Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas sign among greenery

Decking our Homes for the Holidays

I love decorating our  home for the holidays. It’s another way to express my designer disposition.  We spent the last week getting our house ready to welcome friends and family, and we started outdoors. The temperature decided to do a nose-dive that day, so my fingers almost froze, but all that is (nearly) forgotten now that the house is sparkly and bright.

Nothing says “Christmas” quite like red and green. And a little white doesn’t hurt, either! Our front stoop was looking quite festive in the snow.

Front door draped in greenery with snow falling

The red wreath, with faux berries and flowers, enlivens our navy front door.

A view of the front stoop through trees

The side door got a dose of holiday cheer, too. Boxwood and berries are a classic holiday combination.

Close-up of boxwood and berry wreath

While I tend to gravitate toward the classics, I also like to add a touch of whimsy to our holiday decor.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas sign among greenery

Gathering several types of greens — along with stems with bright berries — creates an interesting melange.

Inside, our Christmas tree is adorned with a mix of sentimental Christopher Radko ornaments collected over the years, brightly colored balls and tiny white lights.

Houck family Christmas tree

Our kitty, Princess, obviously approves and often reigns over the living room from her favorite spot under the tree.

The kitty curled up under the Christmas tree

Look how the white lights dance on the wood floor. Magical! But I also have a soft spot in my heart for the large, blue lights from my childhood — and probably many of yours (the multi-color strands were popular back in the day, too). Does anyone else remember those blue bulbs? If you look closely, you can spy them in the background in this throwback photo of me, age 4:

Andrea Houck, age 4, on Christmas morning by tree

The retro lights are making a comeback and always stir up special memories whenever I see them. There’s so much tradition and meaning associated with the ritual of decorating a Christmas tree — or creating and lighting a menorah.

All this reminiscing about Christmases past got me wondering how the Christmas tree tradition started in the first place. I’ve always heard the tradition began in Germany, but didn’t know much history beyond that. So I googled it, of course. I found a great video and in-depth article here. I learned so much! Here are a few of the highlights I gleaned:

  • Yes, the Germans did indeed start the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th Century. They decorated the first trees with apples, inspired by the Garden of Eden, and called them “Paradise Trees.”
  • Martin Luther, the 16th Century Protestant reformer, is believed to be the first to wire lighted candles to tree branches to mimic twinkling stars.
  • Queen Victoria helped to spread the popularity of Christmas trees. In 1848, she and her German husband, Prince Albert, along with their children, posed around their decorated tree (reminiscent of the ones Albert experienced growing up in Germany) for a sketch that appeared in the Illustrated London Times. Others soon began copying the fashionable royals.
  • Thomas Edison’s associate, Edward H. Johnson, developed in 1882 the first electric Christmas tree lights, as a safer alternative to lighted candles (thank goodness!).

Who knew, right? Well, I digressed a bit, but I think these facts are so much fun. Back to my Christmas decor…

Entertaining friends and family is a big part of the holidays, and I enjoy creating festive tablescapes for each event. Here is our dining table, decked out in holiday splendor for an intimate brunch:

Festive holiday tabletop

The pale green, goose-feather tree (from a past Martha Stewart Christmas collection) and the Santa’s Reindeer dinnerware (from a past Pottery Barn collection) add light-hearted whimsey to the more traditional elements.

Setting a holiday table always takes me back to 2007, when I created a tabletop display to be auctioned for the Georgetown Jingle, then a fundraiser for Georgetown University Hospital’s pediatric cancer programs. I wanted to create an elegant tablescape that would capture the imaginations of guests of all ages. My theme was ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Whimsical tabletop with flying reindeer

A handsome Henredon table served as my base (the chairs are Henredon, too). I commissioned the custom acrylic from Spectrum Limited, so the reindeer and sleigh would appear to be flying over the table. Oh, what fun!

Close-up of red and green tabletop created for Georgetown Jingle

Georgetown Jingle tabletop photos by Thomas Arledge and originally published in the now-shuttered Washington Spaces Magazine.

I mixed dinnerware in the Grand Tour pattern (discontinued, sadly) by Home James with several small red and green floral arrangements and white candles. With its timeless theme and color scheme, the tabletop display still resonates today, 10 years later.

How about you? Are you ready for the holidays? I hope you enjoy special times with loved ones this season. Happy holidays to all!

