Open House
Old meets new in this sparse living room.
When media consultants Hilary Rosen and Elizabeth Birch first saw their 6,000-square-foot Washington, D.C. trilevel, the spec-built house was under construction and they didn't like its style. Enter designer Nestor Santa-Cruz, a partner at SKB Architecture and Design, who's known for his clean, modern interiors.

"This home weaves together modern and traditional until the border between them disappears," designer Nestor Santa-Cruz says. In one of two connecting living rooms, a photograph by Tim Hailand—with the word transcend superimposed over the ocean—sets the quiet, spare tone.
A collection of Buddhas
"Objects in a collection should talk to one another," Nestor says, whereas spreading them throughout the house can diffuse their impact. In the larger living room, Nestor brought together the Buddhas the women had collected during their travels in Asia. Grouping objects also makes "a strong statement about who you are and what you're interested in."
Off-white pottery pops against a dark background.
Wishing to set off her creamware pottery, Hilary suggested the browns and blues that run through the house. To make Hilary's pottery pop, Nestor painted the back of the display shelves a contrasting deep brown. He also added shades of white and touches of orange and gold to the overall color scheme. The consistent palette formalizes the rooms, while subdued linens and cottons keep them pretty.
Comfort reigns in this master bedroom.
"Comfort is what it's all about; I take it very seriously," Nestor says. In the master bedroom, lush chocolate velvet drapes can shut out all light, letting Elizabeth sleep in after long work trips. The bed is from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; the night table, Vesta Home. The women found the round, 1940s table at a Parisian flea market.
A photo collage of roses hangs in the foyer.
A photo collage of roses by artist Peter Dayton turns the foyer into a year-round garden and adds a blush of pink and peach to the house's cool blues. Here, the creamware is clustered casually on a whitewashed, 19th-century Italian console.
Custom-installed kitchen countertops, tiles and hardware
Like many houses built by developers, this one was rife with cookie-cutter details. Nestor attacked them in both small and large ways. In the kitchen, for example, he upgraded the backsplash to a brown subway tile that pulls in the house's color scheme, swapped glaring brass hardware for toned-down nickel, and installed marble countertops.
Hilary, Elizabeth and their twins, Jacob and Anna
"I never thought I could be happy here, but I am," says Hilary (left), pictured above with Elizabeth and their twins, Jacob and Anna. "Nestor helped us turn this place into a home that's comfortable, contemporary and pretty."