Text by Charlotte Safavi
Choosing to downsize wasn’t always part of the plan—at least, not for homeowner Amy Gwinn, who was shopping for a house in McLean, Virginia, with her little boy in tow. “I was looking at much larger homes,” she says, “until I was charmed by this house. It was nice and cozy and compact.”
The three-bedroom, 1,400-square-foot home built in the 1950s slices into three perfect tiers: the main living area, featuring an open floor plan; two upstairs bedrooms, including an en suite master bath; and a third, lower level with a family room and guest suite. “It was perfect,” says Amy, who purchased the house in 2015. “I could be close to my son at any time, yet he’d have his own space, and when our family visited from out of town, they’d have a degree of separation.”
Amy had been house hunting with interior designer Liza Jones, who grew up in the area and knew the home’s layout well. For renovations, Liza began by staining the oak floors a darker brown, repainting all the walls and trim, replacing dated light fixtures, and remodeling the kitchen. “We reconfigured the kitchen by removing a back door to the yard,” Liza says. “It allowed us to put in a large window on that wall, along with the sink and some additional cabinetry.” Simple inset-paneled taupe cabinets, user-friendly quartz countertops, and a tiled backsplash laid on the horizontal completed the kitchen’s new look.
“The biggest thing I wanted was to have an exterior that would be usable for a small child, with options for outdoors entertaining,” says Amy, “so we decided to put in a back porch and deck.” The 12-square-foot screened porch is right off the dining room, accessible via sliding glass doors. It is furnished like a living room but with indoor-outdoor furnishings. “Adding the sliding glass doors also brought in so much natural light,” says Liza. “In our temperate climate, Amy can use the screened porch for many months of the year. We decorated it like a room and in the same palette as the interior but in more saturated tones.”
Inside, the palette is mostly neutral, especially for larger furnishings, like the taupe tufted velvet sofa with nail head trim. There are grays and creams everywhere, along with lively pops of orange and teal. “Orange is my favorite color,” says Amy. “It’s happy and energizing and goes well with the cooler, muted tones that I gravitate toward.” An orange-and-cream carpet defines the main living area. It was one of the splurges in the home, which is decorated in a mix of high and low. The furniture on the main level is stain-resistant and durable for family use yet has an elegant feel.
“When I have friends over, the adults enjoy the more formal living and dining areas, which flow out onto the porch and deck, while the kids can play in the basement or yard. We’re all together but not tripping over the little ones,” says Amy. Liza adds, “I’m happy to have created a space she loves. It works perfectly for her and her son.”
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