Montage of backsplash materials and countertop

Kitchen Goals, Part II: The Selections Process

Last month I shared the plans for a functional redesign of our clients’ kitchen. With our working plan in hand, we moved to the next step — selecting the various elements, from cabinets to lighting.

Two key considerations guided our choices. First, the homeowners looked at their kitchen makeover both as an opportunity to get the kitchen of their dreams now, but also to increase the resale value of their house down the road. So we avoided anything too trendy and kept the color palette neutral. Secondly, our clients wanted to keep their bar stools and kitchen window treatment — which coordinates with the dining-area decor. Under our reconfiguration, the kitchen will be even more open to the dining space, so our selections needed to blend seamlessly with the existing elements.

We started with the cabinets, since they make the biggest visual impact in a kitchen. The goals were to create a warm, timeless aesthetic, while building in plenty of function. Omega Cabinetry‘s semi-custom Dynasty Series, available from Stuart Kitchens, provided the answers. We selected a transitional-style door, with an upper slab drawer and a lower recessed panel. See the style we selected on the right:

Side by side glance at kitchen cabinet doors with two finishes

This side-by-side captures the two cherry finishes we specified: a dark Cherry Truffle stain, shown on the left, for the perimeter cabinets and the lighter one, poetically named Riverbed Brushed Sepia, for the island. Using two finishes adds interest, and the lighter choice for the island keeps the small space from going too dark.

Satin Nickel is a timeless choice for cabinet hardware. The Trail pull from Emtek is clean-lined and easy on the hand.

Satin Nickel cabinet pull selected for kitchen makeover

With the cabinet and hardware selections in place, we shifted our focus to storage solutions. My favorite upgrade is a LeMans blind-corner unit, which swings out to make it easier to reach items stored in the back. Here is the model in Stuart Kitchens’ McLean, Virginia, showroom:

Swing-out corner cabinet unit solution

We also selected this type of pull-out shelving unit for the newly expanded pantry:

Pull-out kitchen pantry unit

For the countertops and backsplash, we pulled a few options for our clients’ approval. This grouping shows some of our selections with swatches of the existing window-treatment fabric and the dining-room wallpaper.

Montage of product selections for clients' kitchen redesign

Ultimately, we decided to keep the surfaces and backdrop neutral and classic (but with a little pizazz). Our countertop choice: Statuario Nuvo, a durable quartz material from Caesarstone. Here you can see our slab overlaid with the L-shaped template for the combined island and breakfast-bar station:

Marble-like quartz countertop slab

We went with tried-and-true subway tile for the backsplash — but shook things up a bit by choosing an elongated size (measuring 2 1/2″ x 10″ as opposed to the standard 3″ x 6″). And rather than selecting classic white, we opted instead for a warm gray tone. As a fun accent, we specified a glass penny tile for behind the range. Both backdrop selections work beautifully with the marble-like countertop material.

Montage of backsplash materials and countertop

Jenn-Air appliances offered the features our clients wanted and the sizes we needed for the new configuration. Selecting the appliances from one manufacturer ensured that the handles would all be the same style. This consistency provides a clean look, which is especially important in a small space.

The Moen fixtures — sink, faucet and soap dispenser — are all in stain nickel, which coordinates well with the stainless-steel appliances. The faucet, with motion-sensor technology, turns on with a wave of the hand.

Moen faucet with motion-sensor technology

Our choice for over-the-island lighting —  three fishbowl-shaped Blackburn pendants, in the Licorice Stick pattern, from Tracy Glover Objects and Lighting — will energize the neutral landscape.

Tracy Glover Blackburn glass pendant in striped Licorice Stick pattern

Our clients are looking forward to enjoying the holidays in their newly renovated kitchen. And we cannot wait to share with you soon how all these gorgeous selections came together in the finished space! Until then, enjoy the magic of the season.

Rendering of clients' kitchen redesign

Kitchen Goals: Planning a Functional Redesign

It’s so tempting during a kitchen re-do to gloss over the space-planning stage and move right into the fun stuff…selecting cabinets, countertops and the like. But here’s the rub: a sexy backsplash can only do so much. A layout that didn’t function well before still won’t meet your needs, even with pretty new selections in place.

We always advise our clients to think about their functional requirements and what’s not working in their current space. It’s important to invest the time and resources upfront to address those issues and develop a redesign plan that functions for the way you live. We just completed the conceptual phase for our long-time clients’ kitchen redesign.

