With a baby on the way, a kalorama couple fires up their nesting instincts with a high-style renovation.
The premise didn’t seem complicated. After two years of marriage, attorneys Sapna Mehta and Andy Grimmig were ready to trade their Dupont Circle condo for a proper house in the city where they could start a family. But seven months later, finding something move-in ready had proved far more elusive than they had imagined. It was time for another approach.
“I wasn’t thinking about a gut job,” Mehta says. “I don’t think of myself as a person with the [bravado] to do that.” Yet there it was—a 1911 Wardman home in Kalorama on a block of white-columned porticos that could easily blend in with any chic enclave of London.
Its interiors, however, were devoid of any charm, having gone through a series of bad renovations. That’s when their realtor recommended Carmel Greer, a young architect who could help them envision the possibilities. “She got our vision and got us more excited about the project,” Mehta says.
Leaving only the staircase and a brick wall intact, Greer orchestrated a renovation and addition that blended her clients’ penchant for the modern and moody with dramatic architectural references to the past.
Using historic patterns as a guide, she designed 9-inch black-lacquer crown molding to frame the interconnected living room, kitchen and family room. And though each space feels separate, Greer maintained a sightline from the front door to a rear wall of windows. “The one thing I always do on all row-house renovations is when you walk in, you see light,” she explains.
The kitchen is at the heart of everything, as the couple cooks and entertains frequently. Its centerpiece is the dramatic, 12-foot marble island. “I always love doing long islands,” Greer says. “If you’re going to do an island, go big.”
While Greer focused on the floor plans and materials, Mehta worked feverishly on the interior design. “We had a Pinterest board for each room,” says Mehta, who was pregnant and then gave birth to daughter Rumi during the renovation. “I was like a machine while I was on maternity leave—we wanted it to be done when we moved in.”
With Greer guiding her selections to maintain a consistent look throughout the house, Mehta found ornate reproduction mantels for the home’s three fireplaces, as well as bold Tom Dixon light fixtures for the dining area and a custom blue velvet sofa for the living room.
She also wanted herringbone-patterned hardwood flooring—and Greer sourced it in reclaimed knotty pine similar to what remained on the original staircase. There was enough wood left over to provide floating shelves in the kitchen and a built-in desktop for the home office upstairs.
Greer, who was pregnant at the same time and renovating her own house, traded decorating ideas with Mehta. The architect used plaster medallions for punch on her own nursery walls and then used them to equal effect in Mehta’s powder room. She also referred them to an Etsy shop that sold the interesting light fixtures illuminating the couple’s master bedroom and closet. Mehta then turned Greer on to L.A.-based Mortise & Tenon, who made the couple’s glossy black kitchen table.
With some final-touch guidance from their friend, designer Breeze Giannasio, the couple’s home now exudes a contemporary style with classic grounding—and a dash of industrial flair. They credit Greer for (literally) laying all the groundwork.
“It was a great experience working with Carmel,” says Andy, noting that with extra bedrooms on the third floor and a basement lounge, the family has plenty of room to expand—which is good, he jokes, “because I don’t want to do this again!”