Le Décor Middle Kingdom Porcelain: Born in Georgetown

January 17, 2014

Alison Alten Jia was home for a snow day on Wednesday, March 6. While the precipitation outside was quickly turning into the “rainquester,” she and her three children were inside. Her husband, Bo Jia, was far away, hard at work at their kiln in Jing De Zhen, China. Alison Alten Jia and Bo Jia are the founders of Middle Kingdom, designers, manufacturers and importers of handmade Chinese porcelain. Since being officially founded in 1998, the company’s colorful pots, bowls and vases have become popular among decorators and house ware dealers across the country. With a vertically integrated company that spans two continents, Middle Kingdom fits just fine in Georgetown where it was founded.

Alison Alten Jia and Bo Jia met in China in 1987 and moved to a house on 35th Street in Georgetown at the end of 1993. After having three children and officially starting Middle Kingdom in 1998, the family moved to a larger home on P Street, east of Wisconsin Avenue. The row house was formerly divided into apartments. The Jias have worked hard to turn it into a peaceful home and a beautiful one, too. The house is filled with antiques has been featured on twice on the Georgetown House Tour.
Middle Kingdom’s products are made in Jing De Zhen, as Alison Alten Jia calls it, “a small town with about 500,000 people” in southeastern China that is known worldwide for its porcelain. The city “really is a Mecca for people involved with ceramics,” said Alison Alten Jia. Bo Jia makes a few trips a year to Middle Kingdom’s kiln there. Right now, he is there working to source Middle Kingdom’s blue and white porcelain.

Although Middle Kingdom porcelain is popular among interior decorators, the Jias are not trying to move fashion-forward with their designs. “We’re not out there chasing trends,” said Alten Jia, who hopes that with time, they have been “refining our own ideas.”

In addition to their own designs, Middle Kingdom has also collaborated with artists to create different pieces. Foekje Fluer van Duin, a Dutch artist, designed vases out after plastic containers she found on the street. The company also makes pottery for Cultivated Gardens and are beginning to sell original source pieces from China and printed silk.

Alison Alten Jia is a member of the Georgetown Garden Club and has worked with the Georgetown Garden Tour in the past. She likes to support conservation and greening efforts in the neighborhood.

“We grew up in Georgetown, and so did our business.”

Items are available through Bernhardt & Reed 202-841-1924.
Prices start at $35. [gallery ids="102588,119580,119586,119593,119600,119605,119613,119620,119631,119642,119636,119573,119565,119505,119497,119512,119518,119525,119532,119538,119545,119552,119559,119626" nav="thumbs"]

Pantone Designs

If it’s not in a Pantone, the color does not exist….
Pantone, Inc., is a company best known for its color labeling and propriety. To every interior designer, it is the bible of color trends. Earlier this year, Patone released their 2012 fall and winter colors that are the hottest new thing from finish to accessories in color. In a recent poll of designer and recent reviewed orders, Patone has created a pallet for what is popular for both men and woman this year. [gallery ids="101089,137730,137696,137724,137719,137703,137714,137709" nav="thumbs"]

The Artful Errol Adels, an Architect and a Gentleman

You make the client’s dream come true,” says architect Errol Adels, whose professional life has ranged from Washington, D.C., to Muscat, Oman — and places in between, such as Dubai, Athens and London. As far as being an architect, he says, “Occasionally, you’re like the family doctor.”

For someone who has worked half a world away part of his life, Adels is known around town for his work at Watergate apartments, and his firm’s designs for the Finnish and other embassies along Massachusetts Avenue and his modernist home on Cathedral Avenue, which he
designed and lived in for a time.

“I worked on all kinds of projects over my career,” says Adels, who first arrived in D.C. in 1968, after studying at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Florida, and briefly stayed at the Georgetown Inn.

He now lives in Upperville, Va., at Lavender Hill, which he designed for himself and his fam- ily. One of his most prominent designs around Middleburg includes Foxlease Farm.

