Sloans & Kenyon Photo by Brian Searby; Urban Country photo by Greg Powers; Gallery St. Elmo photo by James Mertz; trust interior photo by Erick Gibson; Hollis & Knight and Tone on Tone Courtesy Photos
“You’ve got to shop frequently to happen upon the best stuff,” Bethesda-based designer Kelley Proxmire says.
And that’s exactly why we turned to top local designers to help us find the area’s best home shops—they are always out shopping and they know where to look.
Many of the designers we spoke with said that good design is all about creating the right mix: blending Etsy finds with items from a high-end art gallery; mixing traditional and modern pieces; and adding interesting and unusual accents. The key is to keep things off balance. “You can find an item at Target that will really work for a client,” Bethesda-based designer Marika Meyer says. “Small shops are great for accessories—pillows, lamps, vintage and more artisanal items.”
To help us come up with the list of shops below, we asked a handful of designers who work in the Bethesda area where they go to find unique, well-made pieces that make a room stand out. Here are the local stores that came up again and again.
This locally-based chain is a favorite among designers for its many lines of creative, artistic tiles—mosaics with Asian-inspired nature scenes or geometric patterns, textured stone, and beautifully combined porcelain and glass surfaces. Washington, D.C., designer Skip Sroka, who has worked with nearly two dozen clients in the Bethesda area within the last year, says the company offers a surprising array of well-crafted options for walls, floors and backsplashes. “Custom lines, budget lines, ‘pie in the sky’ lines—they’ve really got a great selection,” Sroka says. “If they don’t have what you’re looking for, maybe it’s not made.” 6807 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, 301-718-8343; 800 East Gude Drive, Suite F, Rockville, 301-251-3555; architectural ceramics.com
C.G. Coe & Son
At C.G. Coe & Son, you can purchase a fine Oriental rug from a selection of international importers or create one from a wide variety of broadloom flooring materials. The family-owned store has been in business for more than 25 years. Rockville designer Celia Welch says she visits the shop for its personal service and wide range of options. “They’ve got a nice collection of modern and traditional styles and a good collection of wool,” Welch says. 4905 Del Ray Ave., Bethesda; 301-986-5800; coecarpetandrug.com
Design Within Reach
Local designers say they flock to this modern home store whenever they’re looking to shake up the staid and stately. The Connecticut-based chain is known for furniture, rugs, pendant lamps, and other home furnishings by a who’s who of cutting-edge contemporary design stars such as Angela Adams, Chris Hardy and Nathan Yong. Says Chevy Chase designer Jodi Macklin: “It’s very contemporary, very now.” You can also find pieces by midcentury icons such as Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen and Le Corbusier, including a version of Le Corbusier’s sling chair—an original is part of the collection at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art—that still looks austerely contemporary a half-century after the designer’s death. 4828 St. Elmo Ave., Bethesda; 301-215-7200; dwr.com
Gaylords Lamps and Shades
Since lighting can quite literally set the tone (and mood) of a room, designers take great care in choosing lamps and light fixtures. There are lots of stores that carry the same brands of chandeliers, pendant lamps, wall fixtures and floor lamps, but Gaylords’ lamp repair services and large selection of lamp shades make the 61-year-old shop a designer favorite. “Lamp shades wear out. What are you going to do?” Sroka says. “Gaylords is a great resource.” 5272 River Road, Bethesda; 301-986-9680; gaylordslampandshade.com
Goldsborough Glynn Antiques & Decorative Arts
One of several shops on Kensington’s Antique Row, Goldsborough so epitomizes the Washington area’s traditional look that it has helped producers of the popular Netflix political drama House of Cards put just the right “inside the Beltway” patina on its sets. Sisters Margaret Goldsborough and Susan Goldsborough Glynn, who opened the shop in 2008, find pieces at estate sales, auctions, consignment shops and through independent dealers. Besides well-made antiques in dark woods such as cherry and mahogany, you can find mirrors in gilded frames, lamps, candelabras, brass bookends and other appropriately weighty accessories to go with the Federalist-style furniture. 3746 Howard Ave., Kensington; 301-933-4460