Our clients updated their kitchen about 15 years ago, right before we came on board. On close inspection, the pickled cabinet finish is showing wear, especially around the hardware and in front of the sink. Also, some appliances need repair.  The bigger issue, though, is that the current plan just doesn’t work for the couple.

A before shot of clients' kitchen

A before shot of clients' kitchen island

The redesign goals were to maximize function, flow and storage in the small, just-under-200-square-foot space. As you can see, the sink is currently tucked into a cramped corner. Finding a new location for it was paramount. The homeowners also wanted to open up the kitchen and adjoining dining area. What impedes that flow now is a breakfast bar sandwiched between the columns separating the two spaces.

A before shot of clients' kitchen island and breakfast bar

Having a separate island and breakfast bar — rather than one integrated station — takes up a lot of valuable real estate. Not to mention that the bar is configured so that the stools face into the dining area, instead of the kitchen…cutting off interaction with the cook.

A before shot of clients' kitchen from dining room

The view above, looking from the dining room into the kitchen, shows the existing small pantry. Increasing storage was another key consideration in our planning.

Our new floor plan combines the island and breakfast bar into one multi-tasking, L-shaped station that offers maximum prep space and a perfect spot for enjoying morning coffee. And, under our redesign, family and guests sitting at the bar will be able to interact with the cook.

Floor plan for clients' kitchen redesign

To liberate the previously cramped corner, we faced an important decision: do we move the sink or the cook-top to the island? One factor in our decision-making was the need for a downdraft hood if we opted to house the cook-top on the island. Ultimately, we decided to locate the sink (and dishwasher, of course) there. We collaborated with Judy Bracht at Stuart Kitchens to get the cabinet configuration just right.

Here are a couple of sneak peeks at what the finished space will look like:

Rendering of clients' kitchen redesign

Rendering of clients' kitchen redesign showing new storage pantry and breakfast bar

In the spacious, new pantry, the entire, 24-inch-deep shelving unit will pull out, making it easier to find items hiding in the back.

Having mastered the geometry of space planning, we’ve now turned our attention to the selections. Take a look at a few of the beauties we currently are considering:

Montage of product selections for clients' kitchen redesign

Stay tuned for more about the demolition, renovation, final selections…and the big reveal.

Tabletop Tips: Bringing the Beauty of Flowers Indoors

Happy Summer, everyone! I love warm weather, and I love nature’s bounty that comes with it. Arranging flowers from my garden provides another outlet for my creative energy. Fresh flowers are the perfect finishing touch for any space or tablescape.

I’ve taken a few floral-arranging classes over the years, but, honestly, you can’t go wrong with fresh-cut flowers in a simple vase. I picked these peonies from my garden:

Arrangement of peonies

This small red table is just inside our front door. I like to place a pretty arrangement there to greet guests.

close-up of peonies

I created this arrangement of peonies to complete a tabletop vignette in my living room:

Tablescape featuring peony arrangement

These, again, were straight from my garden. I love to visit the farmers’ market on Saturday morning to pick up fresh cuts, too.

Bucket with flowers from farmers market

Word of my passion for floral arranging has gotten out among my friends, who often ask me to help dress their tables for special occasions. I’m happy to oblige! I created this arrangement — mixing peonies, hydrangeas and roses, among others — for a dear friend’s wedding:

Wedding arrangement of peonies and roses

Another friend asked me to help with flowers for a dinner party in May, right around the Kentucky Derby. For a dinner table setting, I like to keep the floral arrangement low, so it doesn’t interfere with conversation. Here I opted for a cluster of several small arrangements, in lieu of one centerpiece. These vibrant zinnias reminded me of fanciful Derby hats:

Tablescape with zinnia arrangements

This is an easy yet dramatic approach. A single orchid is another no-fail but stunning solution. Orchids are both simple and exotic at the same time, and I love their sculptural quality. Here is a close-up of one I grew.

Tight shot of orchid

It doesn’t take a green thumb or special skills to bring the beauty of flowers into your spaces and onto your tabletops. What are your favorite ways to showcase nature’s bounty in your home?


After shot of fireplace makeover in Rosslyn townhouse

Before and After: Fireplace Makeover Dials Back the Clock

Often when we’re called in to renovate a fireplace, the goal is to update and modernize a tired, old one. One recent re-do, however, had the opposite goal: to add some character and a sense of history to a brand-new fireplace.