Influenced by Le Corbusier along with “the shining white of the Aegean” and the south of France, Adels reflects his own joie de vivre, geniality and depth of design wisdom. “It’s been beneficial to re-invent one’s aesthetics,” he says of his worldly flexibility.

After a teaching fellowship at Manchester University in England and a stint as visiting critic in design at several other British schools of architecture, Adels began working with archi- tect Angelos Demetriou in the 1970s. They later co-founded Architects International, a firm with worldwide projects, in the 1980s.

During his early career, Adels worked on projects for the Georgetown waterfront and the West End. He recalls attending Georgetown community meetings where there was minor, but vocal, opposition to new development and the future subway, known today as Metrorail.

For the young Adels, Georgetown “was a hoot.” One evening, a group of young friends, along with doyenne Kay Halle, wanted to get seated at Rive Gauche, a restaurant at Wisconsin and M, but were being shoed away until the maitre d’ saw that Secretary of State Dean Rusk was part of the gang.

“In the old days, everyone knew each other,” says Adels, who worked with Sam Pardoe on the design of his house at 28th and Q Streets. Georgetown “was not such an entertainment center then” — even if he did design Pisces, the private club run by Wyatt Dickerson. The town is “different not lesser,” Adels says. “But, oh, to meet Elizabeth Taylor at Clyde’s . . .”

Soon, however, Adels found himself in another world: “a very foreign place at the end of the Arabian Peninsula.” There, in 1983, he met the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said. Adels recounts: “The sultan said some- thing indelible: ‘Will you help me build this country?’”

The architectural firm’s workload exploded as parts of Oman went from nothing to the best of everything. Adels considers the sultan an “enlightened ruler,” who “balanced the life of the Middle East with the need to have good will of the West.” His firm designed the capitol build- ing at Muscat, the state palace and the summer palace at Salalah, the sultan’s hometown. Over a period of some 13 years, the firm left behind more than $600 Million in completed works.

Adels says he has designed at least 10 mosques — perhaps more than any other archi- tect. He got so good at it that an old villager simply asked him one day to build a mosque in Dhofar, Oman. “He insisted that I should do because I can . . . just make it happen,” Adels recalls. “So, we got land from the state and some extra building materials.”

The firm also designed the Dubai Dhow Wharfage, a large anchorage and parks complex along Dubai Creek. “We helped to set a frame- work for a new Dubai,” Adels says.

Closer to home, the white buildings of Adels still reflect the eclectic tastes of their designer. At 2130 Cathedral Ave., NW, a striking house stands out across from Rock Creek Park. The architect lived there during part of the ‘80s and ‘90s; it is again on the market for close to $1.8 million. Above Chain Bridge in Arlington sits Potomac Cliffs, four attached townhouses, his firm designed and built in 1983.

One personal project by Adels is his beloved Lavender Hill in Upperville, Va. Built in 1998, it calls to mind the architectural notions of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson as well as Italy’s Palladio. Its grounds evoke Provence, although only a small number of the original 1,400 lav- ender plantings remain. The two-story, stucco home has a central pavilion connected to two end pavilions. With its gardens and swimming pool, the place is in perfect harmony with the earth and was the venue for a Georgetowner cover photo shoot during the summer. Nevertheless, Adels has now put the five-acre property on the market for $2,750,000.

The architect is also proud of his designs for Foxlease Farm, also in Upperville and the former estate of John Archbold, a Standard Oil co-founder. The farm includes a residence, stable and polo grounds for the Steiner family. “I can’t think of anything further from a mosque than a hunt country house,” Adels told Virginia Living a few years ago. “But if you’re good, and the cli- ent is good, the building will emerge.”

Another place proves that sentiment: the Watergate penthouse of Leslie Westreich, a good friend of Adels. At Watergate South, he rehabbed and designed the onetime apartment of former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., opening it up to a spec- tacular vista of the Potomac, from the Kennedy Center up past Georgetown. Westreich’s art and antique collection is displayed seamlessly along- side unique furniture, including chairs from the S.S. Normandie.

