As designed by Karen Bengel, the main living space features a comfy Lissoni sofa and a leather Kyle Bunting rug.
With DC’s plethora of historic districts and period homes, sometimes the move toward Modernism comes from the bottom up. Such was the case with the basement makeover in a Logan Circle townhouse that designer Karen Bengel of Design Milieu recently re-imagined for a family of four.
“I had a conversation with the clients early on and their taste was tending to transitional and modern, but the house was so Victorian—with a lot of moldings,” Bengel recalls. “They kept asking me if it was okay to do this modern space in the basement. My answer, of course, was yes.”
A spare front entry leads to the finished basement.
With the green light to take the basement into the 21st century, Bengel set about transforming it from its rudimentary, close-to-unfinished roots to a clean-lined, well-lit, comfortable space where the homeowners and their two young sons could relax together and entertain friends. The space now boasts a kitchen, an expansive family room, play space, built-in desks for each boy and an exercise area.
“I am fascinated with Modernism, but my take on it is warm and cozy, with lots of textures and finishes,” says Bengel, who worked on the project in concert with architect Donald Lococo and Cornerstone Renovation Management.
To achieve that aesthetic, Bengel opted for engineered ash flooring in a matte finish that’s slightly whitewashed, which allows the grain to shine through. An electric radiant heat mat was installed under the floor so the residents would always be cozy. She also chose to restore, rather than replace, the room’s exposed brick walls, which she then had painted a warm neutral color.
The patterned Kyle Bunting leather rug layers additional inviting texture in the main family room. A Lissoni sofa—“one of my favorite pieces in modern furniture,” says Bengel—is covered in soft, durable Ultrasuede and beckons all comers. “In addition to the kids, they also have two dogs who love to lie on the furniture, so it was important to get something stain-resistant and easy to clean,” says the designer. The sofa faces a large flat-screen TV mounted on the wall; to the right, a low table on a round, orange-rimmed rug is a perfect spot for games.