Pied-a-terre gets a 'tweener' makeover

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Real Estate

Susan McFarland was window-shopping when she stumbled upon exactly what she wanted to convert her contemporary West End apartment in Washington into a sophisticated pied-a-terre.

McFarland, senior adviser and former chief financial officer for Fannie Mae, has a home in Texas that she shares with her husband and two sons. She uses the condo as a city home while in town on business.

The unit, located in a hi-rise, was designed and marketed as luxury urban contemporary. However, McFarland wanted a style that reflected her life as an executive, wife and mom.

"It's what I call the 'tweener style,' " McFarland said. "The contemporary folks would call it traditional. The traditional folks would call it contemporary. Which is why I say it's 'tweener,' because it's neither."

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She found "tweener" in the window of Urban Country, a home furnishings store in Bethesda. "They were closed at the time, but several things in their window, including a headboard, caught my eye," she said. "I thought, 'That's the style I'm looking for.' "

McFarland enlisted the help of Urban Country owner Rachelle Roth and designer Terri Johnson, who teamed up to give the sterile space elegance and warmth.

They painted stark-white walls and ceilings in the living and dining room areas, with soothing Benjamin Moore grant beige.

Roth recommends painting ceilings in the wall color to provide a sense of cohesion. McFarland said she was "a little worried" at first but loved the end result.

They selected furnishings with clean lines and a cozy disposition. Two chenille-covered Monroe sofas from Hickory Chair are adorned with elegant pillows with touches of turquoise and baby blues.

In contrast, there is a pair of bold Drexel Heritage Lainey chairs with deep-brown mohair backs and brown leather seats. The leather is trimmed with nail heads, giving a nod to McFarland's Southwestern roots.

"I like the hide back," McFarland said. "It has that Texas appeal."

They framed floor-to-ceiling windows with open-weave Calvin Klein drapery panels. "I just thought that after all we did, the space wasn't as warm as it could be," Johnson said. "It was kind of glassy."

A jute rug trimmed in leather complements the window treatments, as well as the leather chairs. The natural fibers work well with accessories and accent pieces made from exotic burl woods.

"I'm what I call a 'woody' girl. I love things that are natural," said McFarland, who collects items made from indigenous wood. "It's my way of bringing a bit of our travels back with me."

Throughout the condo, Johnson merged feminine touches with bold features.

A drum-style light fixture with cascading capiz shells dangles over the hefty burl-wood dining table. A jewellike glass mosaic backsplash softens industrial-looking kitchen cabinetry by Poggenpohl.

In the office, Johnson created a gender-neutral space appointed with ladylike accessories.

"She's a successful woman, so it should look like a successful woman's office," Johnson said. "However, a man shouldn't be intimidated to come in here."

Most importantly, the space feels like home to McFarland. "I wanted something to look like I really lived here and could relax here," she said.

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