When Amy and Jay Hariani bought their 1895 turreted rowhouse in Bloomingdale in 2008, a quick flip job had stripped the house of all its interior Victorian frills — without giving them the bedrooms or closet space they needed for their growing family.
So two years ago, they decided to gut the interior, add a fourth floor, push the back out by 10 feet and dig out the basement to make it more livable. They found their architects across the street, where neighbors Jennifer Harty and Albert Hopper of HxH Architects had already renovated their own rowhouse.
Although the Harianis were disappointed their house had been wiped clean of original details, this blank canvas gave them a fresh start. Their vision: Scandinavian simplicity, with natural woods and light tones, and the bold colors and textures of India — a blending similar to their own cultural backgrounds.
“We both share a passion for India,” says Jay, 41, who grew up in Maryland and is co-founder of GovTribe, a provider of data on government contracting. Jay’s father was raised in Mumbai, and Jay spent summers in India as a child. “We wanted the house to be evocative of India and what we love about that country but have a modern, urban vibe.”
The couple and their architects discussed a minimalist design. “It was our preference due to my Scandinavian heritage,” says Amy, 39, who grew up in Minnesota and is part Swedish and Norwegian. She is vice president of the U.S.-India Business Council. “And we knew that would include storage for all the things that come with young children.”
The facade of the house would remain intact, except for a new front door. “We worked to preserve the historical integrity and look of our beautiful Victorian home on the exterior,” Amy says.
For the interiors, they chose modern wood cabinetry from Ikea with budget-friendly hacks recommended by the architects as well as built-in storage throughout the rooms to minimize clutter. Their collection of textiles, art and rugs from India would complete the look. They wanted their kids — Ashwin, 3, and Priya, 9 months — to grow up in a house full of personality.
When they bought the house, the 1,500 square feet on two floors was fine for the two first-time home buyers. But with children came the need for more bedrooms, space to hang out and places to stash stuff. The HxH design, which brought the house to 2,732 square feet, transformed the first floor into an airy family gathering center divided into three zones.
The architects created a modern backdrop, using ash flooring and walls painted Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White. “Their house had been flipped very poorly as is unfortunately par for the course in a lot of D.C. downtown houses flipped to sell,” Harty says. “It had been wiped clean of any contributing details; a lot of these places had old pocket doors and really thick trim. The original floors were gone.”
When you walk in the front door, the first area is a formal space with a fireplace, lots of art and seating. “We have two large Ganeshas as you enter the house,” Amy says, referring to the elephant-headed god in Hinduism. “Most Indian Hindu homes will have a Ganesha in the entryway, which is believed to ward off evil from entering your home and bring prosperity.”
A dramatic painting by Amit Singh Slathia, an artist from the state of Jammu and Kashmir, hangs over the fireplace. “Our spaces devoted to Indian culture feel very special,” Jay says. “Like the niches with spotlights on the first floor, there is space for different gods. It’s a modern take on the holiness and spirituality of India.”
In the middle of the main floor, the kitchen is the focus, a modern gathering place that could easily host large family dinners or birthday parties. Amy was inspired by the simple, sleek and utilitarian kitchens of Scandinavia, saving images to a Pinterest board. She says the goal was to keep the surfaces uncluttered, to keep the counters clean. The architects installed deep drawers and pop-up plug molds in the counters so appliances could easily be used and then stashed away.
The marble in the island, counters and backsplash was sourced from the state of Tamil Nadu in India. The Ikea cabinets (Sektion) have custom walnut veneer fronts by the Cabinet Face.
The area in the back of this floor is what Jay calls “a laid-back crash pad” with a comfortable sectional sofa. The tiny powder room was wallpapered in “Dara” by Manuel Canovas, which depicts a festive Indian Moghul wedding scene.
Below this level, the architects created a two-bedroom apartment in the basement with a separate outdoor entrance, which is used as a guest suite for family or as an Airbnb rental.
You’ll catch the flavor of India throughout the house. On the second floor, the master bedroom bedding has layered Indian textiles; Roman shades from Smith & Noble are in the Bindi/Breeze pattern, which reminded Amy of henna. Amy’s closets are a rainbow of color and sparkle, thanks to the extensive collection of saris, lehengas (long embellished skirts) and Indian suits she wears to weddings and other functions in India as well as work meetings.
In the nursery, Amy and Jay have hung Gond paintings, which are traditional Indian folk artworks that depict colorful scenes from nature. They complement the curtains, which are chikankari needlework from Lucknow in northern India. The pillows come from Fabindia, a popular Indian textile source. Art by a Minnesota artist above the pine Ikea bed in Ashwin’s bedroom features birch trees and owls. A Ganesha statue sits on the bookshelf.
The Harianis love coming back to their house after spending an afternoon with Ashwin and Priya at local parks. The new gas light flickers against the Douglas fir front door, and the pink toran — a traditional Indian garland — makes their rowhouse stand out. Jay says of their home: “The design is a perfect melding of Amy and me and who we are today.”
Jura Koncius covers style, home and design for The Washington Post.
Designed by Twila Waddy. Photo editing by Dudley Brooks.