Washington - Newly single and a recent empty nester, Georgetown decorator Michele Evans was ready to create a new home for herself.
She bought an 1830s former boardinghouse, turning it into a relaxed place filled with her favorite things and some cool new ones. In planning the pale pink and white master bathroom and dressing room she had carved out of a small bedroom upstairs, she had what she calls an "It's Complicated" moment.
"There's a scene in the movie It's Complicated where Meryl Streep is working with an architect to remodel her house," Evans said. The architect, played by Steve Martin, "shows her plans for double sinks for the master bathroom. Meryl tells him, 'I only need one.' Well, this is my new chapter, my third act. I don't need two sinks in my bathroom either."
Evans, recently divorced from D.C. Council member Jack Evans and a mother of three grown children from her first marriage, envisioned a kitchen-dining-living area on the main floor of the 2 500-square-foot home and a pink bedroom and master bath and dressing room suite on the second.
"I really felt like this was my turn," Evans said. "As a mother, I was always trying to be accommodating to everyone and trying to make things children-friendly, husband-friendly and dog-friendly. This was a chance for the first time in my life to do my own thing. I was living without a roommate."
The detached 18-foot-wide clapboard house had been updated in the 1970s with a two-story glass atrium designed by architect David Jones. "I loved the garden on the side, and I love the light. Most houses in Georgetown are shotguns, squeezed between other houses. I have an alley on one side and a garden on the other," Evans said. As part of her renovation, she hired Ohi Engineering Group to design a plan for a steel frame to open up the first floor of the house.
She had lots of experience designing in narrow Georgetown homes, tearing down walls, finding multitasking furniture and coming up with creative ways to include storage. After all, not too many years ago, she'd turned a narrow 1876 rowhouse nearby into a light-filled home for her blended family of eight.
Divesting stuff was a big part of her move. Evans, 60, had three storage units at one time; now she is unit-free. "I donated most of the kids' trophies to a nonprofit that recycles them. I kept only a couple of the important ones for each. I framed a few pieces of their art and scanned the rest," she said. She got rid of most of her dishes and bought 24 white dinner plates at Crate and Barrel.
"I've learned it's the memories you take with you, not the stuff," she said. "The stuff wears you down."
Her 10-foot-long 1920s pine dining table has become a sort of command center where she grabs meals, entertains, talks on the phone, does craft projects and answers emails.
"It feels very cozy and friendly when friends drop by and we can sit there and look out at the garden," she said. It also serves as her office; she opted to make the original tiny second-floor office into a laundry room.
"Do I wish I had a separate office?" Evans said. "Sure." But part of design is making choices - and this time, her only client was herself.