“Houses are wonderful, but it’s time to move on,” says the 70-year-old Adels, who remains busy designing both buildings and interiors for a noteworthy clientele. He and his family are also patrons of the National Gallery of Art. “More than any other Washington institution, the gallery has given us great pleasure for more than 40 years,” he says. “It is nice to be able to give back. Alas, Lavender Hill will go to a new generation.” [gallery ids="101062,137086,137080,137096,137074,137101,137068,137106,137062,137110,137092" nav="thumbs"]

Touting Local Lending, EagleBank Hits Mortgage Milestone

This September, EagleBank passed a milestone of $1 billion in mortgages. With 17 branches in the Washington metropolitan area and the bank’s 18th on the way in January, EagleBank is showing serious strength as the largest community bank in the Washington metropolitan area.

The Georgetowner discussed this milestone with EagleBank chairman Ronald Paul. Paul was a founding board member of EagleBank. It was founded in Bethesda, Md., in 1998.

“We’re the largest community bank in the metropolitan area based on deposits,” Paul said. Investing in the community is important to Paul. “We’ve been active in staying local,” he said. “And, to me, that’s an important part about business. That’s what’s going to support our economy.”

“We promoted a bill [which calls for local governments to switch deposits from national to local banks] in Montgomery County, and we have one proposed in the District,” Paul said. “For every dollar the District government deposits in EagleBank, we’ll match it with two dollars in lending in that marketplace. We’re working with Jack Evans in the District for it.”

“You know, we put money into a restaurant in Bethesda that hired 68 employees, in which a third of those were unemployed,” Paul said. “So, obviously the big banks are not going to do that. That’s why Eagle has been as successful as it is. If it weren’t for a community bank like EagleBank, that restaurant would probably have never opened. Those 30 people might still be unemployed. And that’s why it’s so important for us to be supporting these community banks.”

Fantastic Fall Thanksgiving Tablescapes

Thanksgiving is truly a time to appreciate everything and everyone that helped to make the quickly ending year of 2012 memorable. If you are hosting the holiday this year, there is still time to create a captivating table-scape. Bring the bold red, orange, and gold of fallen leaves indoors as the inspiration for your table. These colors, considered fall staples, will be a sure-fire way to make a beautiful table that your guests will be raving about until next year. [gallery ids="101054,136895,136889,136882,136906,136876,136911,136869,136916,136923,136900" nav="thumbs"]

Those Were the Days

The party scene in Washington changes with different administrations, and each presidency has a subtle but important influence on its degree of fun or formality. Betty Beale’s memoir, “Power at Play,” leaves the reader with an overwhelming wave of nostalgia for the good old days, because that’s how she portrays the period of four decades surrounding the Truman through Reagan administrations, when she worked as a society columnist for the Washington Star. At the peak of her popularity, Beale’s columns were reprinted in omore than 90 newspapers across the U.S.

Beale’s era ended fewer than 20 years ago, but her stories of Washington society seem long ago and far away. It may have been that people had less money and fewer parties to attend during that time. It may also be that fewer wealthy women worked, and they considered that their job as a hostess was as important as their husband’s job in the upper echelons of the federal government. In any event, Beale chronicled her era with wit and intelligence. She was born into a prominent Washington family, which gave her entrée into society. During her 43-year tenure at the Star, she attended dozens of state dinners and thousands of parties with kings and congressmen, sometimes up to three or four in a single day.

Beale was gracious, but she was also ambitious and spent her party time looking for “newsmakers” to talk to. She also had a well-known “secret” affair with Adlai Stevenson, and the demure way in which she discusses their relationship lets you know just how different that era was. Nevertheless, she was playful and fun. She wrote a column about JFK’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger, trying to tell about toddler Caroline Kennedy’s new kitten. The reporters pressed him to know which door the cat used to enter and exit the White House, a not-so-subtle reference to the gossip about JFK’s girlfriends who made clandestine visits via the “back stairs.”

