Location matters in real estate, sometimes more so than a home’s other features.

When a young couple purchased a town home in Rosslyn, VA, just across the river from Washington DC, they did so because they loved the location. However, as they explained to architect and designer Andreas Charalambous, they were not fans of the home’s interior.

The home was largely outdated, and the couple wanted a modern and uncluttered space, explained Charalambous of DC-based Forma Design.

Living room

A red wall, dark floors and modern, low-slung furniture create a contemporary and inviting space.

“We didn’t set out to create this Zen home, but the decisions they made along the way created the Zen space,” he said. “It’s customized to who they are and how they use the space.”

His first step to redoing their home? A bit of homework for the couple.

“What we usually do with homeowners [is] we listen to what they liked about their house and what their lifestyle is all about,” he explained. “We have them write a one- to two-paragraph essay on their lifestyle so we can understand who will be occupying the space.”

He also requires clients to put together eight to 10 images of designs they like.

“When people say they like modern or transitional, it could be anything,” he said. “When we see images, they say this is what they like.”

In the case of his Rosslyn clients, they requested a few things: a red wall somewhere in the home, which would represent good luck, and a cabinet at the entrance of the home, which would display a Buddha statue and also hold a place for shoes. They were expecting their first child and wanted a home that would be modern, livable and uncluttered.

From there, Charalambous and his team began to work on the space.

The entry before and after.

The entry before and after.

“The first level of this house had the living room, then the dining room and behind the wall was the kitchen,” Charalambous explained. “The first thing we suggested was to tear out the wall behind the dining room to create one big entertaining space, and immediately the space would feel brighter and bigger and more cohesive.”

One wall — running from the entrance to the back of the kitchen — was painted red. And from there, it was a matter of redoing cabinets and updating the fireplace to fit the new modern layout.

The red statement wall continues into the kitchen.

The red statement wall continues into the kitchen.

There wasn’t room in the budget to replace the flooring, so Charalambous stained the floors to hide and refresh the cheaper wood.

Upstairs, a similar, closed-off layout prevented the town home from achieving a contemporary feel. The master bedroom was divided by walk-in closets and his-and-her baths. Charalambous tore everything out and created one big sleeping and lounging area.

master bedroom before and after

The master bedroom before and after.

The two big walk-in closets became full-height closets, and the bathrooms were expanded into one space. A glass surround with privacy film replaced the closet walls holding the toilet.

The master bath, before and after.

The master bath before and after.

“By playing these games, [the room] becomes very functional, full of light but still addressing what they want to do in the space,” Charalambous said.

The final major redo was in the guest room, where again, a closet was taking up much of the livable space.

The guest bed fits perfectly into the closet's former space.

The guest bed fits perfectly into the closet’s former space.

Charalambous removed the closet, creating an alcove that fit a bed perfectly. A floating ceiling covered the awkward angles of the peaked roof, and red paint tied the room into the rest of the home.


Erika Riggsa real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers celebrity real estate, unusual properties and home design trends. Read more of her work here

About the Author

Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs manager, covers home design and trends.

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