Interior designer Jennifer Wagner Schmidt truly embraces the process of transformation—so remodeling a hopelessly dated condominium in Chevy Chase was a welcome challenge. “The condo was in its original 1970s form, with stained carpets, dirty walls and old Formica countertops,” Schmidt recalls. “My client wanted a complete redo.” Before Schmidt and the owner, a fashion professional, could tackle the fun parts like picking fresh finishes and furnishings, certain structural fixes were needed. First, one of the bedrooms in the three-bedroom/two-bath unit became a small office off the master bedroom with a coveted walk-in closet. Cutting back dead drywall space also created a more expansive foyer.
When they were ready to focus on furnishings, the owner asked Schmidt to infuse the apartment with glamour. “She loves white and gold, art and fashion, and she likes to travel,” says the designer, adding, “We had all that in common.”
Ebonized hardwood floors and white marble tile replaced dreary wall-to-wall carpet. The marble was laid on the diagonal for a fun twist. Throughout, an ugly popcorn ceiling was removed and the whole condo refreshed with paint.
“By opening up the space and using reflective elements and luxury finishes, we created a glam bachelorette pad,” says Schmidt. The designer stuck with gray shades of wall paint, except in the living room where she covered the walls with textured paper in a natural-pearl hue with a slight shimmer. By contrast, the room’s plain aluminum window casings were painted matte black to frame views of urban Friendship Heights and update the overall look of the space.
A focal point in the living room is a silk scarf the owner purchased in Brazil; Schmidt had it framed in a Lucite shadow box and hung between two bookshelves. Pulling from the scarf’s colors, Schmidt honed in on a soft palette reflected in blush-colored velvet pillows, a faux-fur rug and a tufted, leopard-print chenille bench and accent pillows.
“For lighting, my client wanted feminine gold statement pieces,” says Schmidt. “She also likes crystal.” Finding the right lighting for the living room, where ceilings are only eight feet high, was a challenge. Luckily, Schmidt discovered a pair of beautiful gold-and-crystal light fixtures to hang near the ceiling at either end of the space.
“In the dining room, which I’d painted a high-gloss charcoal gray, I wanted something that I could hang lower, so I got a high-contrast, white-lacquered chandelier,” the designer explains. The cobalt blue hue in the artwork finds its way into the velvet host chairs that flank the marble-topped table, while the other dining chairs sport chenille upholstery in pale gray.
“The existing kitchen, which we gutted, was rather small,” says Schmidt. She selected an antiqued-mirror backsplash to make it feel larger and dressed the room up with chocolate-brown cabinets and white quartzite countertops. A matching bar with the same cabinetry was installed in the adjacent dining room.
Finally, Schmidt imparted a touch of glam in the master bedroom. An accent wall is painted pale mint and overlaid with a gold trellis pattern. “We didn’t want the bedroom to be all white,” she explains. “The client had originally wanted a brighter turquoise, but I felt the subdued mint was more appropriate, yet still gave her color.”
And so it went between client and designer, while the dated, frumpy condo evolved into a sophisticated yet youthful home.
“It was a true collaboration,” Schmidt reports. “We started by having common interests, and ultimately ended up becoming friends through the creative design process.”
Writer and stylist Charlotte Safavi is based in Alexandria. Stacy Zarin Goldberg is a photographer in Olney, Maryland.
INTERIOR DESIGN: JENNIFER WAGNER SCHMIDT, JWS Interiors, Ashburn, Virginia. STYLING: CHARLOTTE SAFAVI.