House Tour: Designer Small Space Living in Washington DC

Colorful living room by Darlene Chimaliro
Darlene Chimaliro

Small space living is a growing trend in the United States. More and more, Americans are living in less space. And they aren't just making do, they are making spaces that shine with every ounce of the style that you would expect to find in a larger home. Of course, it also helps if the family living in the home includes an interior designer. Things get easier once again if another member of the family is an architect. So when interior designer Darlene Chimaliro, moved into her Washington DC home with her husband, Misheck - an architect - it was safe to say that they had everything they'd need to craft a small space that could hold all of their big style.

The 640 square foot home is an original Washington DC Co-Op, built in 1938. For, Darlene and Misheck, moving in was a major milestone in a relationship that had been going for some time. "This is my husband’s and my first true home together," says Darlene. "We’d been dating since college and after living with roommates for a while we decided it was finally time to get our own place." Both graduates of Howard University, the couple turned to a mutual friend for help, who pointed them in the direction of their current home. 

All photography by Jennifer Hughes

  • 01 of 05

    Patterned Entryway

    Colorful, patterned entryway by Darlene Chimaliro
    Darlene Chimaliro

    As a designer by trade, Darlene understands the importance of a striking entryway as a means to set the tone for the rest of the space. Though Misheck has a preference for neutral tones, Darlene says, "I’m originally from Trinidad and Tobago and as such have a love of bold, colorful interiors." That love shines through in this entry.

    Without much space to work with, Darlene needed something bold to make a big statement. She choose a wallpaper with a bold combination of bright orange and a strong pattern in white as an accent wall. Across a larger area, this pairing could quickly become overwhelming. But in a tighter area, it's just the right thing to make sure that you don't pass by the braided rope mirror and stylish mid-century console without noticing. 

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  • 02 of 05

    Modern Living Room

    Washington DC living room by Darlene Chimaliro
    Darlene Chimaliro

    Given the dichotomy of tastes, the biggest challenge in the home for Darlene was to create spaces that reflected herself and her husband equally. The pair collaborates on creating interiors for clients as well as their own, as co-founders of the interior design practice that bears Darlene's name. The designer's solution was to use their respective likes as, "cues to lay a foundation of strong, clean lines with the anchoring pieces followed by lots of texture, color and pattern throughout to finish it off." The result is a series of pieces that speak to their compound styles.

    In the living room, the main piece that the couple agreed on was the sofa, which easily stands out as the main color splash of the room. Ironically, it was the color that drew Misheck to the piece while Darlene fell in love with its 100% cotton velvet upholstery. Both loved the modern lines of the piece, which, even more than the color, causes it to stand out in the room. A colorful patterned pouf serves as the other big infusion of color in the otherwise neutral-heavy room. Sitting across from the pouf is another of Darlene's favorite pieces: the molded plywood chair designed by Ray and Charles Eames. Darlene confesses to a longtime love affair with mid-century furniture and there are few examples of the style more iconic than pieces designed by the Eames'.

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  • 03 of 05

    Yellow Dining Room Details

    Dining room with bright yellow chairs and a modern striped rug
    Darlene Chimaliro

    Darlene's love of mid-century modern design continues to be on display in the dining room. The small space comes alive with vibrant shades of yellow provided by the dining room chairs - another Eames design. Paired with an eye-catching, blue-and-white striped rug and a vintage chandelier, it is a beautiful setting for any occasion.  

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  • 04 of 05

    Vibrant Bedroom

    Vibrant, multicolored bedroom designed by Darlene Chimaliro
    Darlene Chimaliro

    Like the living room, the bedroom is a mix of bright colors and neutrals. From the Moroccan beni ourain rug, to the colorful textiles, the room boasts a number of global influences - all inspired by the couple's travel. "We try to pick up something new to add to our collection every time we travel," admits Darlene.  "We recently travelled to Copenhagen and Paris and got our hands on some beautiful pieces of art that we’re still working into our collection. I love mixing new pieces with old pieces. It adds so much character and helps any home feel lived in and welcoming." In addition to its global accessories, a colorful selection of wall art also helps to complete the look while bringing life and color to the space.  

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  • 05 of 05

    Home Office Full of Art

    At home office space designed by Darlene Chimaliro
    Darlene Chimaliro

    "I love the aura of our home." says Darlene. "Because it was so personally curated it is a direct reflection of us. From the rug to the picture frames; canopy bed to the dining chairs. They all work in harmony together to produce a space that is unique, fun and livable."