Step Inside an Antique-Studded D.C. Apartment, Where Auction Finds Abound

·6 min read

Like many elements of designer Byron Risdon’s Washington, D.C., apartment, the cabinet in his bathroom has lived many lives. Built a half century ago, it found its way to Risdon through an eBay auction for a mere $200, and has traveled with him from Brooklyn to Baltimore and finally, here, to Brookland, a neighborhood that’s home to Catholic University and swaths of Georgian-style architecture. Once, the cabinet was a buffet, displaying dinnerware on its open shelves. In Baltimore, it held court as a bar, brimming with bottles and chic glassware. In its current incarnation in the bathroom, it takes on an equally utilitarian role, holding fresh towels and antique apothecary bottles.

In many ways, the cabinet is a totem for Risdon’s entire apartment, which swells with texture and history. And, it should be said, pragmatism: Throughout its 950 square feet, the designer has deftly integrated auction finds and upcycled items—some of them finding their way to Risdon from jobs for clients. The South Carolina native calls the two-bedroom flat a “well-thought-out hodgepodge,” but don’t be fooled: Risdon’s is an elevated, elegant interior that holds together its component parts like a perfectly baked apple crisp.

Risdon poses in his living room next to a console table he purchased at Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia. The large canvas work beside him is by Jaime Karf; the smaller framed acrylics behind him are by William Radawec. Fox Mill Lighting & Supply Co. produced the table lamp.
Risdon poses in his living room next to a console table he purchased at Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia. The large canvas work beside him is by Jaime Karf; the smaller framed acrylics behind him are by William Radawec. Fox Mill Lighting & Supply Co. produced the table lamp.

Because the unit is a rental, Risdon limited his interventions to the surface level, even leaving the default wall color in situ. “I was like, I’m gonna make these white walls work,” he recounts. A few easy swaps, like changing out stale light fixtures to ones the designer purchased on Lightology, helped bring the space to life—as did Risdon’s knack for finding antiques. (“I’m an auction guy,” he says with a laugh. “I love a good hunt.”)

As he developed the interior, Risdon had a few knowns in hand: Along with the bathroom cabinet, the living room sofa, purchased at a sample sale long ago, has followed him through a number of homes. A dining table and dining chairs also already existed. “I had to find a way to bridge them together, so that’s why I kept the rug neutral,” he says. “Then I just layered it with other materials.”

And layer he did. In the living room, the designer incorporated pillows made of Pindler fabric, an expansive color-field-style abstract by Jaime Karf, plus accents of brass and concrete through a pair of nesting tables from CB2. Side tables from Wayfair, initially sourced for a client project, have been reconfigured and topped with antique mirrors for a healthy dose of patinated glimmer.

For all his resourcefulness, though, there are some areas where the designer believed in making an investment: namely, the window treatments, produced by Essence Interiors in Fairfax, Virginia. “It’s like a great pair of shoes,” Risdon says. “It just finishes off the look.” In the bedroom, fabric from Kerry Joyce softly frames the windowpane view of neighboring brick townhouses. Risdon also made a textile-forward upgrade when it came to his bed. The upholstered piece was originally purchased at West Elm, but has been trimmed down and recovered with a checked Pindler fabric. “It seemed like it was what I wanted at the time, but it was too tall,” he explains. “Things like that—you sort of realize, not that it doesn’t work, but it’s not exactly where I want it, and we’ll find another way to make it work.”

