Great Spaces: Small and Smart
Eclectic furnishings and cool art make this living/dining space both functional and personal.
Cindy Eyl was a high-school social studies teacher for 15 years, but friends and neighbors always admired her sense of style and said she should start a design business. So, finally, she did.
In 2018, she left teaching and launched Jefferson Street Designs.
Her neighbors, Ding and Warren Postman, who lived just a few doors down in Arlington’s Bluemont neighborhood, were among her first clients. They knew each other socially and their kids were pals.
“We had lived in our house almost 10 years, but never had time to work on the interior,” says Ding. “We like contemporary, midcentury modern style, but beyond that we told her anything goes. Just play with it.”
The launch point ended up being the first space you see upon entering the front door. “It’s an old Arlington house, so there’s no transition,” Ding laments, “no mudroom, no closet, no place to put boots, coats, bags, shoes.” Functionality was a priority.
But aesthetics were also in play. Though the living room had south-facing windows and plenty of sunlight, its finishes—including a faux-stacked-stone fireplace that everyone hated—made it feel dingy. Eyl hired a mason to reface the fireplace in concrete and added a simple reclaimed wood mantel sourced on Craigslist. A remnant piece of leathered black granite in front of the hearth protects the red oak floors from embers.
To address the lack of a closet, she installed a wall of hooks by the front door and a console table with storage baskets underneath for shoes. The light-colored sofa and chairs are upholstered in Perennials fabrics (easy to spot clean), and a translucent acrylic coffee table from CB2 makes the small space feel airier.
The adjoining dining area holds one of the few pieces of furniture that the Postmans kept in the makeover—a solid redwood table they’d found in an antiques market in Beijing. (Ding, whose maiden name is Ding Huijun, grew up in China’s north-central Ningxia region.) “But we didn’t like the original wooden legs,” Ding says. They hired a welder on Etsy to make a new metal base for the massive, 4-inch-thick tabletop.
Eyl tends to champion buying original art, and the Postmans were on board. The walls feature paintings by artists Juniper Briggs (based in Manassas) and Lesley Grainger (California), plus a quartet of simple botanical prints (not pictured) that Eyl and Ding scored on the cheap while combing a local flea market.
“Cindy has great taste, is very resourceful and goes out of her way to find unique pieces,” Ding says. “It doesn’t feel like a showroom. Everything is very personal.”