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Every picture tells a story in this remodeled Washington, DC townhouse. The owners, one a photographer, moved from Guatemala

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A house is not a home until you stamp your own personality on the interior, at which point it truly comes alive.

This remodeled townhouse is living proof of the transformation that's possible, says architect Andreas Charalambous, who was responsible for the interior design.

"The original interior was very dated, and visually cluttered, with a lot of different materials used in the various rooms," he says. "The new owners, who were moving to Washington, DC from Guatemala, wanted to modernize the entire space. They wanted to incorporate some interesting furniture pieces they were bringing with them, and because one of the owners, Manuel Morquecho, is a photographer, they also needed an appropriate backdrop for his photography collection."

The changes begin at the entry, which leads directly into the dining area. To enhance the sense of arrival, Charalambous created a dramatic dropped ceiling with LED cove lighting and a sculptural pendant by Artemide.

"The lowered ceiling helps to contain the space, visually, and makes it more intimate," the architect says. "It also creates a contrast to the more spacious living area, which is three steps lower and therefore has a higher ceiling."

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A large photograph by Morquecho, a walnut buffet in the modern style, and a crisscross wood base to the table are other key features of the dining area. The table has a glass top that enhances the light, spacious look, and highlights the sculptural quality of the base.

To reinforce the visual drama, Charalambous widened the narrow steps leading down to the living room so that they run the entire width of the room. New wide-plank flooring is ebonized to provide a strong contrast to the walls.

The fireplace in the living room was also transformed by the addition of stacked stone, with recessed niches for the fire and television.

"We concealed the audiovisual equipment in two low wood cabinets either side of the fireplace," says the architect. "These provide a perfect base for two of the owners' traditional Guatemalan statues.

"To create a restful look, the furnishings are neutral, but we introduced orange accents – this is a color the owners like. We added a sculptural Shell chair, traditional Guatemalan stools, and a custom Cha-Cha coffee table that appears to float above the orange wool and silk rug – the table features concealed wheels."

To ensure the interior would be flooded with natural light, Charalambous raised the height of the glazed doors in the living room.

Other changes to the main floor include new cabinetry in the kitchen, which is open to the dining area and the entry hall. The open layout ensures the natural light penetrates the interior from both ends of the townhouse.

A dividing wall between the kitchen and hallway incorporates a large niche and floating shelf where artworks can be displayed.

On the upper floor, the stair landing was widened to allow space for floor-to-ceiling shelving, where various art books, small artifacts and travel mementos are displayed under LED lighting. A new skylight floods the landing and stairwell with light.

Crisp white walls and bed linen create a restful retreat for the master suite. The bedroom also features a dropped ceiling highlighted by LED lighting, and a bright red Womb chair and matching footstool. The tranquility extends to the master bathroom, which incorporates a shower lined with natural pebbles.

First published date: 30 April 2014

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Credit List

Renovation architect and interior designer Andreas Charalambous AIA, and Juan Gutierrez, Forma Design, Inc (Washington, DC)
Builder MCA Remodeling, Inc
Cabinet company Metropolitan Woodworking, Inc
Paints Benjamin Moore Classic Colors
Dining room pendant Artemide
Wallcovering in dining room Wolf-Gordon
Dining room table Falo by Riva
Dining chairs Frame from Apartment Zero
Buffet Sussex tall credenza from DWR
Fireplace surround Rustic stone from Architectural Ceramics
Living room furniture Cielo from KMP Furniture; Cha-Cha coffee table by Forma Design; Shell chair; Saarinen side table; Line media console from DWR; Rubik service coffee table from DWR
Living room rug Cha-Cha area rug in wool and silk by Forma Design
Master bedroom rug West Elm
Chair in master bedroom Saarinen Womb chair