A 19th-century Gustavian secretary gives the creamy white foyer a jolt of bright apple green. Dutch botanicals from the 17th century pull the scheme together.
Achieving a white, cream, and pale gray palette sounds like a simple endeavor, but in 1996, when Loi and partner Thomas Troeschel moved into the house, it was anything but a light, blank canvas. Because the townhouse was attached to another unit, its interior was naturally dark, with only three sides exposed to sunlight.
Their first task in the renovation was to make a clean slate of the interiors. For this Loi relied on the power of paint. Floors were sanded, bleached, and finished with whitewash, used commonly in Sweden but less often in the United States, where opaque paint is generally preferred for floors. Unnecessary chair and picture rails that had been added over many years were removed to give a cleaner, more updated appearance. All of the remaining molding and paneling was painted crisp white to highlight darker walls in custom pale grays.
In the living room, luminous silk drapery panels complement gilded accessories, creating luxurious formality. The sisal rug covering the whitewashed floor exudes warmth and texture.
"When people think of Swedish style, they automatically think all white," says Loi. "But Swedish whites are never pure whites, grays are never pure grays. They always have layered tones of color that give a wonderful patina. That’s why we call our antiques store Tone on Tone—it’s many color variations of the same hue, a soothing approach to design that really happens no matter the color, but especially with white."
Brick fireplaces in the dining room and master bedroom were given fresh surrounds better suited to the turn-of-the-century house. The opening of the dining room fireplace was lowered, putting it at a more intimate level for those gathered around the table. Lacking mantels in their previous incarnations, each fireplace received a new topper as a part of its face-lift.
The library, which is situated between the formal living room and the dining area, is dotted with special furnishings like this Gustavian chair with saber legs and a white-painted French iron stool.
Realizing that their finished house would be the setting for dinner parties and other gatherings for friends and family, Loi and Thomas wanted the galley kitchen to be hardworking and happy so they could easily prepare food. Cabinets were torn out and replaced with recessed-panel Shaker-style ones, which were then painted sunny yellow, a departure from the suite of whites that illuminate most of the rest of the house.
As antiques dealers, Loi and Thomas sought to salvage as many existing elements as possible. "We didn’t want anything in the house that was too foreign to the original architecture," explains Loi. Instead of buying new hardware for the cabinetry, they took the kitchen’s original brass hardware and had it nickel-plated—a solution that gives a recycled item modern spirit.
The terra-cotta tiles on the kitchen floor were exchanged for limestone. In the breakfast area, a round table and modern wicker chairs are set in front of a wall with soaring windows that afford views of the garden with its striking urns and architectural embellishments.
Although Loi wanted Swedish overtones throughout the house, he incorporated pieces from other countries as well. In the bedroom, a round Italian mirror reflects the room’s tranquil beauty.
In the master bathroom, hand-glazed, peach-colored tiles were selected for their irregularities.
The early-1900s townhouse is only a five-minute drive from Tone on Tone, the homeowners’ antiques shop in Bethesda, Maryland.
Homeowner Loi Thai
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A Lighter Shade of Pale
Swedish-style acquisitions glow in the palest of colors
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In accounting practices, everything is black and white. So when financial analyst Loi Thai decided to make a leap from his world of numbers to become an antiques dealer, he seamlessly made the transition by selecting Swedish-style acquisitions that glow in the palest of colors—white in all of its forms.
"When I visited Sweden 10 years ago, I was taken by the fresh and calm aesthetic," says Loi. "I loved the serenity and peacefulness of the light colors. And because this furniture is a painted adaptation of classic forms from other European countries, it works well in a variety of design situations"—including his own early-1900s four-level Edwardian townhouse in Bethesda, Maryland.
In the foyer, a floor mirror and a Swedish clock both stand 8 feet tall, accentuating the ceiling height.
Photography: Erik Johnson
Produced by Eileen A. Deymier
Interior design: Loi Thai, Tone On Tone, 7920 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814; 240/497-0800
Wall paint ("White Dove’’); trim paint (White 01): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.
Floors (bleached): Classic Floor Designs Inc., 202/872-9860.
Mora clock, mirror: Tone On Tone, 240/497-0800.