May-June 2016 | Home & Garden

Updated Classic Home

Upper Northwest D.C. family used bright colors and bold patterns to modernize colonial home

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Interior designer Shannon Bieter met her husband, Mark, in 1995, when they were both working as legislative aides on Capitol Hill. She worked for a congressman from her hometown,Fort Smith, Arkansas, and he worked for a congressman from his, Boise, Idaho.

After they got married and had a child, they began looking for a house. They wanted their daughter, Vivian, now 12, to live in a neighborhood that felt like the smaller towns they both grew up in. They found it in the District, in American University Park. “It has parks and sidewalks and mature trees, and you can bike everywhere,” Shannon says. “It’s very friendly and a great place for raising kids.”

In 2005, they bought a 1931 Colonial Revival that had undergone a recent renovation. “The house was typical of my style—traditional, yet not stuffy,” Bieter says. “I felt I could decorate it to be warm and welcoming, but just dressy enough. People think they can’t have nice spaces with kids running around. But you can. Your whole house doesn’t have to be a playroom.”

The main level of the 3,100-square-foot, four-bedroom home has a flowing open floor plan, with cased openings and pocket doors connecting all the spaces. Over the last 11 years, Bieter has been decorating the home gradually, giving each space its own identity. “My overall decorating approach is traditional, but I like a splash of trend in every room,” she says. “It’s been a work in progress.”

Front Porch

Photos by Robert Radifera. Styling by Charlotte Safavi

“Growing up in the South, I was always on the porch,” Bieter says. Today, she and her husband often read the newspaper on their own front porch. On the Fourth of July, Bieter puts up red, white and blue bunting to complement her outdoor palette. “I thought it would be fun to decorate the porch in patriotic colors, since we live in the nation’s capital,” she says. The Pier 1 Imports glass table is from the couple’s first apartment. A bench, two white Adirondack chairs and custom Sunbrella cushions complete the look.

Living Room

Photos by Robert Radifera. Styling by Charlotte Safavi

The first thing Bieter bought for the living room was an aqua, raspberry and gold Tibetan wool and silk rug. The cream-colored sofa was upholstered in a durable fabric from Crypton, and a pair of Bergere chairs are covered in an updated paisley. The walls are painted in a light blue color called “Tradewind” by Sherwin-Williams. “The last piece in the decorating puzzle is often room paint for me,” Bieter says. “I don’t want to be wedded to the paint on the wall. I like to choose that color after I’ve picked my fabrics and furnishings.”

Since the home doesn’t have a traditional foyer, Bieter chose a narrow console table from Chelsea House. The family uses it as a place to put mail and keys. “It can also get moved into the dining room as a sideboard when we entertain,” Bieter says. Embroidered lattice curtains on either side of the traditional table give the nook a more contemporary feel.


Photos by Robert Radifera. Styling by Charlotte Safavi

The first floor includes a den area off the kitchen, which is also connected to the living room via a cased opening. “I didn’t want it to be too casual,” Bieter says. “I wanted it to be an overflow area for parties, and also a place for the family to congregate while I was cooking.”

To break up the rectangular room’s right angles and straight lines, the décor includes softly curved furnishings, including a roll-arm sofa, a tufted ottoman and an S-based iron table lamp. A round wheelbarrow mirror achieves the same purpose.

Dining Room

Photos by Robert Radifera. Styling by Charlotte Safavi

Bieter likes to mix older pieces or reproductions with newer furnishings. In her dining room, she paired an antique dining table with two pairs of new chairs, one by Fairfield Chair Co. and one by Woodbridge Furniture Co. The back of the Woodbridge chairs were upholstered in orange, adding a pop of color to the space. To bounce light around the small room, Bieter hung a transparent glass chandelier and brought in mirrored accessories, such as the box on the windowsill from Random Harvest.

Even when setting a table, Bieter blends old and new. Here, gold metal chargers from Z Gallerie share space with heirloom silver.


Photos by Robert Radifera. Styling by Charlotte Safavi

A wrought iron lantern hangs above the kitchen table. Bieter painted the light fixture in Benjamin Moore’s “Stone Harbor,” the same color she had selected for the adjacent island. Bieter chose the black-lacquered bentwood chairs from Crate and Barrel because they reminded her of the chairs that used to be in her grandfather’s pharmacy in Arkansas. The table is also from Crate and Barrel. “The marble top is easy to clean, and kids have fun making candies and cookies on it,” Bieter says.

 “Every zone in my house has to have an eye-catcher, like a piece of jewelry,” Bieter says. In the kitchen, it is the Architectural Ceramics backsplash made of capiz shells. She balanced out the cottage-y feel of the white cabinets by choosing contemporary handles in a satin nickel finish.

Master Bedroom

Photos by Robert Radifera. Styling by Charlotte Safavi

Bieter felt the windows in the master bedroom looked small against the large wall, so she added boxy cornices to them to create a focal point. They were custom-designed and are dressed in a Robert Allen fabric. Round night tables and curvy ceramic lamps from Arteriors combat the room’s linear forms. The bedding is from Legacy Home.

Vivian’s bedroom

Bieter wanted to create a sophisticated room that her daughter could grow into. The wall above the bed was covered in polka dot wallpaper by Thibaut, while the other walls were painted in a pale pink by Benjamin Moore. The bedroom is small—a tall tufted twin headboard by Legacy Home adds height by drawing the eye upward. “The geometric shapes in the rug help elongate the room, too,” Bieter says. The hanging wall art came from Etsy.

Writer and stylist Charlotte Safavi lives in Alexandria, Virginia.