Our clients, a young couple, became first-time homeowners with the purchase of  a freshly minted townhouse in Rosslyn. They were eager to inject a more soulful style into the nondescript interiors (they’re big fans of HGTV’s Fixer Upper and love the rustic, informal looks created by star Joanna Gaines). The living room’s existing gas fireplace, in particular, cried out for TLC:

Before shot of existing fireplace

The fireplace is centered on a short wall next to the staircase. On either side, there is less than a foot to spare. I wanted to reimagine these narrow, under-used spaces in my design. Another design consideration:  the couple’s new, flat-screen television, which would soon be mounted over the fireplace. As you can see, when in position, the large TV came right to the edges of the fireplace wall, overwhelming the already-tight space.

Before shot of existing fireplace with TV mounted

My new vision included a character-enhancing mix of materials for the fireplace wall and surround. I also specified built-in shelves and storage compartments to flank the fireplace and to fill in those awkward spaces. Here’s a peek at our presentation board, with a few inspiration photos and a rendering of the proposed redesign:

Presentation board of Rosslyn townhouse fireplace makeover

And here’s a work-in-progress look at the design taking shape:

,Work in progress shot of Rosslyn fireplace makeover with shiplap and bricks in place

For a casual look, we installed rough-hewn, shiplap paneling above the hefty, new zebra-wood mantel. Distressed bricks add time-worn appeal and the unusual layout pattern (center-section bricks are vertically placed and the two end-caps are horizontally placed) adds interest.

Close-up of new shelves and storage in Rosslyn fireplace makeover

The detail shot above highlights the new upper shelves and lower storage compartments. Glass shelves don’t add visual weight to the tight spaces. Streamlined, push-open doors — without distracting hardware — will ultimately hide all those unsightly but ever-necessary cables and cords in the lower areas.

The end result (minus a few finishing touches) balances a rustic, homey aesthetic with the realities of modern living:

After shot of fireplace makeover in Rosslyn townhouse

See how the newly introduced built-ins — which are almost flush with the fireplace wall — help to offset the TV’s girth? Now the screen “fits” better in the space.

After shot of fireplace makeover with lighting

LED lights cast a warm glow on display objects and enhance the overall ambiance of the interior architecture and design. Sumptuous new window panels don’t hurt, either, and go a long way toward softening that weighty corner of the room.

The fireplace makeover suits our clients’ soulful style to a tee and proves that some things look better with a little age on them (or at least the appearance of age). A roaring fire may not be top of mind as we head into June, but the summer is actually a great time for a remodel — if you start now, your fireplace will be picture-perfect before the temperature starts to dip.

ELLE DECOR & Dering Hall Team Up for Shopping and More

The Internet is making its mark in the world of design. I often spend my evenings checking out the latest content, posts and pins. Don’t get me wrong. I still love the printed page…sitting down with a cup of coffee and thumbing through shelter magazines. I still tack the pages I tear out to an old-school bulletin board above my desk. I love it when clients bring me pages they’ve torn out, too. But the Internet has streamlined the process of swapping and sharing ideas. And it’s made it easier for design enthusiasts to find everything, from a photo that sparks their imagination to a sofa that matches their style.

Sometimes it’s information-overload. And sometimes you have to sift through the weeds to find real beauty, lasting value, and sound advice. That’s why I’m so excited that two of my most-trusted online sources  — ELLE DECOR and Dering Hall — have just announced a new partnership. For those not familiar, Dering Hall is an online marketplace for design experts and home furnishings. I’m a big fan because the platform focuses on showcasing high-end design, top talent and quality furnishings, which is refreshing.

Graphic of ElleDecor.com and Dering Hall shopping portal

Image courtesy of ELLEDecor.com

The recently launched ELLEDecor.com shopping portal provides visitors to that site with access to over 30,000 pieces home furnishings, curated by Dering Hall’s team, along with some selections hand-picked by ELLEDecor.com editors. The shopping hub includes furniture, accessories, lighting and textiles.

Graphic for new Dering Hall and Elle Decor shopping site

Image courtesy of Dering Hall

As an interior designer, I am particularly excited about Phase II of the collaboration… a browsable directory of qualified design experts on ELLEDecor.com. Starting in May, site visitors will be able to search for pros by location and specialty, through Dering Hall’s index of designer profiles. I appreciate that both sites recognize and value the role that designers play and are committed to matching homeowners with experienced pros.

