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A Once Dark and Dated Maryland Home is Now A Chic Family Retreat

  • By Megan Cahn
  • Photos by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Bring on the holidays!

Entering the empty nest phase of their lives hasn’t slowed Scott and Barbara Taylor down. They’re active in their community and love to entertain—and want their Rockville, Maryland home to reflect that. Now that their children are all adults with families of their own, they also want their house to be a central place everyone can gather for holidays, birthdays or even just a movie night. So, they hired interior designer Christie Leu to help turn the first floor of their home into a space that is bright, welcoming and comfortable for themselves and their ever-growing extended family.


Here’s how they tackled the renovation.


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Invest In Functional Furniture

Before the renovation, the Taylors’ living room was not seeing a lot of living. One of their goals was to put the non-functioning spaces in the house to use, and that meant getting rid of non-functioning items. The antique family furniture, though sentimental, was clearly not suiting their needs. Barbara decided to auction pieces off to Laurel Auction, but held onto a few items that worked with a more contemporary design like her grandmother’s Chippendale hall table. Leu often likes to add a few antiques into the mix to add interest to a space. “Rooms need a few antiques along with accessories and color to give it life, history and character,” she says.


To make the most of the space, Leu likes to use a few large pieces as opposed to a lot of small ones to make a room feel more open. In the living room, she chose a sectional couch that fills the space—rather than two couches or multiple chairs—because it’s one piece that still offers a lot of seating.


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Create The Perfect Atmosphere

It may have been hard to tell at first, but Leu saw that the stuffy living room had the potential to be a lovely light-filled space, perfect for entertaining. She added floor lamps, task lamps on the tables and dimmers to all the light fixtures and ditched the dark drapes. “I like layers in window treatments for visual interest and adjustable light options,” she says. “We added light linen draperies and woven wood blinds so that all the light can stream in when the Taylors want it.” If they prefer it dark, like for family movie nights, the cordless Roman shades are lined with blackout fabric. Bonus: the Samsung Frame Television, mounted above the fireplace, doubles as piece of artwork that can be changed depending on their mood.


  • Living Room
    Living Room
  • Family Room
    Family Room
  • Kitchen
  • Foyer
  • Exterior
  • Dining Room
    Dining Room

Choose Durable Fabric

The Taylors kept the existing sofa in the family room, but with the new sectional in the living room, Leu made sure it was made of stain, water and bacteria resistant crypton upholstery fabric. “It’s all I use if I am going for a light-color on a heavily used piece,” she says. As for the rug, Leu chose an indoor/outdoor one that is pet-friendly to accommodate the family dog and the spills that are inevitable with large family gatherings.

Mix a Soothing Palette With Pops of Color

Leu and the Taylors were going for a soothing but welcoming palette with with pops of color. “We chose warm grays, whites and natural woods for the larger items with lots of tone-on-tone and texture,” says Leu. In the dining and living rooms, they added pops of blue, while in the kitchen, they chose aqua tiles to replace the beige backsplash. “Color adds life and fun!” says the designer. “It would still be nice without it, but definitely not as memorable.” In the family room, they used blush as the accent color. They also added geometric panels and a window seat that fills the entire wall, and a chic black fireplace. “The original family room had a rustic stone fireplace,” says Leu. “But I wanted to give the room a fresh and more modern look.” The Vanguard round coffee table/ottoman is one of Leu’s favorite pieces in the home. “With its leather top, you can wipe it clean after a casual snack and put your feet up!”

Find Ways to Recycle and Save

“A big budget saver was keeping the existing kitchen cabinets and painting them with quality paint like Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel, which has a hard durable finish,” says Leu. They went with Agreeable Gray because they wanted a soothing light color and white felt too stark for the space. They also changed the light fixtures, backsplash, and countertops. They recycled the marble from the countertops and used it to surround the fireplace in the living room. Crafty!  

Create A Functional Foyer

Barbara also found some items on Craigslist, like the bench in the foyer. “I liked that it’s not too heavy, completely functional, and looks like it has a story,” she says.

Update the Front Door

Freshening up the look of a home is never limited to the inside alone. But if taking on the outside seems daunting, a simple front door change could be all you need. Leu simply traded in the old door for one in an eye-catching royal blue that complements both the interior and exterior of the home. “I always like color on the front door to make the entrance inviting and exciting,” she says. “A new wood front door is a project that takes relatively little time, money and effort, but makes a huge impact.”

Take Some Risks

“When I saw this wallpaper by Anna French I couldn’t wait to use it!” says Leu. “I love everything about it, especially the organic watercolor pattern.” It took Barbara a little more time to come around to the bold choice. “I wasn't sure I was going to like it at first,” she says. “The dining room is long and narrow and I was afraid the paper would be too much, but a great designer will encourage you to step outside your comfort zone. Now, I love it!”

Create a Cohesive Feel

The wallpaper not only looks amazing in the dining room, it helps tie the house together. It complements both the aqua backsplash in the kitchen and the pops of blue in the adjacent dining room and the living room. Leu likes adding elements that give a home a cohesive feel. The tones are the same throughout the house, the flooring runs everywhere except the kitchen and the walls are all Toque White 7003 by Sherwin Williams, making it feel whole.