Layered Luxe

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Before interior designer Meredith McBrearty began renovations on her charming midcentury cottage that she shares with husband Lee and their three young children, she asked herself a key question that she always poses to her clients at the start of a project: “What do you want your home to feel like?”

While McBrearty’s job affords her access to the finest fabrics and most covetable furnishings, her design philosophy digs deeper, aiming to capture the essence of the homeowners and bring their story to life, rather than just filling a home with pretty things, she says.

For McBrearty, her home is all about family. “I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be the house that my kids grow up in,’” says the designer. “A home is where so many of life’s important moments happen and I wanted to create a fun and fresh backdrop for those memories.”

Her first order of business was to make the compact 1940s layout feel lighter and brighter by stripping the floors, gutting the kitchen, and painting every wall, both inside and out. Next up was filling the home with the things she and her family love—a few “design risks” included.

A graphic blue-and-white cement tile backsplash in the kitchen makes a bold statement, as does whimsical floral wallpaper in her youngest daughter’s bedroom. But McBrearty’s eclectic design style truly shines in her home office. Here, an antelope rug serves as the foundation for a classic Belgian-style sofa, a pair of vintage Milo Baughman chairs and an antique Italian inlaid-bone chair—all capped off with a sweeping chandelier that McBrearty playfully likens to a sombrero. “This room is a good example of how differing styles can actually work very well together,” she says. “I always encourage buying what you love, and then getting somebody who knows what they’re doing to pull it all together and really make it sing.”

Another tip from the seasoned designer, who counts Washington, D.C., powerhouse design firm Solis Betancourt & Sherrill as the stepping stone for her design experience, is to splurge on an antique or two. “You can always count on the enduring appeal of well-loved, well-built furniture that have seen a few, or a hundred, years. Plus, in a home full of children, they’re a solid investment as they’ve already stood up to the test of time,” says McBrearty. A quick glance around her home offers a glimpse of several antiques—from a Swedish armoire in the master bedroom to a French chest in the vestibule—that blend seamlessly into the home’s laid-back luxury aesthetic where modern and classic silhouettes comfortably mingle.

For all of its chic sensibilities, the home at its core revolves around family life, which McBrearty found clever ways to accommodate through textiles. Vinyl chairs in the dining room provide easy cleanup, and a quilted runner crafted from an outdoor fabric acts as a stylish but sensible overlay for the family room sofa. “With kids, sometimes you have to get creative and come up with beautiful ways to conceal real life,” she says.

So while you’re likely to find Legos stacked high on the dining room table or the remnants of an impromptu tea party taken place in the library, the McBreartys’ home is about as picture-perfect a family place as one could imagine.

INTERIOR DESIGN Meredith McBrearty, (202) 390-2912; meredithmcbrearty.com BUILDER Castles & Cottages, (404) 377-9991; castlescottages.com