Both sites offer meaningful design content, too. Dering Hall’s Journal posts, or daily features, typically assemble compelling images from designers across the country, on a range of topics from art to upholstery. In one post, 50 Ways Designers Incorporate Eye-Catching Artwork, A. Houck Designs was honored to have two spaces featured, the hall we created for the 2013 DC Design House and the family room below.

A. Houck Designs family room project with abstract art, featured on Dering Hall

And for another recent post, Dering Hall selected our clients’ serene Arlington, Virginia, living room as the feature image! The topic du jour: 40 Glass Wall Lights.

A. Houck Designs living room project featured in Dering Hall Glass Wall Lights

An ancillary benefit of the new partnership will be increased sharing of Dering Hall’s content on ELLEDecor.com. I was thrilled when ELLE DECOR picked up a Dering Hall post, 30 Best Open Floor Plans for Life Without Walls, featuring — again! — our clients’ vibrant, art-filled family room.

A. Houck Designs family room project featured on ELLE DECOR

You can expect to see more of this type of curated content syndicated on ELLEDecor.com.

We are so fortunate to have amazing clients who invite us into their homes and allow us to create these beautiful and personal living environments. Believe me, that’s reward enough! But it’s always an extra thrill to be recognized for our work. So, of course, we were over the moon when Dering Hall featured A. Houck Designs recently in their Design Professional Spotlight.

Dering Hall Design Professional Spotlight

For those of us passionate about design, the Web offers a wealth of information and inspiration. You just have to steer to the right places. What are your favorite online sources, tools and platforms?

Close-up of selections for spa-like master bath

Navigating the Design-Build Selections Process

Building a custom home or adding on to an existing one is the stuff that dreams are made of. Right? Why, then, do so many homeowners, at some point in the process, start to question their good fortune…if not their sanity?

Sure, there are daunting decisions to make — such as the architectural style of a home or the number of bedrooms a family will need down the road. And countless smaller yet so-important decisions and selections all along the way, from the plumbing fixtures and lighting plans to flooring materials and paint colors. Add to all that, building permits, burgeoning budgets and construction timelines…it’s enough to drive anyone a little crazy.

The sheer number of decisions can be overwhelming for even the most hands-on homeowners. And decision delays or, even worse, uh-oh moments can be costly and can throw off track the whole construction schedule. It’s way easier to address needs and make the right selections upfront.

Andrea Houck perusing samples at tile showroom

Showroom photography: Bob Narod

I love when I can work with the builder and homeowners from the get-go to maximize cohesion, function and beauty, while keeping the selections process running smoothly. Our recent collaboration with the amazing team at KohlMark Group, a local design-build firm, is a case in point.

KohlMark was tapped by Falls Church homeowners to design and construct a two-story addition on the back of their house. They brought us on board to create a vision for both the new kitchen and master bath and to guide the selections process (I’m a member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, so these high-functioning spaces are specialties of mine). The clients wanted a serene, spa-like bathroom. We started by narrowing the sea of choices and presenting several options for the tiles, countertop, backsplash and other design elements. Here are the ones that captured our clients’ hearts:

Close-up of selections for spa-like master bath

White subway tiles and square floor tiles form the quiet foundation. To achieve a luxe look without breaking the bank, we added Ming Green marble accents. A speckled Quartz material, our choice for the countertop and shower-bench seat, echoes the marble’s soft color gradations, while offering worry-free durability. Picking up a fleck in the countertop, we selected a gray-green shade for the painted vanity cabinets.  The repetition of materials and hues creates a sense of calm.

Together, these samples and swatches present a pretty picture, but it’s still a challenge sometimes to visualize how the finished space will look. If our clients request, as these did, we prepare elevation drawings to provide peace of mind and avoid any surprises. This is one we did showing the vanity and his-and-her sinks.

Elevation drawing of master bath vanity and double sinks

And here’s a look at how we brought the vision to life:

A master bathroom designed by A. Houck Designs

Bespoke touches and little details make a big impact. The backsplash, shower floor and the shower’s wraparound stripe feature a Ming Green hexagon mosaic. Another designer detailer is the “rug” effect we created on the room floor. A small, marble mosaic tile defines the rug area. For the center, we turned the square floor tiles, which are laid out in a straight pattern in the rest of the space, on the diagonal.

Master bathroom showing rug effect

A multi-tasking bench is a thoughtful addition to the shower. And here’s a close-up of the shower’s bespoke stripe treatment:

Master bathroom shower with hexagon tile stripe detail

All bathroom photography: Felicia Evans

We finished the wraparound accent by adding a pencil trim above and below. We also had to ensure that the stripe was the proper width to accommodate the water/temperature control. Polished nickel for the fixtures and lighting is a timeless choice and adds a bit of sparkle.