Beale’s favorite presidents were LBJ, Ford and Reagan, whom she said understood the importance of parties and social functions in the lives of power brokers and politicians. She criticized the Carters for not having any idea of how important these social events were to Washington politics and was aghast over the fact that they seated husbands and wives next to each other at state dinners.

She wrote about the women in society who became her friends, including Claire Booth Luce, Marjorie Merriweather Post and Alice Longworth Roosevelt. Her famous male friends ranged from Salvador Dali to Ronald Reagan. She described the latter as “the most likeable president of the nine I have known.”
Betty Beale painted a picture of a time when people appreciated and respected the importance of social camaraderie as a way to communicate and work together successfully and as a way to have fun. Her era spanned four decades and a world of change, but the one thing that she and the parade of politicians and socialites she met had in common was their apparent ability to “live in the moment,” a phrase that may best describe how to have a good time at a party.

Donna Evers, devers@eversco.com, is the president and broker of Evers & Co. Real Estate, the largest woman-owned and -run real estate company in the Washington metropolitan area. She is the proprietor of Twin Oaks Tavern Winery in Bluemont, Va., and a devoted student of Washington-area history.
[gallery ids="100959,130739,130735" nav="thumbs"]

Passion for Color Is Key to Kelley Interior Design

For Kelley Proxmire, more color is better – especially when designing a room. Her interior design company, Kelley Interior Design, prides itself on brightening up any space with a fun, yet classic, flare.

While always remaining true to her classic style and timelessness, Proxmire believes no room is ever fully dressed without a pop of color. Her L’Orangerie show room, featured in this year’s DC Design House in Spring Valley, is a testament to her holy grail of color hues.

The former ballroom turned intimate sunroom features long, tangerine colored drapes by Ellen Goodman that shade mirrored Palladian windows. Another highlight is the Manuel Canovas toile table skirt accented in an orange, gray and white pattern.

“When you look at that room, you’ll see some things are skirted. Some things are legs, some are soft, some are straight,” she said. “It’s a blending.”

The sophisticated sunroom is merely a prelude to the Bethesda designer’s extensive portfolio. A fixture in the DC metropolitan area for more than 20 years, Proxmire has a wealth of knowledge and accolades that showcase what she refers to as her “innate talent.” Most notably, Proxmire was inducted into the Washington Design Center’s Hall of Fame in 2009.

“I was so happy,” she said of her induction. “I think it was that I use the Design Center a lot, so the design makers probably saw my face too much. But I’m very flattered.”

Before the Hall of Fame honor, Proxmire said her experience working for fellow inductee Bob Waldron impelled her to design. “I started in the ’80s,” she said. “I definitely had on-the-job training. Bob did say to me, ‘Some have it, some don’t. You do, so go.’ And I realized I had ‘it,’ and I’ve worked like a dog over the years.”

Today, if one cannot find Proxmire perusing patterns at the Washington Design Center, she is most likely tailoring her traditional style to set it apart from other designers.

“Everybody says that they’re timeless,” she said. “But I really do like to think that there’s some time-element involved that will be in style for a long time. I’d hate to do something and then have it outdated in five years.”

She chooses to avoid the trendy route by accentuating rooms with unique pieces of art or accessories. “I always like to have some funky pieces in the room, and by ‘funky’ I mean one-of-a-kind,” she said. “Either it’s antique or vintage or something different.”

Inspired by designers such as Billy Baldwin, David Easton and Mark Hampton, Proxmire said she is moved by new styles everyday. “I spend my time at the end of the day either online on blogs, looking at magazines or looking at my files of rooms that I love and I get inspired all over again. Almost every night is spent doing some sort of work.”

Merging her love of design with a strong work ethic and business-minded media team, Proxmire defines her projects as having a “tailored traditional” style that emphasizes three fundamental elements.

