Christopher Boutlier makes modern magic in a vintage Georgetown row house
When a Georgetown homeowner enlisted Christopher Boutlier to guide the redesign of her newly purchased vintage row house, the project began as a simple paint job. As is often the case, however, the scope of work grew until Boutlier found himself overseeing a whole-house makeover in bold, contemporary style.
“My client had lived in a fussy, overdone space for years and was ready for something new,” he relates. “I said, ‘let’s paint everything white’—and it snowballed from there. We started with a paring-down process, stripping the baseboards and adding a modern staircase.”
Boutlier envisioned a black-and-white palette, which his client embraced. “I think I brought out the minimalist in her,” he quips. A stacked-stone fireplace replaced a traditional one in the living room, while strongly veined Statuario marble backsplash and countertops direct attention away from traditional kitchen cabinetry, now painted white. In the master bath, large-format porcelain tile clads the floor and shower enclosure. Clean-lined furnishings combine white upholstery with dark-stained wood pieces. Bold, abstract artwork chosen by the homeowner pops on the walls. Pine floors throughout the house are stained dark.
A defining element in the home is a lush living wall rising from the dining area to the master bath above it. Installed by the previous owner, it experienced a rebirth in the hands of Boutlier and his client, who replaced its ferns and small sculptures with greenery that seems to burst out into the room. “We thought about putting it behind glass,” Boutlier says, “but there is something nice about being able to touch and interact with it.”
Interior Decoration: Christopher Boutlier, Allied ASID, Christopher Boutlier, LLC, Washington, DC. Contractor: Vicente Pro Handyman LLC, Arlington, Virginia.
How do you make a monochromatic space sing?
The key is tonal variations. The space should be quiet and restrained, but layered and complex. Form is also really important. Color brings visual interest and can make clumsy or uninteresting shapes and proportions acceptable; without it, if things aren’t scaled correctly, you’ll notice instantly.
Describe a design shift that you favor.
I love highly patterned and dramatic stone. It’s been plain white marble for so long, it’s nice to see people branching out.
What is your furniture-selection process?
It’s form, color, pattern, then texture. We create a furniture plan with design boards that show us how pieces interact. Then we move on to rugs and fabrics, then accessories and accents to finish off the design.
Advice for clients embarking on a design project?
Be bold and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Fear is the antithesis of creativity. Besides, most things are fixable. I think it’s better to make mistakes than to play it safe.