In a Quiet Arlington Neighborhood, This Interior Design Breaks All the Rules
Flamboyant colors, patterns and collectibles live in harmony inside this Arlington home. Too much noise? No such thing.
The white-stucco, black-shuttered exterior of this 1871 center-hall Colonial in Country Club Hills belies its rock-and-roll interior. That’s part of the fun. A century and a half ago, the stately home was likely built as a summer residence for a wealthy D.C. family.
Today, it’s owned by Ben and Dina Hitch, a pair of concert-going music and art aficionados whose vast collection of original record albums and American artwork spans decades. In their free time, the 40-something couple who work in IT (for different companies) habitually scour estate sales and flea markets. They shop online, hit dumpsters and have been known to pull off onto the side of the road for a better look at oddities left on the curb.
“I love the juxtaposition of it being a really traditional house and them having very edgy taste,” says Arlington interior designer and longtime friend Ame Gold. “It’s an interesting dynamic.”
The Hitches bought their home—a historic landmark that’s on the National Register—in 2016, bringing to it an eclectic mix of objects kitschy and rare, antique and glam. They liked the house for its character: Vintage features that remain include an old boarded-up coal chute and an original newel post.
At roughly 3,800 square feet, it’s got plenty of room for the couple and their teenage daughter to spread out, although the family’s extensive collection of art, memorabilia and knickknacks has maxed out its storage space. The Hitches buy things they like, then collaborate with Gold to exhibit favorite pieces. The result is a vibrant push/pull of old and new objects with creative, intentional swaths of color.
Crisp white walls were nonnegotiable from the time the Hitches moved in; Gold wanted their artwork to sing. “If we want to paint the walls with pictures, we can do that,” she told her friends.
Ben Hitch grew up in McLean and bought his first collectible—a 1980 Topps Pete Rose baseball card—at the age of 4 in 1981. Dina, originally from Cherry Hill, N.J., comes from a long line of art appreciators: Her mother and grandmother worked in antiques.
Growing up, she says, her mother had a storefront in their home, and insisted that price tags remain on all items for possible resale—then, a source of embarrassment; now, a trait she values.
In the family room, display shelves showcase objects such as an original 1967 Green Lantern lunch box, Liddle Kiddle dolls from the 1960s and an oversize Barbie Pez dispenser. Framed originals and limited-edition prints on the walls include a large Purple Rain poster that Dina happened upon before Prince died, a fuchsia-toned photograph of Kurt Cobain and framed tickets from Grateful Dead shows the couple attended.
A 1949 Buick dashboard, scored at the DC Big Flea, takes center stage above the fireplace, and a black velvet sectional sofa from Highland House Furniture provides ample seating for music listening and Netflixing. Gold breathed new life into a swivel chair that belonged to Dina’s mom, reupholstering it in a Christian Lacroix ladylike tweed with a bold graphic around the outside.
Built-in electric-blue shelving tricked out with LED lights spotlights hundreds of LPs and 45s, including some sealed, original first pressings. Genres in the Hitches’ music collection range from punk to funk, metal to rap and nearly everything in between. Their most cherished records include The Velvet Underground & Nico, horror soundtracks, a Special KISS Tour album from 1976 and vintage bluegrass EPs by Bill Monroe. Some of the record collection’s spillover resides in a pop-arty New York Post newspaper box that Dina nabbed on Etsy.
The kitchen’s clean white cabinets and Carrara marble countertops might almost seem subdued, if not for the turquoise center island and a wallpapered ceiling that vibrates with pineapples and butterflies in fuchsia, cobalt and grass green. (The pattern has been a particular point of curiosity over the past year during video calls for work, Dina says.)
Gold’s shop customized the Roman window shades, adding kelly green Kate Spade banding. “It’s whimsical and kitschy,” says the designer, “just like the kitchen.”
The hood above the Wolf range is covered with magnets that impart snippets of Hitch history, from tokens of trips they’ve taken to inside jokes and favorite movies. There are even a few magnets from Dina’s youth, salvaged from her mom’s fridge.
“When we go to estate sales, [Ben] goes straight to refrigerators to see what they have up there,” says Dina, who also collects vintage glassware. One favorite, which she inherited from her mom’s collection, is a fanciful set of turquoise Pyrex chip-and-dip bowls from 1958.
The vibe continues in the cheerful dining room, where Dina and Gold gave her beloved late mother’s sideboard a modern face-lift, adding legs to make it buffet-height and painting it a sunny yellow with white trim.
Across the room, a black 1985 Gibson Flying V electric guitar is joined by “The American Indian,” a 1970 black-light work by pop artist John Van Hamersveld, who also designed record jackets for bands no less than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
The star of the room may well be the showstopping dining table, which incorporates a surfboard by Santa Barbara, Calif., artist Brent Green. Dina, a self-described “surf enthusiast,” was browsing a beachfront arts and crafts show when she saw the board and fell for its intricate design, which fuses black-and-white photos with pops of hot pink, lemon yellow and mint green.
She texted Gold a picture in hopes of finding a home for it. After initially responding, “We’re out of wall space,” Gold came up with the idea of suspending the board beneath a glass top to create a table. A Maryland company engineered a frame that allows the board to rest on a Lucite base, taking great care to ensure that no knees would get bumped.
“Everyone who walks into our house thinks it’s the coolest thing,” Dina says.
There’s plenty of rock-star swagger in the aesthetic, but above all, the owners want their home to be comfortable. Growing up, Dina says, “My mom was always like, ‘Don’t touch that.’ And my aunt had plastic on [her] furniture. I said, ‘No, I’m going to buy and enjoy it.’ ”
Gold gives her friends props for their fearless sense of style. The role of the designer, in this case, is really “just making sure that everything works well together,” she says. “I always say to [Dina]: Not everything can be the Beyoncé. We need some good backup singers.”