Keeping Classics Fresh

BVA Principal Ankie Barnes was among a group of design professionals kicking off the Georgetown Design District’s annual Fall Days of Design on Thursday. He participated in a panel discussion at Waterworks that was moderated by Waterworks co-founder and senior VP of Design Barbara Sallick. Ankie joined designer (and frequent collaborator) Andrew Law and designer Martha Vicas for a conversation about “Keeping Classic Fresh.”

Barbara serves as a trustee on the national board of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, so she knows a thing or two about the topic. Ankie is also on the national board as well as the local the Mid-Atlantic Chapter where he was former board president.

Here are some outtakes from the discussion: 

Barbara Sallick: How do you take traditional houses and make them fresh for today?

Ankie: If you create a tension between things that want to be modern—hard-working areas like kitchens and baths, which demand the latest technologies—and contrast them with beautiful, traditional elements such as antique mantels or heirloom furnishings, it brings that freshness to the home.

Barbara Sallick: What about original trim-work and casings?

Martha: These houses have such a soul, I love to leave it all there—or clean it up/restore it. Leaving that old beautiful millwork can just do wonders.

Andrew: We take a lot of our cues from the house. There’s a big push toward modernism right now, and sometimes I think it’s over-zealous. As for refreshing old millwork, we’ll put a lime wash on stained paneling, or even paint it. It gives our clients the brightness and the relevance that they’re looking for.

Barbara Sallick: What do you do with inherited “brown furniture?”

Ankie: Among all of those family treasures which may include ‘brown” furniture, there should be one or two best pieces that should be highlighted. The others can move up to the second—or even the third—floors!

Martha: They become pieces of art in a very neutral palette in a room.

Andrew: DC has always been fairly traditional, and there’s been an amazing renaissance in antiques. We have a lot of young clients who are interested in using a mix of antique and modern pieces. It’s very boring when you have an interior that’s all on one note.

Barbara Sallick: Do each of you have a favorite projects?

Ankie replied that it’s hard to have a favorite out of such a broad range of designs that Barnes Vanze executes. As an example, he highlighted a renovation to a 1760 home in Maine, where they are exposing the original timber frame while renovating it as an aging-in-place home.



He also pointed to a modern apartment in DC that he’s working on with Andrew. “It’s all about the artwork, the surfaces, and the slight different in materials textures and hue from one surface to another.”


Barbara Sallick: What are some design trends you’re seeing?

Ankie: I don’t like to really follow any trends. There’s a life expectation of a home that goes way beyond trends, which are more appropriate to follow in popular fashion or music. Architecture is a semi-permanent art, not a transient one. You can live in these houses for hundreds of years if they’re well built.

Barbara Sallick: What does “Classic” mean? The words “timeless” and “classic” and “refined” mean a lot to us.

Martha: I think it means timeless, but you can keep it updated. You can take Carrera marble tile and hang it in a herringbone pattern. Staying fresh means you just need to be creative with classic materials.

Ankie: The key to classic architecture includes qualities that are recognizable to everyone. “New and different” is great for a tie or a purse or a sweater, but if you need a place to come home to and recharge your batteries and live in, you need a home base that offers order and proportion. You have opportunities for “new and different” elsewhere.

We extend our thanks to Barbara and Waterworks for including Ankie on this panel discussion, which is part of an exciting lineup for Fall Design Days, which lasts through Nov. 4.

Ankie stands with Barbara Sallick before the panel discussion Thursday.