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Room Decoration

A timeless Washington, DC, bathroom reno


When a family moved into their home in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, they knew the interior didn’t reflect their style. Built in 1908, the Victorian house was “stripped of its original character” and filled with “trendy modern farmhouse features,” including rustic shiplap shutters, says interior designer Sara Swabb of Story collectively. With the help of Tanya Smith-Shiflett’s Unique kitchens and bathrooms and builder can constructionthe team gave it a loving and timeless refresh, especially in the primary bathroom.

Like much of the four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom home, the primary bathroom strikes a balance between modern and timeless. “The most striking feature of the design is the tension between the strong metals of the bathroom fixtures and hardware, balanced with the texture and movement of the ribbed vanity and ethereal marble veining,” says Swabb.

Smith-Shiflett designed the custom fluted vanity vignette to bring the family’s organic style to life and add personalized storage. “The primary bathroom had build quality cabinetry, which didn’t meet the needs of the family,” she says. “The new vanity offers large personal drawers and a small centered shared storage solution.”

preview for Design School
Bathroom vanity

Other upgrades include a large mirror made of four panels, which allows light to bounce around the room. Three traditional sconces were mounted on the transoms to direct the light where it is needed. Polished copper bathroom fixtures give the space a warm, welcoming feel. In the shower there is a floating bench, shelves for ample storage space and a hand shower that the customer requested. Now, in addition to being highly functional, the space is lofty and more reflective of the spirit of the Victorian terraced house with a modern twist.

Question and answer

House Beautiful: How large was the project?

Sarah Swabb: This Victorian home on Capitol Hill had had its interior extensively renovated by a developer to match a modern farmhouse aesthetic that didn’t match our client or the home’s intended style. Our scope included a complete overhaul of the primary bathroom and powder room, a thorough refresh of the kitchen, along with new hardware, doors, paint, lighting, furniture and window treatments throughout the home. Our goal was to also elevate the home’s architectural details, including a new stair railing and original millwork, while creating a feminine, sophisticated space for a family of five (plus an adorable furry friend).

HB: What was the reason/inspiration for the makeover and how did you achieve it?

Tanya Smith-Shiflett: The homeowners had lived in England and California before settling in Capitol Hill, Washington, DC with their three young children. era roots. Our team struck a balance, moving the line between modern and edited, yet inspired and detailed.

HB: Did you encounter any memorable hiccups, challenges, or surprises during the project? How did you spin?


TS: Waterworks’ polished copper sanitary fixture finish was such a special feature of this design. Due to the pandemic at the time, the lead time was slightly longer than desired; however, the right finish was worth the wait.

HB: Where did most of the budget go?

SS: Most of the budget fell on the stone and tile, both in terms of material and labor costs.

HB: How did you save money/DIY/get cunning?

SS: While we originally envisioned a single mirror with a hand-finished copper rim, it would have been too large to even enter the house. Instead, we decided to save some money by making four separate mirrors with beveled edges, which turned out to be one of our favorite design details.

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Key photo of Kelly Allen

Associate Editor

Kelly Allen is the current Associate Editor at House Beautiful, where she covers design, pop culture and travel for digital and print magazine. She has been with the team for nearly three years, attending industry events and covering a range of topics. When she’s not watching every new TV show and movie, she’s browsing vintage home furnishing stores, admiring hotel interiors and wandering New York City. She previously worked for Delightful and Cosmopolitan. Follow her on Instagram.