With Vibrant Paint Colors, a Historic D.C. Home Enters the

Nearly a decade ago, scientist Teresa Williams was looking to purchase a San Francisco home with her then new husband, tennis pro turned exercise therapist David Starbuck Smith. The duo fell in love with a vibrant condo in Duboce Triangle, but their offer was outbid. Instead of accepting defeat, they researched the property’s seller and discovered that he could help them achieve a dazzling space of their own.

The aforementioned seller was interior designer Kevin Sawyers, who worked with Teresa and David to create an energetic oasis when they eventually found a place to buy. The three have remained friends ever since, so it was only natural that Kevin was the couple’s first call once they decided to move across the country. Even over Zoom, he was the only person they considered to reimagine their historic Washington D.C. town house.

Located in Dupont Circle, the 1870 dwelling was full of original details like elaborate moldings, tall windows, and a sturdy staircase. But the beautiful 152-year-old features were dulled by a basic black-and-white palette. Teresa and David wanted Kevin to infuse the home with his signature colorful vitality. “There was a lot of potential, and it took Kevin and [his employee] Brice [Stanek] to realize the vision,” shares David. “We trusted that they could knock it out of the park, and they did.”

In addition to incorporating rainbow hues, Kevin wanted to strike a balance between maintaining the existing elements of the building and introducing a contemporary aesthetic. He painted the ornate trim in each room the same color as the abutting walls for a fresh, unorthodox perspective on the classic embellishment. “The whole place is a play against traditional and modern,” he explains.

Kevin crafted an elegant bar in a nook off the dining room.

Ansel Olson

An original stained glass transom was restored in the entryway.

Ansel Olson

On the ground level, Kevin swapped splintering hardwood floors for wide Siberian oak planks arranged in a herringbone pattern. The natural material is contrasted with a dusty lilac Benjamin Moore shade that carries from the entryway, with its stained glass transom, to the living room, where an intricately textured ceiling is paired with a Lee Industries citrine velvet sofa and two oversized Blek le Rat portraits.

“The end of the banquette has a curve, and the back doesn’t continue all the way down the length, and that’s because the fireplace is there at the end,” Kevin explains. “So, you can be seated there and still feel like the fireplace is there in your space.”

Ansel Olson