A bi-level home gets a charming makeover in Washington DC


A bi-level home of 3,000 square feet was the first home and career maker of designer Lauren Liess, located in Herndon, a town in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The home was constructed in the 1970s and when Lauren set sights on this home, she couldn’t resist. She saw the potential that most people had disregarded; seeing that the home was not only the least attractive in the neighborhood, it was equally as bad on the interior. Even the real estate agent had tried to dissuade the family from purchasing the home. It had been on the market for four years; turning people away from the bi-level floor plan that has a main entryway opening to a landing with stairs that leads to upper and lower levels. The decision came down to price and opportunity to renovate.


The five bedroom home was spotted online and although not much to look at, the put in an offer anyway. The offer was actually turned down, yet Liess sent the seller a letter, persuading them to reconsider. Promising to love the home, it was soon to be theirs. With $35,000 in savings and no-interest credit cards and a DIY husband, the couple got to work. They began with the basement, demolishing a drop down ceiling, by the same afternoon they were on to ripping apart the kitchen. Completing their renovation project in six months and documenting the entire process on her blog “Pure Style Home” (which she started back in 2008), it caught notice of an editor with Better Homes & Gardens. The house was featured in the Better Homes & Gardens December 2010 issue, the designer’s first publication. From their, her life was forever changed.


The designer was later selected to participate in the D.C. Design House, where she also debuted her own line of fabrics. These fabrics are available for viewing on her website here. She also has a book that was published in 2015 called “Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating.” The designer and her husband and four children now live in a new home which we will have to feature in another article. They also work together (he was previously a high school teacher) to run their interior design and textiles studio out of Great Falls, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. The designer works on project up and down the East Coast as far as Los Angeles, but home is always where the heart is.


Above: The living room is a combination of old and new. An 1800s mantel was added to the space to lend character and a focal point to a dull space. An area rug was added for texture and warmth. The walls were stenciled in a Ralph Lauren all-over pattern for visual interest. Lastly, the chairs were upholstered in a linen-cotton blend fabric on the reverse to give a more soft, barely-there pattern. The linen curtains were made by the designer to help soften the space.


What We Love: This bi-level home features a light and airy aesthetic filled with plenty of charm and personality. The designer has done a wonderful job of creating a livable home for her family, by embracing the architecture and applying her own style to the mix. A fusion of traditional, vintage and natural elements, this old home that was once unappealing, is now a warm and comfortable home designed for family living.

Readers, what do you love about this home makeover? Has this home inspired you to set out and renovate your own home?


With a limited budget, the new homeowners searched for discounts wherever they could, sourcing Craigslist, eBay, thrift and antique stores—where all the artwork was scavenged. Not everything was budget, as the designer knew that some higher end pieces needed to be added as a business decision. This home was to be her portfolio piece, so she added such items as a $500 beaded chandelier from Anthropologie, wall art in the dining room that cost $900, a custom-cut wool rug priced at $2,000 and in the living room, a $500 glass floor lamp.

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Above: The renovation in the kitchen cost the homeowners $2,000, sourcing Home Depot for the open shelving and Ikea for the butcher block-topped center island. The lower cabinets and even the dishwasher (for continuity) were painted in the color Witch Hazel by Behr Paint. Brushed nickel hardware was added for a nice contrast. Linoleum flooring was replaced with engineered hardwood in a rich walnut hue. Illuminating the space is a vintage chandelier, a score from a New York flea market.



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Above: In the children’s bedroom, a lion was cut out of vintage wallpaper and pasted onto the closet doors. The lion sits on top of a hill, which was painted with green chalkboard paint.

Photos: Helen Norman

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7 years ago

So adorable, love what the designer has done to her home. Congrats on a successful design business!!