James Bond-ish

Guest Contributor SHANON MUNN is the President and CEO of Ambi Design Studio, a full-service interior design firm in Washington, DC. 

WASHINGTON, DC — “Your condo has a what?” I believe that was my response when my client told me that he had a turret in his newly purchased home. Not to mention that he has views of a stunning Chinese pagoda. So, like any red blooded interior designer my interest was peaked.

The request list was fairly short. “James-Bondish”. That is how my client described the desired secret door. OK, I can do that….and combine his love for ancient cultures (Greek, Roman, Asian), AND honor the historic shell that it was wrapped in. Hmm, how AM I going to acccomplish that?

Well, first and foremost, just like any design job I had to make sure that the layout of the space was right. And this living room was definitely NOT right. So I relocated the electrical placement for the chandelier to a spot closer to the kitchen.

Then I designed a dramatic eating area anchored by two huge bookcases that flank a banquette. I chose classically shaped Klismos dining chairs. The large cabinets inspired the millwork in the room and I was thinking of men’s paneled smoking lounges when I designed it.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I created the missing focal point out of a strange corner using a ventless fireplace from EcoSmart Fire. This allowed me to anchor my seating area.

James Bond, 007 delivered! Custom hidden doorways can easily cost 10’s of thousands of dollars. That was not in the budget. So we achieved it by customizing a niche door. We ordered it plain and had it gussied up on-site with matching millwork for a fraction of the cost.

The incredible turret space turned out to be a bit of a challenge to space-plan as well. Every surface, including the floor is tilting in a different direction. And the space, although tall, is really tiny. To give some crucial breathing room, I moved the doorway to the room so that the space now encompasses part of the hallway. It is just wide enough to fit a bookcase across from a small settee and two terrific column end tables that I found at a second hand shop for lunch money. A little professional polishing and they look terrific. Notice the artwork in the background? It is absolutely not hung level–but it looks level, right? You need to be flexible when you work in historic spaces! You can also see the hint of the bottom of the catwalk shelf that was built to display the client’s collections.

Brunschwig + Fils’ Bird & Thistle documentary pattern on the windows combined with browns, rusty reds and calming blues help to create a refined, but masculine master bedroom retreat.

I created a dramatic bathroom with one of my favorite metallic tiles from Happy Floors–not seen is a Bisazza bronze, black and mirror metallic mosaic tile that I used in the shower. I also used one of my favorite purple/brown colors from Sherwin Williams called Mulberry Silk. I’ve used that color in a contemporary and craftsman-style setting. The linen cabinet is an antique hand-painted Chinese cabinet.

Let’s recap, shall we? James Bond, 007–check. We showed my client’s love for ancient cultures through the classic shapes in the furniture pieces–check. We honored the historic shell–check. Honoring the historic shell, I hung artwork crooked for Pete’s sake–checkmate!

Photos: © 2011 Angie Seckinger

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