When Washington, D.C.-based interior designer Lorna Gross was asked to overhaul a historic 1870 rowhouse in the upscale Georgetown neighborhood, she wanted to blend 19th-century architecture with a contemporary feel. I expected the usual challenges involved when doing so.
What she didn’t expect was a client with some unique and unconventional ideas.
“He wanted the house to resemble a custom-built Orient Express train,” Gross says. Her penchant for muted colors and elegant finishes has helped her develop a clientele far beyond the Beltway. “I love projects that are a little bit challenging,” she added. “Especially ones that allow you to create a little story.”
The story was the brainchild of author and historian Greg Jackson, who hired Gross to help reimagine the home’s interior design. Mr. Jackson was inspired by his days living and studying abroad in Europe, and his travels aboard the long-distance passenger train service before it ceased service in 2009.
During its heyday in the 19th century, the Orient Express had terminal stations in Paris, London, and Istanbul, and traveled across continental Europe and into western Asia. Dubbed the ‘King of Trains, the Train of Kings’, this international rail service epitomized the golden age of travel and inspired writers from Graham Greene to Agatha Christie to weave stories of famous passengers, both real and fictional. I gave it.
“It had a really unique space and kind of an inviting club atmosphere,” Jackson says. “While traveling, I felt like I had traveled back in time to the 1930s.”
To achieve the look and feel of railroad cars from a bygone era, Gross installed antique furniture and lighting from the 1930s on the first floor of the home. This elongated space has two fireplaces and is reminiscent of the Art Deco era. A wall just beyond the ground floor entrance has been removed, allowing arriving visitors to look directly through new steel windows and doors, down a long hallway and onto the inviting outside courtyard.
Two antique chandeliers were reimagined to recreate their Deco equivalents, and wall coverings were used to create a warm and inviting backdrop for an eclectic blend of antique and modern furniture. The kitchen also has Art Deco decor, has been completely renovated and is clad in black for added drama.