“When I look at a space, the first thing I think about is that it has to be practical, especially if I’m designing for a family,” she said. “It has to be pretty or handsome. And then, I want my rooms to look inviting.”

Whether armed with a customer’s vision for a future room, a piece of furniture or simply a section of fabric, Proxmire said her designs reflect a cooperative and collaborative effort from both parties. “I think I have a range, and I think [my projects] reflect my clients unless they come to me and say, ‘I want your look.’ Fine, I can do that, too. But, it’s usually a blending.”

For potential clients, she suggests being prepared for the detailed road ahead. “Number one is choosing a designer and having a plan,” she said. “Look up all the websites and see if you know the designer. A lot of my clients are personal recommendations.”

For those choosing to design themselves, she urges the use of floor plans in order to coordinate between rooms. “In other words, if you’re going to have a design, then be systematic about that,” she said.

As Proxmire’s calendar continues to fill up with more projects, her enthusiasm for interior design and long-standing relationships with clients serve as the driving forces behind her success.

“I’ve done 21 show houses in 11 years,” she said. “That’s sick, but that’s just because I love the design aspect and the free rein, and I can put it all together pretty quickly. Then to see it all come together, it’s just such fun.”

Although designing and managing a business are key to Proxmire, she believes trust is essential between designers and clients.

“Over the years, I think customers become more relaxed and more assured that we’ll do a good job for them,” she said. “Some of them just say, ‘I really don’t know about this, Kel.’ And I’m thinking it’s going to make the room. So, I just really have to try to sell it and say, ‘It’s going to be fabulous. Trust me.’”? [gallery ids="100895,128266,128259,128232,128254,128249,128241" nav="thumbs"]

Sanchez: Streamlining With Style

“When I was a little girl, my girlfriends and I would play Barbies. They would dress them up and I would make Barbie furniture and Barbie houses,” said interior designer Victoria Sanchez.

So began a design career, which was on exhibit at the 2012 D.C. Design House.

Sanchez grew up around D.C. and has always lived here. She graduated from Marymount University in 1984. She has been designing for 30 years and has had her own business for 12. When she’s finished her designing career, she says, “I would like to be a college professor and teach interior design.”

“I’ve always been observant and had the gene and disposition to identify the basic principles of design,” Sanchez said. “My grandmother would take me antiquing. She would try and teach me how to point something out.”

She also said that her father helped her fine-tune her skills. “My father bought a lot of real estate. We would go to open houses, and I would say that this house would be better if they moved the wall, or they need a bigger kitchen.” Sanchez explained that these experiences helped her grow as a designer. “It’s my gift,” she said with a laugh.

What a gift it is. Her Teenager’s Getaway room in the D.C. Design House showed off her talent to a tee. The room is filled with bright colors, unique fabrics and intriguing furniture. Sanchez said her inspiration for this room came from her two teenage children and from Missoni patterns. “I saw the fabrics, and the light bulb hit me. I worked the design and it snowballed and grew, and I got very excited about it.”

She found items at antique shops, on eBay and at retail stores. “That was part of my inspiration, working outside the box, pushing myself, trying something new,” Sanchez said. “I put myself in a position like a client would. I bought some retail pieces, some used pieces and I put it all together and came up with a high-end, really fashionable room. I feel that more people are interested in reusing things. That they are interested in pieces that have a little bit of history. All new isn’t necessarily so fabulous anymore.”

In general, Sanchez gets her inspiration from her daily life. “Inspiration is really everywhere that I go every day. It’s all around us all the time. But until there is really a need for it — it doesn’t click or register.”

She also gets inspiration from other designers and from fabric and furniture manufacturers. “They work to identify the trends,” she said. “Then, when I’m exposed to the trends, I’m inspired to experiment with them and incorporate those trends into my design and my work.” She is also moved by classic design elements and architecture found in classical art. She said she believes that if a design has the basic elements then it will remain both timeless and spot-on.

