The Global Chic Home
Danielle Sigwalt's unique style has many influences.
A daughter of diplomats, Danielle Sigwalt spent her childhood living overseas in places like London, Athens, Amman and Istanbul, delighting in the cultural tapestry of each new city she encountered. “I grew up with Indian textiles, Damascus linen, Turkish kilims, Greek pottery…you name it,” she says.
By the time she and her husband, Sebastien, were ready to put down roots, she knew just where she wanted to live. They had settled in Arlington, where Seb (who is French-Indonesian by heritage) grew up, and were looking to buy a house. She remembers pushing their son, Charlie, in his stroller around Lyon Village. It felt like home.
“We were living nearby in the Cardinal House condominiums off Spout Run,” Danielle recalls. “[Lyon Village] reminded me of the neighborhoods in London where I’d lived. I love the walkability of Clarendon, the easy access to shops and restaurants, the charm of no two houses being exactly alike.”
So in 2006, the Sigwalts bought the only house they could afford in the neighborhood: a 1935 two-bedroom, two-bath bungalow with 1,300 square feet of finished living space. “It had good bones,” explains Danielle, who would eventually parlay her eclectic eye into a career in interior design. “It was a solid red-brick house with wood floors. The yard was substantial, both in front and back, so I knew we could eventually do a good-size addition.”
For the first several years, the young family of three (plus two cats and a dog) slept all together in the attic—a wide-open space with a finished bathroom—so that the two downstairs bedrooms could be used as communal areas. “We were rather bohemian at the time,” she says with a smile. “I remember when we eventually decided to redo the attic, we asked Charlie how he wanted his bedroom done. He said, ‘A door and a window would be nice.’ ”
Since then a succession of design tweaks, plus a remodel and an addition, have expanded the total living space to 2,300 square feet. And their family has grown. Charlie, now 16, is a big brother to Max, 5, and Vaughn, 3.
The house is bigger, but their mom’s multicultural influences still shine in the details. She shops for interesting castoffs (which she refurbishes herself) on Craigslist, scours flea markets and online sites like Etsy and Spoonflower, and occasionally throws a few higher-end pieces into the mix. And of course there are plenty of family heirlooms and treasures found while traveling.
“It’s all about balance,” Danielle says. “Vintage and contemporary, light and dark, airy and solid elements. I also like a healthy dose of imperfection in décor.”
Danielle Sigwalt’s knack for mixing old and new is evident in her living room, where a leather sofa and antique coffee table are paired with layered rugs, throws and Manuel Canovas upholstered pillows. “Having grown up overseas, I’m obsessed with textiles,” she says. “My mom collected textiles and art from everywhere, and my dad loves rugs: flokatis, kilims, Persian carpets. I grew up with an aesthetic where nothing quite matches, but it all flows together.”
OLD AND NEW
The dining room’s trellis-patterned area rug and pink-painted ceiling reference two decorative panels of chinoiserie wallpaper on either side of the archway to the foyer. A set of Asian-inspired cabinets (previously used as a bedroom wardrobe) now stores dishes and tablecloths. The white-lacquered dining table from West Elm is surrounded by rattan dining chairs upholstered in a vintage French fabric.
A rear addition on the first floor now includes an island kitchen with quartzite countertops, a farmhouse sink and a dramatic Moroccan-tile accent wall. “I was adamant about not having any upper cabinets or shelves,” Danielle says. “I find them crowded, and open shelves get dusty.” Flat-paneled lower storage cabinets are easy to clean and don’t hold dirt in crevices. Globe pendant lights and a floating hood contribute to the open, airy feel.
The master bath is “a nod to classic London hotels” with his-and-hers vanities, brass fixtures, herringbone marble tile, a vintage Turkish rug and a cast-iron claw-foot tub. “The idea that designs from different cultures don’t mesh doesn’t jibe with me,” Danielle says. “We are all connected…as is style.”
A major renovation from 2013 to 2014 divided the attic into three bedrooms and two full baths. “We popped the roof to gain extra height, added windows throughout and put a larger dormer out front,” Danielle says. White walls and dark-stained maple floors provide a backdrop for colorful furnishings. Designer bedding by Jill Sorensen (for whom Danielle worked before setting out on her own) is part of the master bedroom’s vibrant montage.
“My interiors are designed around my family,” says the designer. “I love art created by my kids, which is always colorful, so creating colorful spaces flows naturally with them. Color has the power to transform a ho-hum piece or room into something magical.”
Her son Charlie’s room features framed pages from his dad’s vintage Tintin comic books.
Charlotte Safavi is a writer and stylist in Alexandria.