Walking into Frank Randolph’s house makes you aware of what a great interior designer can do. Randolph lives in a house once occupied by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. What he managed to do with it (not to it) is to create marvelous spaces with impeccably designed interiors. This is the hallmark of his work. All is classical, spare without being minimal and luminous.
Frank Randolph’s living room is one of the most beautiful spaces in Georgetown. It is high ceilinged, and during remodeling Randolph dropped the windows to the floor, creating real French windows. They look out onto a lovely garden below. Graced by arches, the living room contains some of the furniture Randolph has designed himself as well as a pair of 18th-century painted French screens. Small porcelain Chinese bowls and other objects are placed on tables and the mantle. He describes them all as inexpensive pieces. Randolph likes to change the arrangement every few months.
A real Washingtonian who grew up near Georgetown and attended Western High (now Duke Ellington), Randolph is the rarest of decorators, a self-taught man. The antiques that Randolph works with are mostly Swedish and Danish pieces from the 18th and 19th century. “People want to walk into a house with less of the darkness associated with antiques,” Randolph says. “They want a home to have lightness and happiness.” In his own home you can see he practices and lives with what he preaches.
“Clients don’t come to me for a strictly contemporary or modern look,” he says. “My passions are evenly divided. As an interior designer one must include things that are practical but still wonderful and beautiful. You cannot sell 19th-century chairs anymore because they break.” Randolph’s own dining room chairs are modeled on antique pieces, but in light wood and are extremely sturdy. He says that if you cannot find a piece, you can often have it reproduced.
Instinctively generous, Randolph even has a few good words to say about Martha Stewart: “I admire her way of getting the general public involved in presentation of food and of things you have in your home.”
It is rare for an architect to speak of lessons learned from a decorator. However, Georgetown architect Christian Zapatka speaks of learning from Frank Randolph and how sometimes covering a window rather than merely exposing it can create more. It is a lesson Zapatka is carrying out in his own newly designed home.
“Making people happy is rewarding,” Randolph says. “But you have to get the architecture right. Thomas Jefferson was the first American interior designer, he went to bed thinking about it and he woke up and rearranged the furniture!”
Christian Zapatka: Reinventing the Georgetown Townhouse
Frank Randolph: Interior Designer Extraordinaire
John Rosselli: Georgetown’s Antique Aficionado
Marston Luce: In Search of Elegance
Scandinavian Antiques & Living: International Accents
Susquehanna Antique Company: Redefining Tradition
Sixteen Fifty Nine: A Mid-Century Renaissance