HOME & DESIGN
It played like a scene from a home-makeover TV show. As the renovation dust settled in their Bethesda abode last July, Scott and Jennifer Frederick left for a short vacation while a deft crew (and a warehouse full of fur-nishings) waited in the wings. The house was move-in ready by the time the owners returned—and the unveil-ing brought Jennifer to tears. “I was overwhelmed,” she admits. “Everything looked so beautiful and pristine. I thought to myself, ‘Is this our house?’”
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Betty and Jennings Connell were the original occupants of a three-bedroom, 1984 house in Vienna, Virginia. A couple of renovations over the intervening years had increased the home’s footprint—an added kitchen and family room in back, as well as a master suite expansion upstairs. But Betty was looking to hit the “refresh” button as their college-age twins left home and she and her husband became empty nesters.
“I felt a big change coming in our lives and I wanted the house to accommodate it,” says Betty. “Our kids are now young adults. We didn’t want to move, but we did want to create a space that felt grown-up.”
She hired Charlene Kennerknecht and Arch Williams, principals of Monarch Design DC, to help her achieve what she was looking for: a fresh, clean-lined look that, in her words, “wasn’t too sterile, but was warm and inviting.”
Williams set about creating “good bones” in the choppy floor plan. First, the downstairs rooms were opened up and spatially connected to each other by removing unnecessary doors, including the French doors separating the parlor from the family room.
The Connells owned some family heirlooms including an antique piano that needed to be incorporated into the redesign. Otherwise, they were open to starting afresh with their furnishings. In general, Kennerknecht and Williams adhered to neutral,tone-on-tone linen upholstery on tailored and appropriately scaled pieces. For example, the furniture in the small parlor is diminutive in comparison to the hefty sectional in the larger family room.
“The house has such a good feeling,” observes Betty. “When our friends or the children’s friends come over, I keep hearing how everyone loves it. To me, it’s like a big hug, all comfortable and warm—which is exactly how I wanted it to be.”
HOME & DESIGN PORTFOLIO - Top 100 Designers
Charlene Kennerknecht and Arch Williams just happened to meet while working on a joint project almost twenty years ago…and as they say, the rest is history. Their firm, Monarch Design DC, has collaborated on homes from Hawaii to the coast of Carmel, the slopes of Aspen, the banks of the Potomac and the streets of London. Charlene’s love of color and texture blend with Arch’s background in architectural history and classic design. Their look cannot be defined by style or period.
“Through the design process, we take all that our clients are and take them to what they want to become,” Kennerknecht says. “With a little prodding from us,” Williams adds.“Through the thousands of decisions to be made—enough to make even the most experienced client cower—we break down the process into smaller pieces. We call it our ‘Global Plan.’”
Whether one room or thirty, Monarch looks at each room as it relates to every other, encompassing details from the shape of the stair rail to the trim on a pillow, then bringing them together in one unit that can be understood and executed. “We love challenges. That’s the fun of it. That’s the beauty of great design. That’s who we are.”
HOME & DESIGN PORTFOLIO
Charlene Kennerknecht and Arch Williams of Monarch Design DC bring 25 years of experience to every project, creating not only interiors but also architectural elements that enhance those interiors. Having completed projects as far afield as London, Hawaii and Aspen as well as throughout the DC area, they share expertise in texture and color as well as a strong foundation in architectural history.
The designers approach each project holistically, developing a “global plan” that keeps the process organized and seamless from concept to completion. “We develop a unified plan that can be completed now or a room at a time,” explains Kennerknecht. “Some budgets allow for an entire project while some need longer to finish. As long as the overall plan is finished, the process can be seamless even if it takes several years to complete.”
For a room to reach its fullest potential, Kennerknecht and Williams believe that it must have “good bones.” Explains Williams, “Sometimes simple architectural elements can completely invigorate a space.”
They also contend that a working professional relationship between designer and client is key to a project’s success. “Problems will always come up,” says Kennerknecht. “If we approach them together, the end result will always be a winning environment to live in.”
Tapped to remodel a home for clients who had relocated from Santa Monica, California, to Northern Virginia, designers Charlene Kennerknecht and Arch Williams created an outdoor oasis reminiscent of their clients’ home state. Complete with a pool and spa surrounded by custom-cut limestone paving and stone walls, the project also features a spacious cabana with a fireplace and a cooking area.
In the cabana, the designers created several seating arrangements flexible enough to host Mai Tais for two or a barbecue for 40. There is a zinc pedestal table surrounded by JANUS et Cie benches, a square teak-and-limestone dining table and cushy armchairs flanked by dining-height end tables.
Furnishings were selected for style and durability. Poolside, Giatti chaises are shaded from the sun by oversized umbrellas in a cream-and-black Donghia fabric. Whimsical touches include dragonfly outdoor fabric on lounge chairs and a clock designed to weather the elements.
Drapes in a Perennials outdoor fabric provide a soft counterpoint to the stone hardscape. “The drapes bring in another texture, and they are weighted with chain in the hem so they don’t blow around,” says Williams. They shield the owners and their guests from cool breezes when they gather around the fire on crisp autumn nights.
Williams and Kennerknecht also specified plant material that would convey a tropical vibe, including banana plants, coleus and lobelia, bursting with color in oversized cobalt-blue pots.
“People arrive and feel like they’re some place in California,” says Kennerknecht. “The project takes the family back home to Santa Monica.”
HOME & DESIGN
Charlene Kennerknecht and Arch Williams have been design partners for 15 years, bringing their clients a unique East-West Coast perspective. Kennerknecht was working on a luxury townhouse project in Virginia when she was introduced to Los Angeles-based Williams, a consultant on the job. Soon after, she landed a major residential project and asked Williams to help. “The rest is history,” she says. Though their work has never been published, the duo has collaborated on dozens of homes all over the country.
“Our clients are hungry for a twist,” says Williams, “but they don’t know that. We try to get people out of their comfort zone by 10 to 15 percent.”
Such was the case on a project they recently completed in Great Falls. Their client, ready to furnish a guest suite located above his four-car garage, presented them with a challenge: He wanted a space that could accommodate both visiting business associates as well as relatives with kids—and he wanted it done in “Giorgio Armani” style.
Kennerknecht and Williams proposed an open plan with separate lounging and sleeping areas screened by a mesh fabric by Donghia. The result is a mix of modern, classic and custom furnishings with glamorous accents, chic enough to rival a luxury hotel room yet practical too, with a sleeper sofa, durable fabrics and a double chaise that can serve as two twin beds.
The homeowner and his wife now enjoy spending time in their guest suite. As Kennerknecht explains, “We try to create comfortable, elegant ‘destinations’ for our clients.”