Huntley & Co. is a DC-based full-service interior design firm whose signature look is a curated and eclectic mix, intentional yet unpretentious. Their interiors are like that smart, beautiful friend with the quick wit and effortless style.
We recently had a chance to sit down with founder and principal, Tricia Huntley to discuss her design approach.
Joy: Lighting is so essential to your designs, and we’re dazzled by your Huntley & Co. original sconce and Celine pendant. What was the inspiration for these fixtures?
Huntley: The Huntley sconce was born out of an antique oil lamp I found in Georgetown. What I designed is a style that threads the needle between modern and traditional – something I do a lot in my work.
The Celine is an homage of sorts to midcentury Italian design. The work of those designers and artists (think Giacometti, Ponti, Scarpa, etc.) was always sculptural, sensual and yet very strong.
Joy: What are the challenges balancing traditional architecture with modern design?
Huntley: I am not sure I would call it a challenge; modern design really sings in traditional architecture. There is a subtle tension that is created that brings life and energy to an interior. The key for me is creating an eclecticism that is largely balanced with thoughtfully orchestrated moments of drama instead of a an overall hodgepodge. That can make for a chaotic look.
We love the way you playfully introduce color, especially in dining areas. When do you decide to keep the palette neutral and when to go bold?
Huntley: A dining area is always a wonderful opportunity to level-up in color, style or drama (or all three!). I certainly endorse playfulness in any environment where conversation and wine are flowing.
How much I turn up a palette’s “volume” in a room has a lot to do with the layout of a house and how well the room can carry off something bold. Let’s say a dining room is largely open to other spaces. I will probably use the adjacent palette as a jumping off point and turn it up just a bit. However, if the room has a bit more intimacy and not too many large openings, I will be able to treat it more like a jewel box.
Joy: As a full service design firm, what part of the process is the most rewarding?
Huntley: Installations, definitely. At Huntley & Co. we condense these to a 1-3 day process. Rugs, softgoods, furniture, etc. are all installed in a tightly and carefully sequenced process. It makes the transformation even more impactful and exciting for everyone.
Joy: What’s one of your favorite projects, and why?
Huntley: It’s hard to choose, but I do go back again and again to a townhouse project I completed in Georgetown years ago. I love it because it was such a major transformation. The interior was tragic 80s – covered in every cheap material you can think of – and had to be stripped down, ripped out and rebuilt. Everything was custom-designed specifically for the residence including every inch of the millwork, furniture, softgoods, the floors, the vanities, the kitchen, even the terrace planters. With a lot of hard work, that home became the beauty it was meant to be.
Joy: What makes a good client?
Huntley: The best clients are confident, open-minded and excited about the possibilities ahead. If he/she/they have a sense of humor and are thoughtful to boot – I will bend over backwards to make their dreams come true.
Joy: You’ve said you rely on five main elements: mirrors, wallpaper, drawings, vessel sinks in the powder room and millwork. Tell us more about why these are details are so important.
Huntley: Drawings: To quote Andrew Loomis, “Drawing is vision on paper.” I draw in order to understand a space, convey a concept and design elements like millwork and custom furniture. Speaking of millwork …
Millwork: Quality millwork is like good bone structure. Well-proportioned, well-executed millwork gives a home substance. It will look and feel good even if empty.
Mirrors: I liken mirrors to a Swiss Army knife in my designer arsenal. They make a space look bigger, bounce light around and can look like a piece of jewelry, a modern sculpture or nearly disappear. And they come in so many variations: antique, contemporary, wall-to-wall, installed in doors and at backsplashes. I’m a big fan as you can tell.
Wallpaper: Wallpaper is another versatile, impactful element. Obviously there are wallcoverings in bold patterns, textures and colors that can make a big splash. But sometimes we install them just to soften a space. We installed a white basketweave in a master bedroom recently that is undetectable in photos, but makes a huge difference in person. The bedroom has a lot of millwork and very tall ceilings, so wrapping the room with a subtle texture softened the acoustics and makes the space feel more nurturing.
Vessel Sinks: They tend to be controversial, but I find them very practical. A vessel sink can actually create more counter space in a small bathroom and can be anything from ceramic to glass to stone. I have a petrified wood vessel sink in my own first floor bath and my guests always rave about it.
Joy: In your own home, what’s your favorite luxury item?
Huntley: The truest luxury in my home is my bed/bedroom. I wanted to create a very specific experience – a cozy, sexy hideaway. Every inch of the ceiling and walls are covered in grasscloth like a jewel box. I designed the upholstered bed so that I could see the magnolia blossoms in the spring. Garnet-colored draperies hang from the ceiling and create a canopy effect. And I found a vintage ceiling fixture from an old theater that looks like a piece of jewelry in the center of it all. If that’s not luxury, I don’t know what is ; )
Joy: How has your approach to clients and projects evolved over the past 20 years?
Huntley: The design and business fundamentals have remained the same for the most part. It’s the personal element that has changed; I have better boundaries now. I don’t schedule calls or emails in the evenings or on weekends. I won’t accommodate a bad contractor. I keep my eye on scope creep and behaviors that seem like they may not be in Huntley & Co.’s best interest. Continually being a better designer and a better business-owner is a career-long challenge — and objective.
All photos courtesy of Huntley & Co.