When asked about the Washington style, Sanchez says that she sees a changing trend. “The traditional, federal, stereotypical designs seem very passé. All generations seem to be more interested in streamlining their interiors. There is a nod to the classic designs but not as heavy as in the past. Less is more seems to be the trend.”

For Sanchez, the best part of designing “is that I can fulfill my designer fantasies in other people’s homes. I love always being able to try new things all the time.” Sanchez also says that helping the client is a great part of the job. “My job, as a designer, is to take my clients’ wishes and turn them into their reality. I have the skills and resources, which is why they come to me. At the end of the day, I make people’s homes beautiful for them.” ? [gallery ids="100876,127386" nav="thumbs"]

Paying Tribute to Papa, Fab Finds for His Day

Father’s Day is right around
the corner and what better way
to show your old man just how
much you love him than with a
gaggle of gifts? Whether he’s an
easy-going executive, a modern
maverick or a snazzy socialite,
he’s sure to enjoy embellishing
his man cave, work space or outdoor
sanctuary with any of these
thoughtful presents. [gallery ids="100848,126574,126549,126568,126557,126565" nav="thumbs"]

With Charity in Mind, Real Estate Agents Become Agents of Change

“It’s amazing when our people can group together and do anything to make a difference,” said Dana Landry, principal broker at Washington Fine Properties. “The power of teamwork is remarkable.”

While real estate agents deal with powerful clients in their day jobs, many find it gratifying to help with local charities that range from national or neighborhood projects to individuals needing help with food or shelter.

“There are so many good causes out there, and we like to support as many as we can,” Landry said. “As a company, we believe that supporting the charities that are important to our agents is important to us.” Some of these charities include the Georgetown House Tour, Trees for Georgetown, Georgetown Ministry Center, Friends of Rose Park and the Washington National Cathedral.

Coldwell Banker, one of the nation’s most recognized and oldest real estate company, gives back to the community through the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Cares Foundation and by teaming up with the Washington Humane Society.

Among these charities, Coldwell Banker has introduced a program in 2005 called the Cornerstones of Life Program, which aims to strengthen the cornerstones needed to create a successful life. Coldwell Banker is also involved in Harvest for the Hungry, Golf Tournament, Heart Walks, Toys for Tots, Habitat for Humanity and Go Red.

TTR Sotheby’s International Realty works actively with Charity Works, USO, and the See Forever Young Adult Center. All of these non-profits work together to provide families, children, and troops the necessary help they need within the community — including the Washington Luxury House Tour.

“Some of the causes where we are most involved in Georgetown include the Citizens Association’s Trees for Georgetown, Georgetown Jingle (benefiting Georgetown University’s Pediatric Oncology Center) and our many parks, including the Friends of Volta Park, the Friends of Montrose Park and the Friends of Rose Park,” said Michael Rankin, co-founder of TTR Sotheby’s International.

Long & Foster Real Estate, one of the largest real estate companies in the nation, supports You Feed Others (UFO). On June 6, Long & Foster employees spent the day creating food kits for its annual Community Service Day. They donated food kits to school systems thanks to the You Feed Others program.

“This annual event, now in its 15th year, is a vital and important part of Long & Foster’s culture,” said Wes Foster, chairman and CEO of the Long & Foster Companies, which also donates to Levine Music School, Washington Ballet, Studio Theatre, AmeriCares and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. “Many charities and local organizations are struggling as a result of the continued pressure on the economy.”

“We aim to be involved locally at least once a month by bringing the office into areas where our efforts are needed,” said Stacy Berman, branch manager of Long & Foster’s Georgetown office. “Last week, we hosted a lunch for the Georgetown Senior Center. It was such a great experience for both the seniors and the realtors.”

There are others, of course, but these four real estate companies contribute by working with local charities to create a change for the better.

With their donations and volunteering, Coldwell Banker, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, Washington Fine Properties and Long & Foster Real Estate have all made a difference.