Balanced Athlete Fitness Studios:  5538 Connecticut Ave NW DC 20015

2017 has been a really challenging year,  both for me and for many people I care about.  And, (unless you have been living under a rock:) I think many of us would agree that so much of what is going on in the world currently just feels off.  With all of the ups and downs of this most all over the place year, there is one thing in my own life which has been 100% positive; I LOVE MY GYM!  Today I am going to tell you about the interior of this fantastic space, which I have completely fallen in love with over the last 11 months.  For me, joining the Balanced Athlete Fitness Studios  ( in Chevy Chase, DC has been a clear bright spot amidst complicated times.

The Studio is located in the basement space below the toy store, Child’s Play, where the old much loved video store used to be.  This venue is a perfect example of how thoughtfully planned interior design can transform the feel of a space, and, how it can set the stage and be the backdrop for a whole lot of wonderful.  This dynamic interior exemplifies how well designed spaces affect performance, attendance and overall motivation.  Interior Design really matters!!

First of all, Balanced Athlete Fitness Studios is different than any other gym to which I have ever belonged.  I have joined many gyms in the past, and invariably end up quitting after a month too many of paying for something that I never use. 

The vibe at Balanced Athlete is fantastic and there is a palpable sense of community.  The people are friendly, warm and welcoming.  There is no sense of competition, but rather a clear spirit of encouragement, progress and fun!  This studio caters to all ages.  There are many young and not so young people who come here to work out. The coaches thoughtfully meet you wherever you are fitness wise, and help you to challenge yourself to improve on an individual basis.   

The transformation of the physical space has been incredible.  The overall feel is clean, fresh and open.  The ceilings are exposed and painted off-white (so there is no feeling of oppressive basement space here!).  Espresso colored wall covering is combined with fresh pops of orange at accent walls and light colored wood laminate flooring.  Sleek shiny white lockers line the core between the two exercise studios, the Pilates room, and the Spinning Studio.  Mirrors are everywhere and make the space feel large, bright and connected.  The philosophy here is based on the idea that alignment is the key to everything and we need the mirrors to be aware of our alignment.  The mirrors actually make you feel more accepting of yourself, more comfortable with your body, and less competitive.  Nothing feels superfluous.  Walls are lined with Bulgarian Bags, weights and mats. The colors are vibrant and invigorating.  Even the bathrooms are sleek, modern and gorgeous.

The rooms are calming, inspiring and motivating all at once!

So how is the design of this space different from other places where you may have tried working out in the past?  Many gyms are rows and rows of machine after machine where you can end up feeling both self-conscious and anonymous.  Not so at Balanced Athlete! The rooms are small enough that they feel welcoming.  There are only 12 bikes in the Spin class, which feels the opposite of intimidating.  And, the fact that the studio is located in a basement and doesn’t have a row of storefront windows where you feel on display to all people passing by is a real plus.

 In addition, the staff here is fantastic and very personable.  I am a regular in Marian and Gorica’s Foundations classes and Krista and Shannon’s Spin classes.  They are all amazing coaches.  Marc, the owner, is about the most approachable guy you could ever meet.  Everyone at the front desk is super  friendly and genuinely kind and helpful.  So obviously, the people matter.  

But the space does too.  

The interior design achieves all that it sets out to do:  It creates a happy, welcoming and inviting space that encourages you to be active and challenge yourself to achieve healthy goals.  If you have been thinking about checking out the Balanced Athlete Fitness Studios in Chevy Chase, now is the perfect time.  Especially if you are looking for a bright spot to finish off this oh so interesting year.  You can try out a week of classes for free to see if it feels like a good fit for you.    I have gotten in my best shape in a very long time here and I thoroughly enjoy all of the classes and the people.   I can wholeheartedly say that I love both this space and the community which has been created within it.   Happy Exercising!!!


DC Design House 2016

Feeling saturated from online catalog images of stale, predictable interior spaces, or just feeling blahed out by tired out spaces in your own home? 

Have I got a cure for you!  The perfect antidote for interior design fatigue is a visit to the 2016 Edition of the DC Design House.  This year’s 9th Annual DC Design House (located at 2509 Foxhall Rd NW in DC’s Wesley Heights neighborhood) is open daily through October 30th. Tickets are $35.00 at the door and Benefit the Children’s National Health System.  Visit for more information on hours etc.

A number of highlights stood out for me about this year’s Design House.  First and foremost, the house itself is impressive in its own right.  It was built in 2010 (designed by GTM Architects and built by Gibson Builders) but feels rich with history with its thoughtful design and classic architecture.  I love the way the spaces spill into each other effortlessly and the layout feels generous but intimate and inviting; no small feat for such an enormous home at over 11,000 square feet.  The residence has a luscious leafy green backdrop with refreshing beautiful views from all of the rooms to the back of the home.  The front has views of stunning landscaped gardens.  If you are in the market for a $10 million home, lucky you, because it’s for sale! 

