Décor with flights of fancy

Renovating an older home requires a unique set of creative and technical skills to make it come together. But when the right magic happens, the result can be inspiringly unique.

As artistic people, hair stylists Josiah Frith and Jessica Tate knew they wanted to find someone to take over the practical management of the renovation of the kitchen, family room and two bathrooms in their 1892 ByWard Market townhouse, while taking “flights of fancy” in the design. They brought in Denise Hulaj and Jason Bellaire of StyleHaus Interiors to spearhead the project.

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“A talent of ours is to understand the clients’ personalities and their design esthetic, then try to interpret and escalate it,” says Denise. “That means our work really reflects who the client is and what they love.”

The tricky part, however, was incorporating the two design esthetics of the homeowners.

Josiah’s father was a poet and his mother was an artist at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where he grew up. “I owe most of my taste to these influences – fantasy and great attention to detail,” says Josiah. “I grew up in a big house that was decorated like an English cottage. It was very Victorian, with lots of paintings and pictures on the walls, and antiques thrown in with modern stuff.”

Being more of a minimalist, Jessica needed StyleHaus to come up with a design that would also have clean lines and a more edited look. “You can marry the two looks, but it has to be done cleverly,” says Jason.

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Jessica now admits she likes the “clusters of interest” that Denise and Jason created from various inherited pieces of art and collectibles, including  paintings from Josiah’s family, who were early settlers to Bermuda. In one of the bathrooms, another interesting arrangement is added with a series of framed 1950s tattoo art. Josiah’s uncle, Michael K. Frith, who was a creative director with Jim Henson Productions, did the artwork displayed in the ensuite bathroom.

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Both Jessica and Josiah really wanted a renovation that would reflect the age and character of their home and would stand the test of time. “I have a real love for everything handmade and old,” says Josiah. “Old was never a dirty word in our family.” Many of the details of the design, such as the antiqued countertop, crown mouldings, and custom paint, blend perfectly with the character and age of the home. “They were mad about brass,” says Jason. “So we incorporated oil-rubbed brass details into both the kitchen and bathroom.” A custom-designed brass hood fan was also added as a visual centerpiece to the kitchen.

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Josiah and Jessica also did the renovation with the idea of having a family. For maximum storage in a small space, Jason and Denise worked in custom cabinetry that utilized every inch, with a nod toward the nautical storage concepts of the boats on which Josiah spent his summers in his youth.

“They knew exactly what we wanted,” says Josiah. “There are so many choices and we needed someone who could edit them.”

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“People think they can try to do all this on their own,” says Jason. “There are so many questions to answer and contractors need pieces on-site quickly. We figure all that out ahead of time and when issues come up we can deal with them quickly.”

And it’s a process that both designers and clients were happy to describe as one they thoroughly enjoyed. “It’s not a formula that you apply to every home,” says Denise. “It’s about being creative and taking those elements that the client gives you to make something truly beautiful.”

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