Before & After

Kalorama Project - Sneak Peak! by Raji Radhakrishnan

                                                           Raji RM Design - Work-in-progress during install

                                                           Raji RM Design - Work-in-progress during install

A few months ago I started on a project for a client whose daughter lives in New York and knew my work. When her mother bought an apartment in the lovely neighborhood of Kalorama in Washington DC, it was she who suggested to her mother that she call me. This is a contemporary apartment of a world traveler who has collected art over the years from around the globe. The client is a smart, sophisticated and caring person and I am very happy to have met her. Her apartment needed to suit her needs, her dreams. The goal was to create a sophisticated home with furnishings that worked well with the contemporary architecture and form a fine backdrop for her collection of global antiquities and modern art. For me, it was very important that the design & art meld and complement one another in a seamless fashion - one should pick up where the other left off. I also decided that because the art was significant and high in personality, the design needed to be fairly quiet and in keeping with the modern nature of the architecture. This meant that mixing traditional pieces with modern and contemporary furniture needed to be kept to a minimum.

In my own home (which is an amalgamation of Georgian and modern architecture) I have mixed a lot of contemporary, modern and traditional pieces together but I've always believed that the extent to which one can mix styles in furnishings has a lot to do with the architecture of the space and the inherent tastes or collections of the clients. This one is through and through a contemporary apartment. However, the client's collection of art ranges from modern art to 17th - 18th century Indian, Mexican, Japanese and Javanese sculptures. How do you bridge the gap? If I had added traditional furnishings it would not only be against the grain of the architecture but also very confusing and clashing with too many stories floating around. Thus, the key was to offer restraint and transition the antiquities gently into the modern world. Connect the dots, fill in for gaps in a sensible way. I thought of Christopher Columbus and I imagined taking a new route today starting in Asia, passing through Western Europe and eventually landing in America. The lynchpin being Western Europe, the missing part of the puzzle. As it happens the client expressed great interest in my murals. But I couldn't use just any mural. So the search began for European art that could work as a beautiful mural and backdrop for the antiquities while poised perfectly against the contemporary background. And it wasn't just the murals. The plan called for a slightly minimalist approach. That meant every piece of furniture had to have a reason for existence. Not just functionally but in the story I was weaving. French and Scandinavian modernist furnishings helped with that. Aesthetically, the design still needed some semblance of the old interpreted in a contemporary way and I couldn't think of better materials than brass and bronze which age beautifully and have that warm glow - this time in the form of modern tables and lamps.

                                                                             Raji RM Design - Mural Installation

                                                                             Raji RM Design - Mural Installation

                                                           Raji RM Design - Work-in-progress during install

                                                           Raji RM Design - Work-in-progress during install

As we completed the installation, I thought of my client and imagined her family gathering around for the holidays, talking about their own stories and I smiled as I bid adieu to my team and hurried back home...

Wishing you and yours a Warm & Happy Holidays!

- xo Raji

p.s. photos of the completed project coming soon!

All photos via our Instagram posts.

Raji RM & Associates | Interior Designer & Decorator

Washington DC | New York

Contact us to learn more about our work

Before & After: Charity Works Green House (Part Two) by Raji Radhakrishnan

Last week for #ThrowbackThursday we discussed the details of the Foyer & Galleries Raji planned for the 2009 Charity Works Green House - an Eco-friendly and green home designed by Cunningham Quill Architects and built by Mark Turner of GreenSpur in a quaint neighborhood in McLean, VA. As promised in Part One of this blog post, here are the after photos of the show house spaces Raji designed - a series of small, narrow hallways and an entryway.

The entry way stairs as originally designed:

Designed by Raji RM & Associates

Designed by Raji RM & Associates

The architectural detail the paneling provided was key to these spaces and an important first impression for the Craftsman style house. We used five feet tall wainscot paneling from Mouldings & Millwork's eco-friendly line SPERO. The paint on the walls, ceiling and wood work is Pointing by Farrow & Ball and was from one of their low VOC lines available at that time. The custom runner that Raji designed was made of hard-wearing wool (which is necessary for high traffic areas such as the stairs), as opposed to hemp which was considered but rejected since it will not adhere well to the folds of a stair case. The Renaissance style bench and the French Umbrella stand like all other furnishings used in the foyer & galleries were all vintage and from our own 20th Century Decorative Arts gallery - maison et toi. The art works seen here are by Vik Muniz (After Motherwell VII & VIII).