There are a myriad of behind-the-scenes considerations in any bathroom project, from shower pressure preferences to storage needs. Here, a window in the shower required a practical tiling solution, and we mimicked, as closely as possible, the wood molding on the wall’s other window.

With a well-thought-out plan and carefully chosen fixtures and materials, we created a luxurious, master-bathroom retreat. And who doesn’t need a spa-like getaway after completing a new-build or major remodel?

Close-up of dining room window treatment

Window Treatments: The Devil’s in the Details

Happy 2017! I took a little break from the blog to focus on a flurry of client projects around the holidays. It’s human nature. We all want our homes to look their best when friends and family arrive, and there’s nothing like the approaching holidays to give us, myself included, that little push to put the finishing touches on our spaces.

And nothing finishes a space better than beautiful, custom window treatments. They add a luxurious layer and can even be the glue that holds together other colors and elements in the space. And it’s the details that take them from good to great. If you’re going to invest in window treatments that will be in your home for a while, it makes sense to get the details, large and small, right.

Take a look at the new window treatments I recently installed in my own living room. I selected a to-die-for, creamy mohair velvet for the French-pleated panels and a shimmery, metallic for the sheers (both from Coraggio).

Long mohair drapes with brush fringe

The texture and shimmer are subtle but important to the luxe feel. The panels’ solid fabric gave me freedom to have a little fun with the leading-edge trim. This metallic brush fringe from Romo, applied by hand, delivers the fun:

Close-up of Romo brush fringe

Brush fringe is fresher and flirter than the heavy trims that adorned yesterday’s swags and jabots. Tapes and cords are also modern options that lend a more masculine feel. For a client’s bay window in the dining room, I used a small brush fringe, by Samuel & Sons, on the Roman shade, crafted in a Zoffany sheer.

Dining room with botanical-print panels and sheer Roman shades

Close-up of dining room window treatment

The panels’ large-scale, botanical print, by Cowtan & Tout, can stand on its own. Because the dining room leans to the formal side, I opted again for a French pleat, but kept the hardware simple with a thin, dark, metal rod (thick, wooden rods went out with swags) and a cage finial.

Close-up of dining room window treatment

To give a truly bespoke look to the silk window panels in a client’s living room, I used a custom embroidery program from Taffard Fabrics, in lieu of separate trim. With their program, you select from a range of embroidery patterns and colors.

I went with an elegant, tone-on-tone combination. The program also provides the option of adding a contrasting ribbon of color, and I added a little pop of red silk to tie in with other red accents sprinkled around the room (a work in progress…stay tuned for photos of the finished space).

Close-up of AHD client's custom-embroidered window panel

My favorite look is floor-length panels with either long sheers, as I did above and in my living room, or Roman shades, as I did for my clients’ dining room. The architecture of a space really determines which combination I use. For the living room above, a long bank of windows across the front of the house called for long sheers that would offer some privacy. In the dining room example above, Roman shades were the perfect choice for a bay window.

When you have two windows on a wall, opposing panels — one on the outside of each window — can be a great look. This approach worked well with the layout and furniture placement in the Mademoiselle Chambre I created for the 2016 DC Design House. See how the panels frame the Oly armoire?

Window treatments in Mademoiselle Chambre at 2016 DCDH

Photography: Jesse Snyder

The panels, hung on acrylic rods, showcase Romo‘s painterly Breathe Wild Flower pattern from artist Jessica Zoob’s Desire Collection. I opted for a loose, informal look at the top, with no pleat.

Close-up of window panel at 2016 DC Design House

Photography: Jesse Snyder

Oversize, tassel tie-backs from Samuel & Sons offer both form and function.

Close-up of window treatment and tie-back at 2016 DC Design House

Photography: Jesse Snyder

The panels sweep back to reveal Roman shades fabricated in a semi-sheer, with a ripple effect, from Osborne & Little. A glass-bead trim from Samuel & Sons adds a glamorous touch.

Close-up of window treatment trim in Mademoiselle Chambre at 2016 DC Design House

With all the feminine details in this bedroom, I chose a tailored construction for the shades themselves.