Step Inside an Antique-Studded D.C. Apartment, Where Auction Finds Abound

In the dining area, the designer has installed a chandelier from Capital Lighting. Dining chairs that the designer purchased at Clarke Auction Gallery sidle up with a vintage dining table, also purchased at auction. The candlesticks are by Eva Zeisel. Next to them, bar shelving—purchased at IKEA—displays a Roy Hamilton Studios vase and mementos Risdon bought during a trip to Indonesia.
In the dining area, the designer has installed a chandelier from Capital Lighting. Dining chairs that the designer purchased at Clarke Auction Gallery sidle up with a vintage dining table, also purchased at auction. The candlesticks are by Eva Zeisel. Next to them, bar shelving—purchased at IKEA—displays a Roy Hamilton Studios vase and mementos Risdon bought during a trip to Indonesia.
Risdon’s aptitude for mixing highs and lows shines in the open living-dining area of the designer’s home. Risdon says that his “splurge” was custom window treatments, fabricated by Essence Interiors in Fairfax, Virginia. An area rug, sourced locally from Carpet Palace, helps to tie the room together. The side tables, initially purchased on Wayfair for a client project, were reconfigured by Risdon to incorporate extra shelving and an antique mirror top.
Risdon’s aptitude for mixing highs and lows shines in the open living-dining area of the designer’s home. Risdon says that his “splurge” was custom window treatments, fabricated by Essence Interiors in Fairfax, Virginia. An area rug, sourced locally from Carpet Palace, helps to tie the room together. The side tables, initially purchased on Wayfair for a client project, were reconfigured by Risdon to incorporate extra shelving and an antique mirror top.
For the living room of his Brookland apartment, designer Byron Risdon layered custom pieces with auction finds and upcycled elements. His sofa, from John Boone, was purchased at a sample sale years ago; here, Risdon has accessorized it with pillows made of Pindler fabric. The chairs and console are all vintage, with the former recovered in Romo upholstery. Risdon purchased the small round tables from CB2.
For the living room of his Brookland apartment, designer Byron Risdon layered custom pieces with auction finds and upcycled elements. His sofa, from John Boone, was purchased at a sample sale years ago; here, Risdon has accessorized it with pillows made of Pindler fabric. The chairs and console are all vintage, with the former recovered in Romo upholstery. Risdon purchased the small round tables from CB2.
An abstract painting by Jacob Semiatin adds a bold splash of color to Risdon’s bedroom. The designer purchased the bed from West Elm, but modified its height and recovered it with Pindler fabric for a custom touch. Frette linens and a vintage textile complete the look. Opposite the bed is a dresser designed by T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. In the corner, Risdon has added a pillow covered in Manuel Canovas fabric.
An abstract painting by Jacob Semiatin adds a bold splash of color to Risdon’s bedroom. The designer purchased the bed from West Elm, but modified its height and recovered it with Pindler fabric for a custom touch. Frette linens and a vintage textile complete the look. Opposite the bed is a dresser designed by T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. In the corner, Risdon has added a pillow covered in Manuel Canovas fabric.
During lockdown, Risdon converted his second bedroom into an office. Installing shelving from IKEA and filing cabinets from CB2, the designer was able to stay organized during an upswing in his business. A rolling cart from IKEA offers additional storage. Swing-arm lamps from Hinson bring in a flexible light source. Like the vessels in the dining area, the vases in the office are from Roy Hamilton Studios.
During lockdown, Risdon converted his second bedroom into an office. Installing shelving from IKEA and filing cabinets from CB2, the designer was able to stay organized during an upswing in his business. A rolling cart from IKEA offers additional storage. Swing-arm lamps from Hinson bring in a flexible light source. Like the vessels in the dining area, the vases in the office are from Roy Hamilton Studios.
Risdon poses in his living room next to a console table he purchased at Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia. The large canvas work beside him is by Jaime Karf; the smaller framed acrylics behind him are by William Radawec. Fox Mill Lighting & Supply Co. produced the table lamp.
Risdon poses in his living room next to a console table he purchased at Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia. The large canvas work beside him is by Jaime Karf; the smaller framed acrylics behind him are by William Radawec. Fox Mill Lighting & Supply Co. produced the table lamp.
In Risdon’s bathroom, a cabinet purchased on eBay holds towels and vintage apothecary bottles. “That’s had three lives,” the designer says, pointing out that he previously used the piece as a bar, and before that as a china cabinet. Like the rest of the apartment, the bathroom displays Risdon’s flair for mixing old and new.
In Risdon’s bathroom, a cabinet purchased on eBay holds towels and vintage apothecary bottles. “That’s had three lives,” the designer says, pointing out that he previously used the piece as a bar, and before that as a china cabinet. Like the rest of the apartment, the bathroom displays Risdon’s flair for mixing old and new.
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This scrappy attitude also proved to be an asset in 2020, when Risdon’s business picked up during lockdown. Over a weekend, he transformed his second bedroom into a home office, installing IKEA shelves and file drawers from CB2. Though the shift was temporary—the space has since reverted to a guest room—having a dedicated work area carved out a slice of calm during a hectic (if productive) period. (A naturally tidy person, Risdon says having everything in its place brings him “peace of mind.”)

The designer sees one major difference between designing his own home and those of his clients: time. Commissioned work for others, he says, “has to come together in a shorter period of time”—and that means getting the details right on the first go-round. But in his own space, where home bars are reincarnated as towel holders, and dowdy Wayfair tables undergo Cinderella-like glow-ups, the key theme seems to be transformation. And for Risdon, that’s by design: “In my opinion, the best spaces evolve.”

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

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