The other side of the entry way after the paneling went up:

Forgive the awkward photography but it is due to the extremely narrow spacing of the entry way which did not give us much wiggle room to get a clear shot of the space with all the details! The narrow console seen here is one of the most interesting pieces Raji designed. The front piece alone is an original remnant of an 18th Century French balcony which Raji then decided to re-use to make into a console table.

So many more details were added in every turn and corner of the Foyer & Galleries at the 2009 Charity Works Green House. The best part is, so much of our work now continues to be as Eco-friendly as possible and not to mention how much we love using vintage and antique furniture!

Raji RM & Associates | Interior Designer & Decorator

Washington DC | New York

Contact us to learn more about our work

Before & After: Charity Works Green House (Part One) by Raji Radhakrishnan

#TBT: CharityWorks GreenHouse is a project Raji RM worked on in 2009 along with many other local designers. (This was originally posted in Design Dossier in September 2009 )

Initial rendering presented in early 2009 by  Raji RM  for the Foyer

Initial rendering presented in early 2009 by Raji RM for the Foyer

I've often described interior architecture as akin to a great body especially before adorning a superb dress. If you fix the shell of a space as best you possibly can, what ever furnishings or decor you put in it is going to be even more amazing than when you first found it. While this seems quite logical and given, it's still not the first priority for so many. The instant gratification that many seek and evidenced by so much more willingness to rush and furnish spaces while understandable is exactly where restraint is lacking. Sure it takes time, a higher budget and a lot more patience to wait and get the floors, walls, ceiling and mill work just right. But the results are not only far better but also long lasting especially in keeping you happy knowing you have done all the right things. How long can you cover up with just make-up before your skin starts to show? But then, if you are really happy with your interior space, it's layout and the finishes you should certainly go ahead and get that instant gratification!

The new wainscot paneling  Raji RM  designed for the main entry

The new wainscot paneling Raji RM designed for the main entry

The house is a custom LEED certified green house thoughtfully built form scratch by the builder, Mark Turner of GreenSpur and beautifully designed by Cunningham Quill Architects. The interiors were left to be designed by the selected designers and the first time we were actually able to step into the house, the foyer and the hallways much like the rest of the interior were just plain dry walls. While I regard my spaces in the upcoming Charity Works Green House (the front porch, foyer, hallways, stairs and upstairs hall) as very important first impressions for the whole house, they are nevertheless a group of small, narrow meandering spaces. To make the best of it, the first thing I designed was a five feet high wainscot paneling (see photo above). This gives the narrow space some instant character not to mention some clear architectural heft. While the simple squares in the panel are a nod to the craftsman style of the house, at only five feet high from the ground keeps it from overwhelming the narrow spaces. Had I not added it, the entire onus of making the space would lie on the decor, but then again, there isn't much room for that either. And let me tell you, whatever few furnishings do finally end up in these spaces is by no means "just there". Think about all the factors that are going to count in the selection process -

- First and foremost it has to be very eco-friendly. That is the first criteria for everyone of the designers working in the house. Add to that my self-imposed green standard that it burns almost no fossil fuels, meaning use vintage, antiques or pre-owned as much as possible

- It has to fit the scale of the spaces yet be unobtrusive for the heavy traffic that will invariably be walking through these spaces back and forth

- Besides being luxurious and not bland or basic just because they are "eco-friendly", everything in my 'Foyer & Galleries' space has to be interesting and attractive enough to warrant a "pause and behold"

- At least a few good innovative ideas that can easily be parlayed by visitors in their own homes

- Has to be current for today's clients and their lifestyle yet in some ways at least agreeable to the craftsman architecture of the home without looking dated,

- And my own goals of keeping a good mix of things both traditional and modern in style to give the impression of things collected over a period of time through the different design eras the owners might have lived through and their own travels.

Go to charityworksgreenhouse.com for more information. A complete greenhouse inside out.

Stay tuned, next week we will show you all the after photos - fun, completed spaces!

Raji RM & Associates | Interior Designer & Decorator

Washington DC | New York

Contact us to learn more about our work