There are numerous styles of Roman shades. Here’s a quick guide to the main ones:

Guide to Window Shade Styles

It can be confusing. There are so many different names for the same shade style or pleat style — and so many subtle variations on the same style. Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words!  Gather photos of details that you like to show your designer.  At A. Houck Designs, we provide our client with an elevation drawing to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. Here’s an example:

Rendering of French Door covering

This color illustration depicts floor-length sheers with a grommet-style header on a metal rod over a set of French doors. A rendering shows how the finished product will look and puts our client at ease before ordering.

The right details will make your window treatments pretty. But window coverings are practical, too. They can add privacy, control light and temperature, and soften the sound in a room…all of which makes the investment worthwhile.

If you didn’t check off everything on your design to-do list before the holidays, don’t sweat it. February is a  great month to take stock of our spaces — without the pressure of impending parties.

DC Design House 2016 Mademoiselle Chambre

A Time-Lapse Look at the Making of the DC Design House

The 2016 DC Design House opened on October 2. If you’re in the Washington area and haven’t visited yet, make plans to go soon! It’s so inspiring to walk through and see the creativity that designers poured into their projects. The finished spaces are so beautiful, in fact, it’s hard to imagine that just a couple of months ago, they were white and bare boxes for the most part. But they were.

As a veteran participant in the DC Design House, I’ve been asked many times about what goes on behind the scenes before opening day and how a show-house space comes together so quickly. The answer, of course, is teamwork. It truly takes a village, and I have the most amazing group of artisans on my team. This year, as I created the Mademoiselle Chambre at the DC Design house, I videotaped each step along the way. Check out this fun, and I hope insightful, time-lapse video and watch the transformation take place.

I hope the video sheds a little light on the execution of my interior design plan. But, most importantly, I wanted to give a shout-out to my all-star team:

  • Final Touch Productions – Painting – Dale City, Virginia, 703-585-4044
  • L&S Electric – Lighting Installation – Potomac Falls, Virginia, 703-237-0011
  • Marly’s Superior Interiors – Wallpaper Installation – Arlington, Virginia, 703-237-9257
  • Soulie’s Interiors – Drapery Installation – Fairfax, Virginia, 703-280-2766

You guys rock! Here’s a parting look at the transformation they helped to bring about:


A look at the bare bones of the Mademoiselle Chambre at the 2016 DC Design House.

DC Design House 2016 Mademoiselle Chambre

The completed Mademoiselle Chambre at the 2016 DC Design House. Photo & video credit: Jesse Snyder Photography

A picture (or two) may say a thousand words, but, in this case, a time-lapse video really helps to tell the story, don’t you think?. Go see, firsthand, the quality craftsmanship in the Mademoiselle Chambre before the DC Design House closes on October 30th. Proceeds benefit Children’s National Health System. For more information and tickets, visit the DC Design House website.

Shearling foot stool with burnished brass foot

Design House Details: A Quick Change for Kelly Wearstler’s Foot Stool

A big part of a designer’s job involves creative — and fast — problem-solving. I had seen Kelly Wearstler’s fabulous, lambswool-covered Foot Stool at the High Point Market last spring (if you missed that post, you can read about my favorite finds here). It was love at first sight!

Shearling foot stool with burnished brass foot

Fast-forward a couple of months and I was creating a plan for a Parisian-inspired, teenage-girl’s bedroom at the DC Design House…and drew that Foot Stool into my plan. The piece strikes the right balance of whimsy and glamour for a young Ingénue’s room.

So imagine my disappointment when I discovered that, due to production delays, the Foot Stool could not be delivered in time for the show house opening in October. I HAD to have one for the Mademoiselle Chambre. I called the E.J. Victor showroom in High Point to ask about buying the floor sample. It had been sold. I called Kelly Wearstler’s retail shops. I even wrote a personal plea to Kelly herself. No luck. So, time to get creative. We ordered the Foot Stool in a plain muslin.

Kelly Wearstler Foot Stool covered in muslin

And we covered it in a plush faux fur. Take a look at the transformation:

Kelly Wearstler Foot Stool with faux fur

We love the way it turned out! But, actually, we’re not quite done yet. We’re planning another fun embellishment for the Foot Stool. Here’s a little hint:

Close-up of brass foot on Kelly Wearstler Foot Stool

Visit the show house to see what we have up our sleeves (or should we say, “what’s afoot”?)! The DC Design House will be open from October 2 through October 30. The Preview Day event is October 1. Proceeds benefit Children’s National Health System. For more information and to order tickets, visit the DC Design House website.