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Best Interior Designer

Whittington Design Studio

As a girl, Melanie Whittington liked to rearrange her room—a lot. Eventually, she made a career of it. Her interior design firm, which opened in 2005, includes about a half-dozen designers who collaborate with clients on everything from redecorating a single room to full-home renovations.

Whatever the project scope, Whittington usually tries to find a starting point that she can build a space around. “It can be anything from fabric to a piece of art or something that is special to the client,” she says. “It can be the way they use the room.” (She has even designed a few rooms around pets, adjusting specifications such as bed heights and upholstery choices to accommodate both human and furry family members.)

The most successful designs, she says, tend to nudge homeowners just slightly out of their comfort zones while still reflecting their personalities and lifestyle preferences. She often starts with neutral palettes that are then layered over with pops of color and pattern. Functionality is always a consideration.

Such was the case with one high-powered couple with children who had little time to focus on design. Their kids were creative but never had dedicated spaces for arts and crafts (instead, their projects took over tables and countertops here, there and everywhere). Following a nine-room overhaul, the kids had a customized craft room, and the family room became a comfortable uncluttered place that was conducive to quality time.

“They were literally crying when they saw it,” Whittington says. “Interior design can really change people’s lives.” –K.O.

2499 North Harrison St., Arlington, 703-533-3705, www.whittingtondesignstudio.com


Other top vote-getters:

Helena Peck, InDesign Home