Q&A: Betsy Stires on Designing Her Home

Betsy Stires Living Room
Photography by Gordon Beall

SH: What was the first thing you noticed when entering this home?

BS: The light was fantastic in the apartment; it has a southern exposure. The position of the unit in the building gives us both the “rooftop Mary Poppins” view of Old Town and a nice slice of the Potomac River. Our balcony is 80 feet long, and we use it a great deal for entertaining.

SH: What was the style inspiration?

BS: I was channeling aspects of my favorite interiors from rooms I have visited all over the world. I often credit my aunt, the design legend Sally Sirkin Lewis (J. Robert Scott) as the primary influence in my life who set my sense of proportion and scale, appreciation of spectacular textures and textiles, and the importance of my art collection.

SH: What are the most notable aspects of the project?

BS: The most amazing part of this whole project has been the way it came to us. Long story shortened, we unknowingly purchased several antiques from the estate of the owners of our future home. Since then, we have made new friends of their old friends. They are both deceased now (Edward Plyler and Joseph Cippolari of Plyler and Associates), but they have kind of become a part of our lives.

aqua blue laundry room
Photography by Gordon Beall

SH: Which room provided the most challenges?

BS: The laundry room was both the most challenging and gratifying of the entire project. The confines of the concrete building and its complex plumbing and electrical infrastructure were extremely limiting, but the result is a very beautiful and practical room where every bit of space possible was incorporated.

Betsy Stires Foyer
Photography by Gordon Beall

SH: What inspired your color/pattern choices?

BS: Because all the light in the condominium comes from one direction, my primary color choices were built on the concept of expanding the space to make it the most pleasant to be in and be surrounded by. Benjamin Moore’s “Simply White” is used extensively on all surfaces—millwork, trim, ceilings, and walls help to blur the rooms’ visual boundaries. Cleverly placed mirrors that reflect dark spaces and become “trickery” to expand the rooms were integral as well. In the main rooms, I tried to build the rich visual interest with layers and layers of textures, like real oak parquet floors to a variety of neutral textiles on floors, windows, and upholstery.The bedrooms and baths offered me a greater opportunity to play with color and pattern more Dramatically, as I treated each one as a unique destination.

Project Resources: Marcus Pluntke, Pluntke Decorating for specialty finishes; Christopher Peterson, Peterson Carpentry for millwork; Eric Lieberknecht, Lieberknecht Custom Cabinetry; Tim Griffin, Griffin Technologies for TV/WIFI wiring; Don Spence, Renaissance Studios wallpaper specialist; Mel Deguzman, Atelier, Inc., for custom fabrication; Brian Grigsby, Clear Glass Creations, for mirror and glass. 

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