When your interior designer is your best friend, trust and creative synergy result in a space that is totally personal.
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The living room features a pink mohair couch.
Photos courtesy of Ivy Lane
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The family room overlooks the back garden.
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Sheridan's bedroom features custom bedside tables with floating drawers.
Unless you’re seven years old and love playing with Barbies, it’s not every day that you get to design your dream home with one of your best friends. But that’s exactly what homeowner Jennifer Sheridan has done with the expertise of dear friend Courtney Cox, interior designer and co-owner, with Alex Deringer, of Ivy Lane in Old Town Alexandria.
Theirs is a special friendship—the kind where they finish each other’s sentences—forged during the formative years of young motherhood in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Alexandria just six years ago. So when it came to designing Sheridan’s new home, the two didn’t have to do a lot of preliminary consulting. In fact, they’ll tell you they can, at times, read each other’s minds.
In 2015 Sheridan, newly separated, sought a home for herself and her three young children that would reflect her style but also be comfortable and conducive to family life. She wanted to be in Old Town, admiring its charm, convenience and walkability to playgrounds and playdates. Bonus: Cox had moved there from Belle Haven a few years prior.
In May 2015, Sheridan purchased the historic Federal-style colonial on Jefferson Street. The home was well-maintained with a large flat yard for the children—all under age four, at the time—and even better, located just a short walk to her parents’ home on South Union. As a “plaqued home”—a designation bestowed by the Historic Alexandria Foundation—the property dates to 1782, when it was built for an ancestor of John Alexander, for whom the city of Alexandria is named. An addition in 1966 expanded the home’s living space while maintaining much of the original structure.
“Jen took a traditional home and updated it, made it more modern,” says Cox of the redesign. Original historic details remain throughout—exquisite moldings, exposed brick, original pine floors—but, “she lifted it in a casually elegant way.”
The goal was to create interiors that were sophisticated and chic, but also peaceful. The friends joke that their mantra was an exuberant “blush and cream everywhere!” Though feminine, the result of the pair’s collaboration is not frilly: with her cool wardrobe and wry wit, 34-year-old Sheridan emits an edgy rocker vibe, and her interior reflects it with subtlety.
Downstairs is a mix of formal and livable spaces for daily activities. Initially, these formal spaces were off limits to Sheridan’s very young children. “When we first moved in, I had baby gates everywhere,” she laughs. After the family settled in for a few weeks, the gates slowly disappeared until, one day, she heard her oldest daughter calling out in sweet astonishment: “Mom! We have a pink couch in here!”
The room Sheridan’s daughter discovered is the living room, and the couch is a pink mohair modern masterpiece. Most of the furnishings here were chosen for the office the former third grade teacher maintains in Old Town, a multitasking space for entertaining and meetings. Instead, she found a home for the pieces here. In fact, finding a wall for the massive rose-gold étagère—commissioned by a New York artisan and a piece both women are giddy over—was a must-have for the house. Another was finding a spot big enough for a Hunt Slonem painting—one with a great backstory. “Courtney texted me from New York when [Slonem] was in the middle of painting this,” says Sheridan. She said she was interested, but only if the artist, who is known for his paintings of tropical birds, didn’t include their eyes (she liked the colors and composition of the piece without them). “This is the only one in the world that does not have eyes, because she got to have her hand in what happened here,” says Cox, who is a personal friend of Slonem’s.
The dining room, like the living room, is part of the original structure of the home, and is testament that spaces not in daily use still serve an important aesthetic purpose. “One of the things I love the most about the dining room is that when you walk through it, you get that beautiful glimpse of the pink couch in the living room and on your way back through the dining room you see the custom Gracie wallpaper panels outside the powder room,” says Sheridan. Here she hosts occasional dinner parties and gatherings with girlfriends. Textured metallic snakeskin wallpaper by Nina Campbell highlights artwork by Slonem and Robert Rae—“Probably the most color you will ever see from me!” says Sheridan.
A more utilitarian but no less chic space, the kitchen received a fresh coat of creamy paint on the cabinets, updated window treatments and new hardware. A long bench covered in indestructible cream-colored “pleather” spanning the island is the perfect dining spot for the children—wildly practical without compromising style. “Just this little facelift changed the entire space,” says Cox.
Just off the kitchen, a breakfast room with a wall of arched windows overlooks what Cox lauds as one of the best yards in Old Town. “To me, this feels like a garden room, which is why we chose the finishes that we did,” she explains. In a soothing monochromatic scene, a white David Iatesta table with pleather-covered chairs and a Vaughan chandelier adorned with petals create a garden-like feel. On the back wall of the room hang three of Hunt Slonem’s iconic bunny prints.
A large family room—part of that 1966 addition—runs the length of the house. Divided into two areas, one grouping of cream-colored upholstered chairs overlooks the back garden while, in the front, another composed of couches is for lounging and watching TV.
In her previous home, Sheridan says she treated every room like a playroom—something young families tend to do out of necessity. While children are still welcome, here toys are tucked away in built-ins when not in use.
Wooden beams run the length of the room, warming it up while adding depth and texture. In keeping with Sheridan’s fondness for wallpaper, Cox explains that they chose the blush-toned metallic Phillip Jeffries paper for its ability to bounce light around such a big space while still adding softness.
Along with wallpaper, Sheridan will also tell you she has a Tommy Mitchell obsession. She first saw the North Carolina designer’s gilded flowers at the opening of Ivy Lane in September 2009, and now you’ll find many of these sculptural pieces throughout the home.
Upstairs, bedrooms are equally chic and cozy. Sheridan’s 3-year-old son Winnie’s room is outfitted in gray and white with comic book artwork and lots of room for Legos. Her daughters, Bentley and Dylan, ages 5 and 2, share a sweet cream-white room with dashes of bold pink. Ostrich pleather headboards are stylish and indestructible. The Coco Mirror by Made Goods in the little girls’ room is “supposed to be in my room and I’m still not over it,” says Sheridan with a laugh.
With the children tucked in, Sheridan retires to her bedroom sanctuary done in shades of—you guessed it—blush and cream. “Most everything in here is custom; most was made just for Jen,” says Cox. Custom bedside tables with floating blush drawers and a mosaic-glass console for the TV are true statement pieces. Walls are covered in hand-printed muslin—Sheridan quips her “one idea” was to use this same muslin on the chair at her Niermann Weeks desk, brought from her previous residence and painted. Here you’ll also find more funky feminine Tommy Mitchell flowers.
In Sheridan’s master bath, the vanity was moved and radiant heat added to the floor. She calls the three-dimensional flower mosaic over the tub “Courtney’s brainchild,” while Cox insists this major wow feature is proof of Sheridan’s ability to take risks—she’s not one to talk herself out of anything for fear of it being unmanageable.
The back and forth between the two friends—each complimenting the other at every turn—is part of what makes Sheridan’s home so special. The level of trust that she, as a client, was able to place in her designer added a level of comfort to a process—moving homes and all it implies—that can be anything but comfortable. “It’s not often that you have someone just totally and implicitly trust you, and I feel like Jen did that with me,” says Cox. “I had to deliver!”
Sheridan will tell you that the times spent planning and designing her home were some of her happiest in a challenging year; and both she and Cox will say how their mutual excitement over selections amplified the other’s.
The synergy that comes from working with someone you know so well and for whom you have genuine affection results in a home that is remarkably personal. “Working with one of my best friends was an experience I will never forget ... we had fun every step of the way,” says Sheridan. IvyLaneLiving.com
This article originally appeared in our Feb. 2017 issue.