for this before and after home renovation because he felt the spaces we design are chic but warm and sophisticated but not precious, and this was very important to him. We wanted to create a feeling of casual elegance: a space that was modern, minimal, chic, and sophisticated, but still highly functional to serve the owner and his family. The design strikes a delicate balance between luxury and comfort: chic for entertaining (something our client does a lot), but comfortable enough for a family get together, game nights, and everyday living.

One way we worked to achieve the feeling of casual elegance in the home was by using a subdued material palette and very intentional stone selections during the before and after home renovation. In the living room, we designed a custom travertine fireplace surround and flanked the backsplash of the custom drybar in travertine. We selected honed silver travertine due to its restrained yet elegant color palette and the sense of movement it brought to the space. In addition, the colors in the travertine are reflected in the colors of the park seen through the windows, and then echoed in the furniture: soft grays, browns, tans, and creams. We assessed that a bold veined marble would have overpowered the room, and we did not want any one element to grab too much attention. All of the design elements work together to create a feeling of restrained elegance, paying homage to the original architecture that placed nature at the forefront of the design. 

Our ideas for custom millwork were a hit with the client, and millwork is often a great way to add a dose of elegance and luxury to a space. The client made it clear that a minimal and clean home was his priority, and the key to executing this aesthetic is ample storage space to keep rooms clutter-free. We fully outfitted the laundry room and mudroom with custom cabinets and closets to enable this. The coat closet was reimagined by replacing the large doors with new walnut doors designed with integrated walnut pulls. It is highly functional and very elegant. This design language is carried into the kitchen design. The base cabinets remained, but we designed all new walnut cabinet fronts with notches and integrated bevel pulls, creating a warm minimal feeling. 

Key to achieving the clean and minimal feeling our client sought throughout his home was ensuring that every piece of furniture that we introduced was both functional and beautiful. In the living room, all of the furniture is low to the ground, neutral, and sculptural. This allows the furniture to not only be compelling and beautiful on its own, but also to complement the views out the windows to the back of the home without competing with the natural beauty outside. Despite the openness of the living room, sitting there feels intimate thanks to the soft furnishings and relatively low seating heights. We sought sculptural lines as seen on the sofa and decorative lighting, and soft, warm colors that do not compete for your attention, yet effectively keep the space from feeling cold. 

To soften up some of the hard lines of the architecture, we selected furniture with subtle curves and soft edges, like the sofa and armchair in the living room, and the fully upholstered bed frame in the primary bedroom. We selected textiles that are durable and will age beautifully, like leather, and paired these with aged brass or warm wood frames. We used plenty of luxurious, soft textiles (velvets, boucle, linen, and more) and curves, which all play an important role in keeping the home from feeling too modern or cold. 

Specifying handcrafted materials is another way we sought to counterbalance the modern elements of the space, and balance the line of clean and minimal but still warm. This can be seen in the all white zellige tiles, and neutral hand-applied clay lime finish on the walls in the primary bathroom. Plastered walls are used throughout the home, and this subtle texture was a wonderful way to add a softness to mostly white walls.

This home is new for this lovely family, and they moved in after the design was completed. The home renovation offered the family a fresh start after some recent life transitions, which led us to prioritize the layering of personal touches, such as art choices that spoke to the clients. Our client’s daughter is a huge Taylor Swift fan, and we surprised her with a large Taylor Swift gallery wall that was a lot of fun to design and had a huge impact. Small personal touches like this helped make the space immediately feel like their home. The bold Kate Zaremba wallpaper and hanging chair were other fun touches that we got to incorporate in the daughter’s bedroom. (This is one of the only rooms that strays a bit outside of the overall color palette, but it was perfect for the client’s needs!).

Contemporary kitchen with Moroccan designed wall tiles and black cabinents

Taking on Your Own Home Renovation in Washington, D.C. 

Ready to embark on your own residential home renovation in Washington, D.C.? You can get started by booking a design consultation with us before launching into a larger project, or you contact us about our full design services if you’re ready to hit the ground running! 


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