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Three D.C. interior designers take on sustainability and style.
Interior designers approach style the way a painter uses a palette—carefully selecting and mixing color, shape and texture to create an overarching impression. But with design, the temporal dimension provides yet another layer of aesthetics and meaning to experiment with. As stylistic sensibilities have changed over time, the designer’s palette has grown as well.
While some designers maintain a consistent traditional or contemporary style, others find joy in mixing objects and approaches from various time periods in innovative ways. These three designers use elements from throughout the last century to create fresh, unique spaces.
Lisa Puchalla, LilyMae Design
At LilyMae Design, owner Lisa Puchalla feels a pull toward the traditional but finds inspiration in incorporating pieces from various periods to give her clients the look they are searching for.
“What I like to do is mix different styles and elements together,” she said. For example, hanging a contemporary drum shade over a traditional dining table “can give you an updated edge but not take away from that traditional feel.”
She also lends traditional spaces a modern sensibility with pops of color, especially bright shades of red, orange and yellow.
“An accent wall—or even an entire room in a really bright color mixed in with traditional pieces—makes a great feel,” she said. Puchalla stays away from trendy looks that are out of style as soon as she finishes a job, instead focusing on achieving timeless charm that will last for years.
She also wants to make sure her materials are made for longevity and sustainability. Her projects often employ eco-friendly fabrics from makers such as Duralee and Kravet, which offer long-lasting options and choices made of organic cotton, recycled polyester and bamboo.
Raji Radhakrishnan, Raji RM & Associates
Raji Radhakrishnan, founder and lead designer at Raji RM & Associates, is an expert on mixing styles from various times and places to achieve smart and intriguing designs for her clients.
She has been known to do decisively traditional or contemporary interiors, but her real joy as a designer comes from mixing things up. Her frequent use of large-scale murals featuring photographs or artwork is typical of her innovative approach.
“A lot of my work has a huge vintage thing to it,” she said. “Vintage means everything from 1910s to 1970s and 1980s. I might mix a traditional-style sofa with a modern-style table. I know how to mix them up and make them work together.”
She remembers a particular design job in which the client wanted to combine diverse styles in “a Jeffersonian, classical” Washington, D.C., apartment. She focused on WWII-era vintage items and incorporated a large portrait of Thomas Jefferson over the mantel.
Focusing on reusing vintage pieces allows Radhakrishnan to build sustainability into her projects, and she also makes an effort to buy in bulk and use eco-friendly materials when possible. She’s eager to choose more new, eco-friendly furniture as well.
Mark Lawrence, E/L Studio
As a designer and architect with a contemporary aesthetic, E/L Studio’s co-founder and principal Mark Lawrence sees form and function as two pieces of the same puzzle.
“We try to stay away from the question of style,” he said. “The best solutions come from our design process.” After a moment he added, “Certainly we like clean and simple solutions.”
He found one such solution for a family of four in Arlington, Virginia, that needed more space but couldn’t easily expand their house, which sat on a fairly small property. Lawrence and his partner converted unused attic and storage space, popped up a portion of the roof to maximize ceiling height, and borrowed from one space to enlarge another. The result is a sleek, contemporary home that feels much larger than its square footage.
“They say the house is ten times better than it was,” he said. And he also sees a win in the fact that the family won’t be moving to a larger home that uses more resources. In fact, the project even reduced their square footage slightly while increasing the useable space.
“That was Sustainability 101,” he said. “They could either move further out to a bigger piece of property or stay closer to the city in the neighborhood that they love. They’re very happy.”
Creating ambiance and glow with Washington Gas
Natural gas is not only the cleanest burning fossil fuel but can also contribute a special ambiance to your home. A gas fireplace creates a cozy mood with the flip of a switch. With models ranging from minimalist to ornate, and many log sets to choose from, there’s one to fit any space and style. Vent-free fireplaces, which can be safely installed anywhere, allow for greater design flexibility.
Keep your outdoor dining space toasty and welcoming with a patio heater or a fire pit. Faux campfire log sets can give your pit that authentic woods-like look. A flame bowl—which is just as dramatic as it sounds—offers a striking effect.