Bedroom by Charles C. Almonte; photo by Holly O’Brian

Secondly, throughout the home, I noticed various instances of very reasonably priced pieces juxtaposed with items that are much more high end.  For example, in designer Nancy Corzine’s Family Room, an inexpensive side table is topped with a high end lamp.  This mixing of high and low price points provides a unique result where the combination itself ends up feeling special and rich.  In designer Rachel Dougan of Vivi Interior’s space you will find a lovely piece which consists of a black sculptural base cabinet with a custom marble top, and it turns out the base is from IKEA; by far the most impressive and unexpected IKEA hack that I’ve seen!

My favorite room this year was the Bedroom designed by the Architect/Interior Designer Charles C. Almonte .  I was lucky enough to get to meet the designer himself and asked him about the inspiration behind this room.  He explained that the colors and textures in the space were selected to evoke the images of sunrise and sunset; warm and inviting in the evening and uplifting and energizing in the morning.  The colors themselves are lovely and calming but invigorating at the same time.  Corals and sun-kissed blues and greens are combined with natural fibers of the window treatments and a sisal rug layered under a richly colored Moroccan rug.  Charles also brings in floral elements and warm metals making this a most inviting and elegant room.  I really love this space!

Bedroom by Charles C. Almonte; photo by Holly O’Brian

Charles C. Almonte (Interior Designer/Architect); photo by Holly O’Brian

I also loved the Living Room designed by Interior Designer, Pamela Harvey.  Pamela combined whites, greens and blacks in a sunny, fresh and simply elegant space.

Family Room by Pamela Harvey Interiors; photo by Holly O’Brian

Andrea Houck created a gorgeous and glamorous girl’s Parisian-inspired bedroom with lots of pink, purple and white with bright splashes of whimsy.

Girl’s Parisian-Inspired Bedroom by Andrea Houck, Interior Designer; photo by Holly O’Brian

Lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed the Vintage Cabana/Roof Deckdesigned by Quintece Hill Mattauszek at Studio Q Designs .  This space is vintage Hollywood Glamour and I did not want to leave.  The linens are crisp white and refreshingly bright and simple combined with intricate well thought out golden and palm green details that invite you outside in all of its luxuriously relaxing simplicity. 

Bar Area adjacent to Roof Deck by Q Designs; photo by Holly O’Brian

Roof Deck by Q Designs; photo by Holly O’Brian

These rooms are just some of my favorites, but there is much much more to see.  If you are local to DC, be sure and stop by soon (as October 30th is the final day).  I would love to hear about your favorite rooms and overall impressions for this year’s Design House.  Thanks so much for reading and have a fabulous day!


New Den Coffeehouse at Politics and Prose: A Classy and Cozy New Space

The Politics and Prose Bookstore is one of my favorite places in my neighborhood (Chevy Chase, DC) and in the whole city for that matter.    Being surrounded by tons of books is the most comforting feeling I know.  With all of the changes that have been occurring in the way people consume books, with many purchased online and many read on screens, it is beyond wonderful to have a thriving real-life bookstore which acts as a meeting place and cultural hub for both the neighborhood and the city just a couple blocks down from my apartment.  I love the fact that you get shamed here for talking on a cell phone.  There are so few places that exist like this anymore.

Photo by Holly O'Brian

Photo by Holly O'Brian

I have lived in DC for 11 years and have enjoyed coming to the Coffee House in the basement of Politics and Prose regularly since first moving to the neighborhood. Even though it was a bit gritty, packed with people and due for some upgrades, I have always loved its overall vibe.  It was bustling and loud and lovely.  The grittiness and overcrowding was actually a huge part of its charm.  The people who worked there were eclectic and super friendly, and seemed to really love their jobs.  And the people who hung out there were equally colorful and interesting.

To be quite honest, when I heard that the coffee shop was going to be acquired  by new management and renovated I was more than a bit nostalgic and anxious.  I was concerned that the unique character and coziness of the old coffee shop would be replaced by something overly slick and hip and just plain lacking in personality with all of the amazing people who previously worked there replaced by efficient robots.

Boy, was I wrong! 

Photo by Holly O'Brian

The new space feels open and expansive, but still keeps its original funky and edgy (but welcoming) character.  It turns out that many of the people working in the new space also worked in the old space.  This gives a wonderful sense of continuity and familiarity, which is very much appreciated in a neighborhood spot. 

The Den Coffeehouse at Politics and Prose maintains its original charm, while feeling much more open and interesting through a beautiful integration of rich materials, improved space planning and a better overall flow.

