The master bedroom features a bright white leather bed from Modloft that pops brilliantly against gray walls and a black bed frame.
Designer Syntha Harris comes to every home project with an approach that’s decidedly different from many in her field. She worked in fashion for years as a runway and print model, working directly with designers like Oscar de la Renta, Carmen Marc Valvo and Ralph Lauren. As one might guess, the details matter.
“Layering is important to me, from the walls down to each accessory, which are all purposefully placed,” says Harris. “I prefer a clean aesthetic, one that I would call an elegant, warm, modern approach based on a traditional foundation. Mixing metals, subtle wallpapers and beautiful lighting is important to my design—as is layering textures.”
The comfortable living room, which boasts leather chairs from RH, is designed for both social and business gatherings.
So, when Harris recently tackled a three-level, 6,000-square-foot home adjacent to the 18th hole at Maryland’s storied TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm golf course, she knew her work would need to both reflect the client’s wishes and her design road map. The homeowner, who has a college-age son, is a financial adviser and money manager with offices in Montgomery County and DC. The client also needed to comfortably host client meetings and social gatherings. “He wanted an updated, clean, modern feel that reflected more of who he is and his stage in life,” says Harris. Above all, Harris says he desired spaces that were “uncluttered, minimal, elegant and warm but modern.”
After removing all of the original furnishings, Harris focused on a few structural updates to the home, including refinishing the floors from bleached oak to a rich dark walnut stain. All of the rooms were repainted in shades of light gray and white. The foyer’s gold- and cream-toned marble tiles transitioned to darker gray and black, which worked well with the home’s new color scheme. Harris even swapped traditional faux fireplace logs for broken glass in tones of gray and black. “It elevated the fireplace from a staid [piece] to a more contemporary focal point,” she says.
Harris is quick to note that the homeowner has a keen eye for beauty—from luxurious fabrics to fine finishes—and was an active participant in choosing the home’s new furnishings. The living room, where the homeowner often hosts business meetings, is a stunning example of Harris’ form-marries-function approach to design. Her first move: incorporating a dramatic chandelier. “It’s the first room you see when you walk into the home, so it had to have an impact,” she says. “The homeowner also loves contemporary art and continually adds to his collection. So, the finishes and fabrics needed to be aligned not just with the overall aesthetic, but also hold up to repetitive use and work with art that is rotated often. The gray and black of the soft goods enable the pops of color in the art to take center stage.”
From top: To contrast the home’s social spaces, Harris carved out a reading nook complete with an Eames lounge chair and ottoman; the kitchen is a study in clean lines and white-and-black tonal contrasts.
For the dining room, the homeowner’s glass and crystal collection adds color and interest to a space newly adorned with chairs lined in velvet with rhinestones inserted into the quilting. “Since the seating in the living room was created to be conducive for smaller more intimate gatherings and meetings, the family room needed to have appropriately scaled, comfortable seating for larger groups, family time and watching TV,” says Harris. Her solution: carving out a small sitting area in the bay window with a leather-covered Eames chair—perfect for morning coffee and reading.
Harris showcased even more flourishes in the master bedroom, including a bright white leather bed that pops wonderfully against gray walls and a black bed frame. “To keep the room from feeling too cool, we added the warm-toned shagreen matching side tables,” says Harris. “It’s also important to incorporate meaningful pieces that homeowners hold dear. The bust of a lady was a piece my client has had for many years, and we placed it under the wonderful pendant lights that flank the bed.”
When the project wrapped, the homeowner noted every space is the perfect reflection of his refined yet modern taste. “While difficult to fully visualize and appreciate during the design phase, the finished product exceeded my expectations in every way,” he says.
Photography by: Robert Radifera | Styled by Charlotte Safavi