Hollis & Knight
Designers swear by this tasteful, traditional antiques emporium, which moved its showroom to Kensington from Georgetown about five years ago. It has everything from furniture and antique sconces to crystal candelabras and century-old landscape paintings that give a traditional home a “Founding Fathers” gravitas. In addition to carrying antiques, the shop works with 600 manufacturers, including upholsterers and furniture-makers—you can order environmentally-friendly furniture from California, or commission a custom-made Tibetan rug from Nepal. 4229 Howard Ave., Kensington; 202-333-6999; hollisandknight.com
Kaller Fine Arts
Before opening this gallery in Upper Northwest D.C. about 10 years ago, Candace Kaller owned a gallery in San Francisco and worked as a museum educator at the National Gallery of Art and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She represents dozens of artists and fine art photographers who make everything from figurative and abstract paintings and landscapes to three-dimensional pieces such as wall hangings, sculptures and installations. Designers say Kaller will help them find the right piece for a space. “She’ll come out to see what the place is like, bring the piece out and let you decide,” Welch says. 3732 Chesapeake St., NW D.C.; 301-908-1365; kallerfinearts.com
Tone on Tone
Tone on Tone, which specializes in painted 18th- and 19th-century Swedish antiques, is not your typical antiques shop. All of the store’s handcrafted wooden furniture is marked by simple lines and neutral tones. “They have a simplicity to them and an architectural quality that I really like,” says Washington, D.C.-based designer Gary Lovejoy, who has many clients in Bethesda. The store carries everything from dining room sets and kitchen cabinets to hanging wall clocks, lamps and chests of drawers with matching mirrors. “It’s fun to go in and look for pieces for inspiration,” Sroka says. 7920 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 240-497-0800; tone-on-tone.com
Since repairing antique furniture quickly can be crucial to many projects, designers closely guard the names of their favorite craftsmen. But Welch says Trust Interiors is too good to keep to herself. “It’s a family-owned business that’s been around a long time,” she says, adding that the owners are “nice people” dedicated to quality workmanship; the White House and several Washington-area embassies top the Rockville company’s client list. In addition to repairing antiques, the company takes commissions for new custom furniture and drapes, and does custom upholstery. 11910 Parklawn Drive, #M, Rockville; 301-231-8770; trustinteriors.com
Sloans & Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers
One of the premier auction houses in Bethesda, Sloans & Kenyon trades in everything that can be found in a home—from old books and manuscripts to grand pianos and antiques. Designers say it’s known for well-made furniture, and it specializes in Americana as well as art deco and art nouveau pieces. Auction dates are listed on the company’s website. If you can’t wait, you can always check out the S&K Consignment Boutique in Chevy Chase. 7034 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-634-2330; sloansandkenyon.com
Gallery St. Elmo
This shop is chock full of furniture, lighting and knickknacks—you’ll find Tibetan paintings, Buddha heads, crystal stemware and Tiffany standing lamps. Though the store sells antiques from many eras, the back room is dedicated to the 1950s. A recent visit turned up a set of chairs rescued from an old beauty parlor and classic midcentury Heywood-Wakefield desks and chests. Proxmire says St. Elmo’s unexpected mix makes it one of her favorite shops. “I love the hunt,” she says. 4938 St. Elmo Ave., Bethesda; 301-654-0576; gallerystelmo.com
Urban Country carries a little of everything: furniture, bedding, lighting, artwork, rugs, even upholstery fabrics. The store’s selection changes often, with new merchandise every week, says Welch, who makes it a habit to stop in frequently. “It’s great to be able to come and pick lighting right off the floor,” she says. That sort of convenience is increasingly rare as more designers shop online—an approach that lacks the immediate gratification of an outing to Urban Country. 7117 Arlington Road, Bethesda; 301-654-0500; urbancountrydesigns.com
Christine MacDonald is a freelance reporter who lives in Washington, D.C. To comment on this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.