The space boasts of a perfect balance of materials; warm chunky wood tables combined with latte colored concrete floors, stainless steel ductwork, blackened steel table bases and exposed white-washed brick walls. 

The counter where the cash register is located is a gorgeous curved bar with lovely wood strips and a black countertop atop an attractive glass display case.  This new bar helps to guide circulation at the cash register and throughout the space overall.   The open kitchen at the back creates a feeling of transparency and visual interest.   A clever display of menu items including beers and wines written on changeable wood strips as well as a chalkboard display of daily food specials keeps everything feeling fresh.

The wrap around charcoal grey bench at the back room gives guests space to pile in family style along the perimeter of the newly added square footage.   There are Distinct zones keep the layout feeling more open and accessible (laptop bar at the window, bar seating, smaller and larger table options and bench seating).   Thoughtful lighting solutions via Edison-style light fixtures help to highlight the raised bar as well as the wall space filled with interesting art.

A clean metal wire track display system over crisp white walls allows for the display of changing art exhibits.  The overall space lends itself to larger art display and has a distinctly gallery feel.

There is a certain added level of sophistication and elegance, without detracting from the warmth. The menu has been expanded and wine and beer are now served, which is definitely a plus.

 I love this new space which has a comfortable, irreverent and independent character combined with a classy sophisticated elegance.

I am so thrilled to have the Den Coffeehouse as my new and improved/old hangout spot.  If you haven’t been to the Den Coffeehouse yet, please check it out and let me know what you think.  Venues like this go a long way in improving the quality of life in a neighborhood.  Who says that good interior design isn’t necessary?  A thoughtfully designed interior can completely transform the way people experience a space, and the newly renovated Den Coffeehouse is a perfect example of this reality.  Enjoy!

A Beautiful New Restaurant Space in Chevy Chase, DC: Macon Bistro and Larder


Flowers are blooming, Rock Creek Park is at its stunning best full of zillions of leafy green trees and though temperatures are warming up, we are still enjoying nice evening breezes. Don’t you love Spring in DC?

It has been ages since I have posted here, but I must say that I am feeling very inspired, and wanted to share a brand new space in my neighborhood which I think is absolutely gorgeous: the new Macon Bistro and Larder in Chevy Chase, DC.

I am going to limit my comments to the interiors,(and one yummy cocktail which I had the pleasure of trying).

What I love about this fresh new space:

This new restaurant has fully taken advantage of and improved upon an ideal location in the Chevy Chase Arcade. Expansive windows open up to the Arcade on one side and to Connecticut Avenue on the other. I have spent the last month or so in anticipation of the grand opening (which happened on May 10th) peeking in every time I walk by. All of the windows and intrigue of this space definitely lends itself to peeking.

A very important aspect of successful restaurant design is creating curb appeal, where you are dying to catch a peek inside at all of the fun, beauty and intrigue.

The space feels both French and Southern, which refers to the owners ties to Macon, France and Macon, Georgia.
What works about this space is the simplicity of materials combined with a strong contrast through materials and color: rich neutrals combined with fresh green, yellow and white.

The dark colors (greys, blacks and browns) contrast with a sexy sinuous wallcovering in greens, browns, blacks and yellow. The smoky walls, aged crystal chandeliers, a gorgeous long marble-topped bar, and pops of vinyl green on French bistro chairs all come together to create a truly appealing look.

The long bar is the centerpiece of the space, marble topped with rustic wooden stools and detailing combined with wrought iron accents. Small square wooden tables with wrought iron bases and wooden French bistro chairs with chartreuse green vinyl seats sit atop rustic large brown floor tiles. Bench style seating lines the arcade side of the space. The sturdiness of materials is balanced out by a playful lightness created by gorgeous transparencies at windows and mirrors. Jewel-like aged crystal chandeliers are found throughout the dining space, and vintage glass pendants line the bar. Tall windows and tall mirrors…And the yummiest ever tall drink recommended by the bartender: “the French 75ish” with gin, lemon, crème Yvette. Oh La La!!

The open kitchen area is lined white subway tiles with dark grout and creates a clean handmade feel in contrast with industrial stainless steel. A stunning lithograph type tree in black and white is visible from the Connecticut Avenue windows and pops against the dark wall. Black chalkboards with daily specials and a host of thoughtful details give the space a worn, rustic, feel with a splash of refreshing modern allure.

The Macon Bistro is a lovely addition to Chevy Chase, DC and definitely raises the design bar for the neighborhood. I am very much looking forward to the opening of their sidewalk café in June. Please check out this fabulous space whenever you happen to be in the neighborhood.



Note: Credit for the design of this gorgeous space goes to the Owner’s Wife, Kimberly Brown, and their friend, Shoshana Lombardi.