Carmel Greer on interior design | Home Front

Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post
Mar 26, 2015

Carmel Greer is an architect and the owner of District Design (, a District-based architecture and interior design firm. Carmel teaches interior design at George Washington University, and is a graduate of Yale University's School of Architecture.

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Good morning everyone. We're chatting with Carmel Greer, an architect and interior designer. She helped transform this Mount Pleasant kitchen for a wine-loving couple. 

Thanks for joining us!

One of our most popular issues of the year is our Kitchen issue. Today's Mount Pleasant design by Carmel Greer of District Design was done as  part of a whole house renovation. We are lucky to have Carmel with us today to answer questions about that beautiful project as well as other topics related to kitchens.

Good morning, thank you for having me.  My name is Carmel Greer and I am the owner of District Design, an architecture and interior design firm in Dupont.  Ask away!

What are the dimansions of the kitchen's island?

It is quite large!  Approximately 8'-6" x 5'-6".

I have wood floors in my kitchen, but I'd also like to install wooden kitchen cabinets. Do the two wood colors need to match?

No.  Unless you are installing new floors and using the exact same wood to build truly custom cabinets, there is no way they will match exactly.  If something is not going to match exactly, I prefer a very intentional mis-match.  Personally, I love some of the woods with unusual grains/textures that Boffi is using right now.  They are modern, but still have a lot of warmth and texture.

I'm painting my tween daughter's room. She really likes pink. Any suggestions?

Ace Hardware's paint line called Clark and Kensington is doing some fun things that your daughter might like. They have a line of paints that exactly match OPI nail polish - so her summer toes could exactly match her walls (tween heaven).  I Eat Mainely Lobster, a bright, fun, unconventional coral pink would be a great color on one wall and the ceiling (yes, I said the ceiling) with Don't Touch My Tutu neutral/grey on the other three walls to balance the intensity.  They have more conventionally pink options, too.

I'd like to put a roof deck on my row house. How do I go about doing this?

This is a seemingly simple project that is not always so simple. If you are in a historic district, you’ll need to ensure that the deck is not visible from the street.  An architect can help you with this by doing sight line drawings.  Assuming the deck is not visible and, if in a historic district, your neighbors don’t object, you can likely proceed (though different historic neighborhoods have different guidelines).  Sometimes you will need to attend ANC meeting(s), etc.  

The next step is to ensure that your roof can support the weight of a new deck.  The party walls of most row houses can support the additional weight, but an engineer or architect will need to take a look - a roof deck is no fun if it has collapsed into a bedroom below!  You will also need to ensure that roof access can be obtained in a manner that does not cause a zoning problem:  in other words, does your property have the allowable height and lot occupancy to install either an interior or exterior stair?

Providing all of the above is satisfied, actually constructing a rooftop paradise is the easy part!

We are expecting a wee one soon. I've dreamed of a wonderful and fun nursery for her, but I'm frozen because I can't decide what color to paint the walls. Should I stick with white?

A monochromatic white nursery can be beautiful.  I don't think nursery colors need to be gender specific, though!  We just did a beautiful little girl's nursery with one wall of robin's egg blue.  The other walls are a soft grey.  Another option is to do white walls, but pick a color you love for linens and wall hangings.  Wall decals are another great option for adding color in a non-committal way.

I really like the look of marble in kitchens, but don't like the idea of it staining. What are some alternatives other than granite?

A quartz like Caesarstone is a great option.  For multi-family projects where durability is paramount, we often use a white quartz with a full height marble backsplash.  This provides a durable work surface, but also provides the material richness of natural stone.  

I want to buy a really large painting for a wall in my house. How do I know if it's too large for the room?

Most pieces need room to breathe - but not too much room!  I think a good general rule of thumb is that, at minimum, you need to leave 9” of space vertically from the ceiling/crown and 12” from the baseboard.  I would certainly leave a minimum of 12” from adjacent walls.  At District Design, we often suggest very large scale work, and will often work with artists directly to create custom pieces so that the art is scaled perfectly.

My husband and I want to put a green roof on our house. How do we know whether we can do this?

You’ll need to have an engineer look at the structure of your existing roof.  Because green roofs are heavy, very often you’ll need to augment or replace some of your existing joists.  I put a lavender garden on my roof (and I love it - my Provence moment), but you should be aware that green roofs don’t maintain themselves.  Even a very low maintenance type of plant will need periodic attention.

I love the look and function of the wine and glass storage built into the kitchen cabinetry. What are some tips for keeping it organized and looking uncluttered?

Thank you!  We enjoyed designing it - we are lucky to have such fun clients!  In any situation involving open shelving, it helps for dishes to be a uniform color.  If the color is uniform, things can get a little bit jumbled without looking like a big mess.  Here is another project where we used open shelving - you can see that there are a variety of dishes on these shelves, but all the dishes are either uniformly white or translucent.  

