Tuesday, February 19, 2013

district of chic: camille saum

Known for her mantra "Good design is timeless," native Washingtonian Camille Saum refuses to follow trends.

She loves color - chartreuse is her favorite - and texture.  Saum is a designer who puts together colors like no one else would ever dream of, and dares to commission stenciled ceilings, which add warmth and depth to her beautiful creations.

And every room by Camille must have a bit of whimsy, something to remind clients to have a little fun.  She is one part designer, one part adventurer!

Saum designs both residential and commercial spaces: condominiums, a room in DC's International Spy Museum and rooms for the annual DC Design House.  She is currently working on a large commercial space, a number of private homes in the area - and even a project in Kentucky.

ICDC recently sat down with Saum for a conversation about her design process, her room in the 2013 DC Design House and a bit of advice.

Saum firmly believes that "design must come from within - you either have the ability to visualize a room and how you want it to look, or you don't."

She has always had a taste for design and remembers fondly early efforts in finding antique and painted pieces of furniture.

With $300, Saum embarked on her career by decorating her first apartment, buying only the things she loved: "you must always buy things that you love, including a piece that has traveled with me through many homes and now has been converted into a vanity I use in my bathroom."

In Saum's current home, she blends castlestone gray with chartreuse to create an elegant space:

 a custom leather banquette

Saum's favorite pattern by Rodolph

For budding designers, Saum recommends: "Always go for it.  You must take risks."

In her own work, Saum determines what she wants a space to look like and then finds a way to make it happen - no matter how difficult.  "You need a lot of common sense," Saum says, and "do not be afraid of thinking outside the box."

She also cautions: "let professionals do the work when you can't."  Saum has collected a group of trusted craftsmen over the years - from a beloved painter whom she convinced to do his first job for her free of charge, to a furniture company in North Carolina that is manufacturing her furniture line which is in development.

And her design process includes taking a lot of pictures: "You must look beyond a client's home and visualize what you can do with a space."

When stumped with a design challenge, Saum is lucky enough to be able to dream solutions to challenging rooms.  "And then I look at the pictures again.  Use pieces you like and that work within the client's vision."

For example, in the 2013 Design House, Saum will use her favorite Rodolph fabric on the sofa and two club chairs.   On the skirted oval side tables - a table shape often neglected - Saum will use fabric from Villa Romo of The Romo Group.  The drapes will be made from two different Schumacher taffetas, in Saum's signature crinoline-lined style.  And throw pillows with a hint of chartreuse will add pops of color around the room.

A veteran of the DC Design House, which benefits the Children's National Medical Center, Saum's room in the 2009 space was colorful yet refined.  Saum commissioned a stenciled ceiling with a bright purple border and "orangary" walls.

In the 2011 House, Saum created a breath-taking dining room.  She covered the mantel in green moss - an impressive feat that added extraordinary texture and life to the beautiful room.

Traditional Home featured the space that year.

This year, Saum is responsible for designing the living room in the House - and she is pleased with the product.  It's the best representation of Saum's style to date.  She says: "it's the most beautiful room I've ever done."

In advance of the "Bear Bones" viewing on February 23rd (10am to 3pm), Saum is allowing ICDC a sneak peak of the living room:

So, stop by to see Camille's room and the house before its transformation into the 2013 DC Design House:

2507 Foxhall Road, NW
Washington, DC
Tickets are $5 (or free with the purchase of a $25 DC Design House Ticket)

If you can't make it, come by when the House is open to the public from April 14 to May 12.

Tickets available here.

photographs by Lydia Cutter and Gordon Beall.  rendering by Maria Morga.

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