For two decades, the Georgetown couple walked past a Colonial Revival brick house near Tudor Place and wished it could be theirs. “We admired the simplicity and elegance of the architecture,” says the attorney husband. “The home is somewhat unique because it is freestanding rather than a row house. It came with one of the deepest gardens in Georgetown.”
Brown and Davis addressed both modernity and history by setting sleek furnishings into rooms outlined in elegant architectural details of their own making. “The façade is gorgeous but the interiors did not match that,” says Brown. “To either side of the central hallway was a jumble of rooms. It was time to give the house new life.” On the main level, archways between the hallway and flanking spaces were widened and raised to improve flow. A small room behind the living space was replaced with a coat closet and a powder room with a sculptural stone sink.
Throughout the house, the décor reflects what Brown and Davis call “classical contemporary,” a luxurious but streamlined look that has become their signature. “One of our trademarks is the juxtaposition of old and new, and bringing colors together in unexpected ways,” Davis says.
The more formal rooms at the front of the house exemplify this mix of traditional and modern elements. In the living room, Brown and Davis replaced the fireplace mantel with a carved limestone surround and installed new architectural moldings to create a classical backdrop to stylized, Deco-inspired furnishings. Instead of pairing sofas around the fireplace, they arranged seating areas at either end of the room and connected them with a floral-patterned carpet of their own design. “It was inspired by a late 19th-century Chinese import rug for another client,” explains Brown. “The furniture has a Deco flair and in terms of Deco interiors, Chinese rugs were often used.” Ivory upholstery on the chairs and sofas provides a contemporary twist within the room’s traditional setting.
Abstract prints by noted American artists Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Serra, and large paintings by Spanish artists Miguel Angel Campano and José Freixanes underscore the contemporary feeling. “We think the art reinforces the importance of simple furnishings—the furnishings do not collide visually with the art,” says the husband.
Upstairs in his study, Brown and Davis extended the same strategy applied to the living and dining rooms, but reversed the approach. Instead of ornamenting the walls with intricate moldings, they used streamlined cherry paneling and shelving as a modern backdrop to traditional furnishings, including four chairs the designers originally created for the British Embassy.
Contrast continues in the master bedroom, where light-colored bedding, drapes and upholstery are set off by raisin-colored silk wallpaper. “We were asked to make it a cocoon,” says Davis. “So we used materials to absorb sound from the street.”At one end of the room, a print by British artist Henry Moore hangs over a fireplace framed in a simple stone surround. “It’s our favorite room, especially in winter with the fireplace burning,” says the husband. “We are often there, reading or working late at night when the house and the city outside are quiet.”