Historic Home With Modern Flair

Designer Andreas Charalambous gives this historic D.C. townhouse a modern makeover, while still preserving the home's rich character.
Contemporary Breakfast Nook

Contemporary Breakfast Nook

Featured in a traditional townhouse, this kitchen was given a contemporary edge with white walls and cabinets, a sleek kitchen island with silver chairs, and a breakfast nook with a basic white table and creative green chandelier.

Photo by: Geoffrey Hodgdon

Geoffrey Hodgdon

When these homeowners moved from Los Angeles to D.C., they hired designer Andreas Charalambous to give their historical townhouse a modern makeover, while still preserving the home's character. See how he blended the old and the new, resulting in a one-of-a-kind space, full of style and tradition.

Describe the homeowner's wish list.

The owners recently transferred to Washington, D.C., from Los Angeles. They were attracted to the historic, walkable Georgetown neighborhood and the character of the 19th century home. At the same time, they wanted “to live in a home that is light, open, comfortable, casual and simple” – which is not how one often describes a 140-year-old row house. The goal was to update the home for 20th century living and merge the client's Californian sensibilities with the home’s historic character.

Historic D.C. Townhouse Gets a Modern Update

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Classic Townhouse With Transitional Interior

Located in Georgetown, this D.C. home gives off a traditional townhouse vibe from the outside, but the inside features a newly-redone transitional design, which incorporates modern style with classic design elements.

Photo By: Geoffrey Hodgdon

White Kitchen With Breakfast Nook

Featured in a traditional townhouse, this kitchen was given a contemporary edge with white walls and cabinets, a sleek kitchen island with silver chairs, and a breakfast nook with a basic white table and creative green chandelier.

Contemporary Kitchen With Farmhouse Sink

The far side of this contemporary kitchen features a large window over a farmhouse sink, white tile that adds subtle texture, and a stainless steel fridge surrounded by white cabinetry.

Green and White Breakfast Nook

A vibrant green and white breakfast nook is a fun touch to this contemporary white kitchen. A green bench seat is a comfortable addition that makes it easy for several people to dine at once.

Dining Room With Built-in Bookshelves

This transitional dining room showcases a fabulous pair of built-in bookshelves on either side of a piece of artwork that helps to anchor the wall. A basic wooden table sits on a neutral, textured rug, for a stylish, minimalist look.

Modern-style Dining Room With Classic Touches

The homeowners of this traditional townhouse hoped to give the space an entirely modern look, but some things were just too beautiful to change. For instance, the decorative plaster ceiling medallions may not fit into a classically modern aesthetic, but with the right pendant light, they blend seamlessly and contribute a lot of character to the space.

Airy Living Room With White Sofa

Off the dining room sits a light and airy living space, featuring a white sofa which contradicts beautifully with the dark hardwood floors. Minimal art and neutral colors contribute to the soft visual.

Living Room With Coffee Table Storage

A coffee table that houses board games is the perfect piece of furniture for a young family with children that values style and keeping a clutter-free home.

Entryway With Transitional Style

Upon entering the foyer, a view of the stunning traditional staircase is juxtaposed by clean white walls and contemporary lighting – the first example of the seamless transitional style found within the rest of the home.

Contemporary Meets Traditional

Contemporary elements like the pendant lights, white walls and artwork, combined with the traditional hardwood floors and stunning staircase give this entryway the perfect transitional design.

Hall Bathroom With Floating Vanity

This small hall bathroom features a modern, floating vanity which frees floor space and visually expands the room with sharp lines and a color that blends into the white wall.

Bathroom With Plantation Shutters

Plantation shutters provide a stylish window treatment in this double-vanity bathroom that can be easily closed for privacy or left open for natural light.

Stunning Glass Walk-in Shower

A stunning glass walk-in shower features sleek tile covering the entire wall. The neutral shade complements the white vanity and cabinets.

Bedroom With Sitting Area

A sitting area by the bay window provides a cozy place to unwind in this relaxing upstairs bedroom. A built-in bookshelf nearby houses a few of the homeowner’s favorite reads within arm’s reach.

What was the biggest issue the design addressed?

The issue that guided the project was to balance the main renovation areas with the house as a whole. Though there were other areas that needed to be addressed, the client’s major focus was on the kitchen area and the master bathroom. The challenge was to update these areas while keeping in mind the adjacent spaces and the house as a whole, so that the new work blended seamlessly with the rest of the home and that all of the work blended into the overall feel of the home.

Describe an obstacle in the space.

The challenge of the project was deciding how to respect the nature of the existing house. As we looked at design options, we had to weigh each intervention in the space against the impact on the house as a whole while prioritizing aesthetics and the practical considerations.

How did the end result match your original vision?

The hurdles faced in the project were mostly “behind the scenes”—i.e. dealing with old plumbing and wiring and old repairs that were not up to standards. These factors created a few hiccups in the construction process but did not affect the final result.

What lessons did you learn from this project?

The project reinforced my long-held belief that in a renovation, the existing building guides you to what it wants to be. We could not turn the project into a modern California home. We could however create a bright, comfortable space that preserves the decorative elements of an earlier era and adapts the spaces to our modern lives.

What are the hidden gems that make a big difference?

Two items come to mind. The first is that we preserved the existing floors. The original floors were worn but by no means worn out. We refinished and re-stained the floors throughout and used marching salvaged lumber in the redesigned kitchen area. The refinished floors help unify the space, while the patterns of wear and patina give testament to the house’s long history sheltering generations of families. The second detail is that we maintained the decorative plaster medallions in the entry living and dining rooms. The owners were not sure about this at first, as they wanted to use modern fixtures in these locations. Carefully selected new light fixtures allowed us to juxtapose the modern look with these historic elements and speak to the design concept of making something old new again.

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Andreas Charalambous

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