Washington, D.C.-based interior designer Heidi Scanlon says her Georgetown home was a fixer-upper when she moved in. At the time, the 1925-built house had only 1,500 square feet of livable space and had been vacant for five years. The Scanlons—Heidi; her husband, John; and their two children—were moving back from London before the real-estate bubble popped. They looked on the bright side. “I’m from Savannah, Georgia,” Heidi says. “I love a romantic feel, and the home definitely had that. I felt we could make it work.”
After purchasing the house, Heidi worked with architect Dale Overmyer to enlarge the space without losing its charm. The best, most discreet way to double the square footage was to add on to the back on all three levels, creating the aboveground basement, the first-floor dining room and the second-floor master suite.
“Dale knew we loved porches, so he made the entire addition look like porches,” Heidi says. “The outer walls are all glassed in, with floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors at each end so we can bring the outside in.”
The other big consideration for Heidi was circulation—for both her family and for entertaining. The Scanlons come from a large extended family, and they often have people over. Heidi decided to clear up the entire first floor and forgo a guest bath there in favor of an open floor plan.
“We can have 25 or 30 people over for dinner, so I wanted the dining room as large as possible and accessible from the other rooms,” Heidi says. “We call the downstairs ‘The Loop’!”
Heidi says the second phase of construction—the addition of shelving, cabinetry and the bar—is when the more dramatic change took place. Until that point, the home’s décor had a traditional palette. When the contractor presented Heidi with an opportunity to have the home’s interior repainted, he needed a quick decision on color.
“I walked outside, wondering how I was going to make the decision so quickly,” Heidi recalls. “Then I looked up and saw a beautiful maple tree in fall colors. It was orange, pink, green and brown. That was the turning point.”
Heidi oversaw the vibrant transformation of her home by way of vivid color. “I’m traditional, but I applaud the use of modern color,” she says. She had the living room painted bold orange; the dining room, a pink-stripe paint that looks like wallpaper; the kitchen, apple green; and the master suite, a dark, cocooning brown.
“My style is Southern cosmopolitan,” Heidi says. “I realized these were the colors I grew up with in the South: the sunsets over the marsh, the green trees draped with Spanish moss, the pink flowers.” Once her color scheme was established, Heidi took to reinterpreting her traditional furniture with modern flair. She reupholstered in mostly vibrant fabrics—some solid, some patterned.
“My approach was high fashion meets high functionality,” she says. So, she hung Isaac Mizrahi orange-and-pink silk panels out of the way in the living room and covered the well-used sofas in a fuchsia, yet easy-to-launder, ultrasuede.
Heidi’s sense of style enabled her to combine fine antiques with flea-market finds in a seamless manner. For example, her dining-room table, which seats 16, came from the Georgetown flea market, whereas the antique roll-top desk with silver inlays, now functioning as a bar/sideboard, is an heirloom. Above all, Heidi is a people person.
“I was raised in a Greek family where romance is about hospitality and food. You’re always entertaining, the bar is always stocked and the cocktail napkins or tea cozy are always ready to go,” she says. Nothing is too precious. Heidi finished the dining-room tabletop in black lacquer so people wouldn’t worry about putting a glass on it, and she favors bare wood flooring so kids can roller-skate or skateboard if they want to. “It’s romantic without being cloying,” she says of her home. “We’re not fussy, formal people,” she says. “We live everywhere and use everything!”
Written and styled by Charlotte Safavi
Photography by Robert Radifera