There are a lot of firsts in life that signal a new era—your first driver’s license, the first time you need a vehicle that can fit the whole family, and for a young, real estate developer and serial investor, the first time you’re in the financial position to start building your own art collection.
When Will Lansing, founder of Valor Development, a boutique urban development firm in Washington, D.C., purchased an airy loft in the city’s trendy Logan Circle neighborhood, he turned to a trusted friend to bring this “first” to life. “We’ve evolved together,” said Austin-based designer . “We started young when I worked with him on one of his first developments, which was also one of my first projects. Then versus now, he’s able to afford more investment pieces, and there was a real interest in using this design to start collecting original art and vintage furnishings that he would hold onto going forward,” she adds. “This was at the heart of how we approached the design.”
“Everything stayed with his prior residence,” explains Cole, which allowed for a clean departure from the traditional row home he was vacating. “Will is a tailored type of person, but this condo is a lot more urban than where he lived before,” she says of the former paint and autobody shop that had been retrofitted into industrial residences. “The historic element appealed to him, and having spent time in New York, he was attracted to the space’s loft-like aesthetic.”
Enveloped in original and patinaed materials—like exposed brick and a wall of steel windows which hinge open by the pull of a chain—the one-bedroom den had plenty of volume and character. This would end up dictating a lot of the design, as the space needed architectural elements with significant scale that could hold the room.
“From that, we developed the idea of the sculptural hood and screen-like bookcase,” Cole says of the two elements, both of which rise from floor-to-ceiling and provide opposing focal points in the loft’s main living quarters, one in front of the couch, the other directly behind.
“It’s a bachelor pad so that explains the masculine palette and undertones,” says Cole, but the furnishings would also need to perform to Will’s lifestyle. “He has a dog, he likes to entertain, and he’s in and out with luggage,” she adds. The mix is heavily mid-century modern with contemporary and classic silhouettes, like a Montauk sofa dressed in dusty grey Fabricut upholstery and a custom, solid walnut dining table, “durable luxury,” says Cole.
The artwork hanging behind a vintage Philips HDK80 Dutch Design Classic light fixture—sourced from 360Volt—is a heady black-and-white Hollywood image, ‘Dolce Vita’ by Stephanie Pfriender Stylander, a photographer whose striking portraitures of celebrities in the 90s helped define the era of heroin chic. “Neither I or Will were seeking out the artist in particular, but I saw it and it had the right tone for an industrial bachelor pad,” adds Cole.
For the master bedroom, Cole wasn’t at all perturbed when Will called her up requesting black walls. “I said, ‘good,’ black and white is always good,” she explains. The French white oak floors (which run throughout the entirety of the loft) helped to soften the room, but to create drama and contrast, Cole opted for clean, white sateen bedding from Tribute Goods and a muted installment from Tennessee-based landscape artist Megan Lightell.
The loft’s only other room is a petite-sized office, and sometimes second bedroom, that resides slightly elevated, just off the main living space. “It’s a very cool sequence to go from a really large, open loft into a tight, intimate space where he can work,” notes Cole. First and foremost, Will needed storage, so soaring floor-to-ceiling shelves were installed and painted the same moody shade— Sherwin-Williams Black Magic—as the master bedroom.
To service an ever-rotating arrival of out-of-town guests, a murphy bed was a must, followed by furnishings that could accommodate the space restrictions when it was down. A lacquered brass desk from Lawson Fenning—“its thin frame fit the industrial aesthetic,” said Cole—is finished with a vintage T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings chair whose leather-bound seat and white oak frame accommodates the loft’s mid-century aesthetic.
Will, Cole notes, is young and is easily able to move between spaces, “this is by no means his forever home,” she says, adding that it will someday become part of his portfolio. And though it is the first time he’s “heavily considered and contemplated his art,” Cole notes, it isn’t the first time the bachelor has leaned toward more storied architecture. “All the places he’s lived in are very special places with lots of historic integrity, and for this, the design wasn’t ever meant to be centered around one particular aesthetic, but rather it was, ‘what does the existing architecture dictate?’”