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A small, turn-of-the-century co-op gets a big dose of girly glam |

A small, turn-of-the-century co-op gets a big dose of girly glam



Wide black and white painted stripes add personality to the hallway at Louisa Bargeron’s apartment in Washington D.C.
Photo for The Washington Post by Goran Kosanovic











Louisa Bargeron loved the 10-foot ceilings, the fireplace with original tile and claw-foot tub in her one-bedroom co-op at the venerable Ontario in Washington, D.C. The hodgepodge kitchen, cracked ancient bathroom tile and her mismatched furniture — not so much.

Bargeron felt unsure of how to get her taste, personality, and a bit of girly glam, into her 835-square-foot home while keeping its historical character. So she reached out to District designers Kiera Kushlan and Jessica Centella of Residents Understood. Today, she’s got a stylish new kitchen with an oak library ladder to reach high cabinets, a sparkly chandelier over her bed, a warm green dining room with an art-deco-inspired bar cart and a bohemian bathroom with black walls, brass sconces and white marble subway tiles.

“Louisa wanted to live in a pretty space,” says Centella, who started Residents Understood with Kushlan in 2010.

The designers got why Bargeron was in love with the Ontario, which opened in 1904 and retains original details. It’s one of Washington’s most recognizable apartment buildings. “These places still have the soul of the building,” Kushlan says. “That’s what brought Louisa here, and we wanted to keep that feeling.”

Bargeron, from New York City, moved to the District in 2009 and bought her co-op in 2014. The Ontario reminded her of Brooklyn brownstones and Harlem prewar buildings. instantly fell in love with it and wanted to live here,” says Bargeron, 43, works at the Defense Department. The apartment has separate living and dining rooms, a compact kitchen and a long hallway leading to a bedroom and bath.

She spent nine months trying to furnish it herself. “I didn’t know how to pull it together. There was no sort of flow or good feng shui here,” Bargeron says. “Although I was always buying things to try to overcome that, I was actually just adding to the clutter.”

She also realized the kitchen, with its jumble of different cabinets, skimpy counter space and old appliances, wasn’t working. So in November 2015 she contacted Kushlan and Centella. They agreed on a plan to redo not only her kitchen but also her bathroom, and to decorate the place. “I wanted them to blend the rooms so they had a flow and a theme,” Bargeron says.

She made a Pinterest board showing what she liked and filled out a client questionnaire.“In terms of design, I’m anywhere from modern to traditional to French country. I can’t decide on any one,” she wrote.

Kushlan and Centella mulled over her profile. Their plan was to play up the vintage Old World charm of the place and balance it with modern, clean-lined furniture. The kitchen and bathroom renovations would maximize the grand ceiling height and details. The designers could incorporate some of what Bargeron owned, pulling everything together with paint, wallpaper, lighting and accessories.

“Louisa has a wonderful feminine style, so it was such a fun project to work on from a style perspective,” Kushlan says.

The kitchen accommodate five major appliances, including a washer-dryer set, while saving two original glass-front cabinets. More storage came with new gray cabinets. The opening to the dining room was enlarged to make the space airier. On kitchen walls, Centella and Kushlan used basic white subway tile in a matte finish so the counter-to-ceiling expanse wasn’t too shiny. For the floor, they chose a black tile in a herringbone pattern. A wood countertop warmed up the look.

The dining room, which has original corner cabinets with leaded-glass detailing, was painted Benjamin Moore Lafayette Green to contrast the natural light and white built-ins and molding, Kushlan says. Bargeron had bought a dining table at West Elm, so they added a rug, artwork and chandelier.

The long hallway was given 10-inch horizontal black and white stripes for “personality,” Kushlan says, and because the wall stretches almost the full length of the unit into the living room, it helps visually distract from the television.

The bathroom was full of century-old details, but the tile was cracking and there was no storage. The designers urged an all-glass walk-in shower, but Bargeron wanted to keep the claw-foot tub. So they added marble subway tiles and eight-inch, hexagonal floor tiles in dark gray. A thick crown molding dressed it up, as did the Jet Black paint by Benjamin Moore and a Restoration Hardware washstand in antiqued wood, metal and marble.

Bargeron had an upholstered bed. The designers framed the wall behind it with a metallic silver lace wallpaper from Hygge West.

The living room has a lot of natural light. Bargeron wanted a space for overnight guests, so Kushlan and Centella chose the Room Board Watson sleeper sofa and set it across from two leather chairs. They replaced an ugly ceiling fan with an industrial brass one by Rejuvenation. The original fireplace recalls a chic turn-of-the-century Parisian flat.

“My favorite piece in the living room is the mirror, which is from Anthropologie,” Bargeron says of the romantic iron Gleaming Primrose mirror. “That piece just nailed it for me. It reminded me of the sort of brownstones in New York City that have beautiful mantels and mirrors built in. It’s really something after my own heart.”

Five savvy solutions for tight spaces

Small spaces demand a more imaginative approach. Designers Kiera Kushlan and Jessica Centella of Residents Understood had lots of creative ideas for Louisa Bargeron’s 835-square-foot co-op. We asked them for some pointers based on issues they faced.

• Be innovative with storage. Bargeron had a lot of beautiful sheet sets and duvet covers but no linen closet. Kushlan and Centella solved the problem with a black dresser (Pottery Barn’s Chloe) that stores all of her linens and acts as a media console in the living room. To add sparkle, they swapped out the hardware with Anthropologie’s chunky pink gem pulls.

• Focus on priorities. Bargeron desperately wanted a washer and dryer in her home but could not spare a closet. So they went in the kitchen. By closing off an unnecessary second door to the kitchen, Kushlan and Centella made room for a stacked washer and dryer in the corner. A tall pantry cabinet houses Electrolux’s 24-inch front-load washer and 24-inch ventless dryer.

• Take advantage of high ceilings. One of the best things about old buildings is the generous ceiling height. Bargeron’s kitchen offered lots of opportunity for vertical storage, but it wasn’t accessible to a person of average height. Kushlan and Centella added a rolling ladder that not only looks beautiful but allows Bargeron to easily reach all of her dishes.

• Don’t let the TV ruin your fireplace aesthetic. Bargeron’s living room features a beautiful fireplace and mantel. The last thing anyone wanted was to hang a television above it. So instead, Kushlan and Centella placed it on a black dresser on another wall. They kept the furniture centered around the fireplace, with two green leather swivel chairs (West Elm’s Lucas) so guests can center themselves for conversation or spin to view the TV.

• Consider smaller appliances. Because there were five major appliances in the 80-square-foot kitchen, smaller appliances had to be used. Among the selections were an 18-inch Bosch 800 series dishwasher and a 25-inch Fisher Paykel Active Smart refrigerator.

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