Lofty Grandeur

by Pamela Hughes

While we love to work in and around Sarasota, our work and clients take us all over, as well as to new heights.  One of our clients, for whom we designed a lovely penthouse at The Tower Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, called a short time later to say they had sold their house and were wanting another penthouse.  They found one in their other town, which is Washington, DC.  His work and their family keep them anchored there, while also spending as much time as they can in their beautiful Sarasota home.

So we have been busy working making a new home for them 28 floors above the Potomac.  The views are rapturous!  Washington, DC only allows buildings up to 12 stories high, to not compete with the monuments and the capitol, so panoramic views are unheard of in Washington itself.  But across the river in Arlington, there are no such restrictions, and high-rises abound.  Our clients found a new building that has the amenities and location they need and views that are unprecedented.  The first time we entered the apartment, we all had to spend time staring out of the floor to ceiling windows, gazing at remarkable panoramic views of Washington that we otherwise could only see from the windows of an airplane. 

Once we studied the layout of the apartment, it became clear that some modifications had to be made:  make the master suite more spacious and the fittings more refined, enlarge the closets, and add mouldings and paneling which the owner loves.  Richness of shape and surface now abound throughout.

The modifications started with the addition of custom full-height paneling or wainscoting applied to most of the walls.  Crown mouldings and ceiling paneling were developed to shape and define living areas.  Perimeter low-voltage cove lighting was added in many of the ceiling coves for subtle atmosphere and soft light in the evenings.  Most of the wall surfaces are painted and then delicately glazed, in a linear dragging technique for the woodwork and stippling for the wall surfaces.  Some of the walls have subtle but large-scaled floral motifs applied - almost like custom wallpaper.  Silver leaf details were added to reflect the light in unexpected ways.  A small coterie of artisans were busy with brushes and paint pots for literally months.

The dining room and kitchen were done in imported walnut paneling and cabinetry for contrast and warmth.  The dining room’s raised ceiling area was platinum leafed, antiqued and then decorated with a sensuous scrolling vine in shades of silver, charcoal and lavender.

The hallways have a painted and glazed wainscot with a lovely silk damask fabric upholstering above. 
The whole palette of the apartment is in cool blues, lavender and silver.  Custom rugs woven of silk and wool in Nepal were made to complement the color palette.

The hardware:  door handles, and even down to the hinges and decorative hinge tips, were custom fabricated by P.E. Guerin artisans in an antique nickel finish.  They are gorgeous, practically jewelry, with patina and chasing just like the finest silver. 

One of our talented senior designers fell in love with the work of a London artist, Craig Wylie - his work has been collected by the royal family - and he was commissioned to do a panoramic painting for one of the long walls of the apartment.  He came and spent several days in the apartment sketching and painting for his inspiration. 

We also designed custom light fixtures, including sconces, a low and spreading chandelier for the dining room, and pendant fixtures for the entry foyer. 

For the baths we used a variety of exotic stones, including a rare and magnificent amethyst for the cabinet pulls in her dressing room, and slabs of quartz not only for the master shower walls, but also on the vanity top - which has lighting built-in so the whole counter can glow.  Remarkable!  There is also a delicate pale blue marble in the guest bath framed by mosaics of cobalt glass tiles for contrast and drama.  A rough, chiseled white marble adorns the wall surface in the master water closet, dramatically lit by grazing light from above, accenting its crystalline texture. 

The entire apartment is wired for sound and light.  There are TV’s for his sports-watching passion, but they are subtly built-in, behind mirrors or discretely tucked into slender armoires, for her.  A fine accommodation of the technical and the beautiful. 

We even have had the finest bed linens from Casa del Bianco customized with embroidered trim to blend with the color scheme to provide the most luxurious of fine cotton for our clients.  They drift off to sleep in the most splendid of aeries ever to grace the Potomac.

Hughes Design Associates