I have 8 sample jars of paint (4 quarts and 4 little pots) that are pretty much full, minus one swatch on the wall. Will anyone accept these as donations? I already checked the Habitat for Humanity store and they do not.

A local artist might!  

We are planning to rennovate our retirement home (kitchen, master bed and bathrooms) in Miami, FL. Asbent of the wonderful architect such as Ms. Greer, can you advise us on what apps (on interet) are available to use so that we can visuallly see and prepare the project? Thank you so much.

Thank you for the kind words!  Houzz is a great resource.  They have nearly infinite images of all different types and styles of project.  If you see something you like, you can post a question regarding where the designer sourced it.  The app is very user friendly.  Of course, your Washington Post home section is a great tool, also!

my office is in my fairly large kitchen space.. how do I make the space look less cluttered and more appealing without removing my office.

Well, this is not really an architectural answer, but at our design studio, we swear by a Snapscan (a really fast, compact scanner that instantly makes PDF's) and Dropbox (cloud storage).  No paper please!  If you aren't ready to go paperless, my suggestion is to purchase attractive containers for the various daily items that accumulate.  On my desk, I have simple containers like these for clutter like reciepts, pens, keys . . .

Our kitchen unfortunately has a white tile floor which is impossible to keep clean. I would love to have wood or cork instead but can't face the mess that taking up the tile would make. Is it possible to put new flooring on top, or would the tile have to come out?

I'm sorry to say that a proper installation really does require that the tile come out.  My suggestion is to have some one trustworthy do the "messy part" while you are away.  Layering floors on top of one another creates all kinds of problems ranging from creaking and cracking to awkward steps up onto the new surface.  

For storage below counter-height, do you prefer drawers or cabinets with doors, and why?

I almost always prefer drawers.  To see what is at the back of a cabinet with doors you either need to open the doors and pull out the rolling shelf (assuming one exists) or bend down and look.  With a drawer, seeing the contents of the cabinet requires only one step:  open the drawer.  Of course, for very large pots and trays, drawers will not be a good solution - often a mix is needed.

Try freecycle and craigslist - you should have success!


I just found out that the Calico Corners store in Rockville is closing. Having been a customer of Calico Corners for years, does anyone know if it will be reopening in another location in the area? Really don't want to have to drive all the way to Virginia to the stores there.

Wow. Will  have to check this out.

I've read you're an architect and also design interiors as well as teach interior design at GW. What's the advantage of hiring an architect that also tackles the interior design?

Not surprisingly, I think there is a huge advantage to this.  Namely, it gives the client an opportunity to have a truly cohesive vision carried out through every detail of their project.

The Post Point Code for today is HF9365


I have an active toddler running around. I know to use child-locks on cabinets and to keep knives out of reach (he can reach the silverware drawer). But other than that, any ideas to make our kitchen more kid-friendly / toddler-friendly?

I too have a toddler who loves to empty the contents of my spice rack while I cook.  I wish I had a good answer for you!  More eyes and more arms seem to be the only solution.

I have a Mt. Pleasant rowhouse w/out a half-bath on the first floor and want to remodel. I notice that a lot of remodeling projects don't include this addition. How difficult/expensive would it be to have one installed?

We put powder rooms in the majority of our renovations.  The difficulty of installing a new one will really depend on whether you have plumbing near the desired location, and, if not, whether your basement ceiling is finished.  If you need to bring plumbing from a distant location and your ceiling is finished, the plumber will likely need to open up your basement ceiling in order to complete the work which can be a bit of a hassle.  

We're refinishing wood floors and a 1930's row house. Theyhouse had a yucky remodel in the 1950s and all the nice woodwork was stripped. As a result we need new baseboards. What height do you recommend?

That really depends on your ceiling height.  A giant baseboard with a low ceiling can look quite odd.  Similarly, if the house is rather simple, a complex baseboard can look out of place.  My suggestion is to look at a neighboring house and see what was original.  TW Perry or Smoot Lumber can then help you select the appropriate off-the-shelf profile.  

I rent a condo with the typical galley kitchen (think 70's). I cannot knock down walls, any ideas to make it seem like more?

I think large scale art is a great solution to many rental woes.  You can bring it with you when you leave, and provide texture and character in a space that may otherwise feel generic.  

It was a pleasure having Carmel answering so many questions today. Thanks all for posting on the chat and for reading our kitchen issue. There are lots of great articles with helpful ideas.

Thank you so much for having me.  It’s time to go . . . I hope this was helpful!

Could you post a floor plan of the space? The space is beautiful but I woulke to know measurements

Yes. We actually have the plan Carmel drew up for us and we will post it online shortly with the story. Check here.


In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Carmel Greer
Carmel Greer is an architect and the owner of District Design (, a District-based architecture and interior design firm. Carmel teaches interior design at George Washington University, and is a graduate of Yale University's School of Architecture.
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