Home Tour: A 550 sq ft Washington, D.C. sanctuary
Hi friends. Follow us right this way as we step into Amira El-Gawly's gorgeous Washington, DC apartment. Situated in DC's DuPont circle neighborhood, Amira's light, bright space has some seriously beautiful city views. The real beauty, however, lies inside, where Amira has built a beautifully curated space—in only 550 sq ft!
Like most homes, this one was not built overnight. Amira often works long hours, so her stunning apartment is the result of two years of paint jobs, hit and miss furniture selections, some professional advice (ahem, Framebridge), and a whole lot of rearranging. And you can really feel that it's all hers. This is the dream: it looks like a catalogue, but feels like a home. Let's dive in.
On Getting Started
I’ve lived here since April 2014—so two and a half years. When I first moved in, everything looked so different. I found it in the winter, so it was gloomy, and completely sparse. I didn’t have the mantle or the bookshelves. The bedroom was painted this really ugly blue and looked so much smaller.
It’s a small apartment (550 sq feet), but it looked even smaller.
The first things I did was buy a fiddle leaf fig—Dolly. I got her from a florist I buy flowers from every week named Dolores. She helped me find her, so her name really suits her.
On Her Most Impactful Design Decisions
I painted the whole space white. It took two tries to get the color right. I first painted it a cream, but that looked too yellow-y. It wasn’t until I had it painted white that it completely opened up the space. The next challenge was furniture.
I have a really intense job, and my time at home is precious. I knew I wanted my space to be a sanctuary.
The couch was my first purchase. I didn’t have a bed for six months. I slept on an air mattress. Then I got a mattress and slept on that. And then I finally got a bed frame. I actually hired an interior designer, Shauna, from Homepolish to help me pick a few key pieces.
The couch I picked myself and the chair I picked myself, but there were necessities where I knew the look I was going for but just didn’t have time to find the right piece. Shauna helped me find my bed frame and headboard. She also helped me change out some of the fixtures. I think for anyone who has a crazy job, it’s a very useful service.
On Her Floor To Ceiling Gallery Wall
I have the bad habit of buying anything I find really beautiful. I bought so much art after I bought this home. And even before that, I had collected pieces that I hadn’t framed. I knew that I would have to have some kind of gallery wall, but I had no idea where that was going to be. Everywhere I considered putting it felt like it would be too much—like it would takeover the space.
One of the things I really wanted was for the experience of walking from the living room to the bedroom to be fun, because it’s so short.
Most people have long hallways or a staircase or something. I don’t have that. I wanted something for people to stop and look at. It was such a good confined space.
I think it’s good to have points of engagement in the space. I want it to be like a sistine chapel kind of experience.
On never settling
Selecting the rest of the pieces was a trial and error process. I was like, “Do I like this here?” and I would look at it for a couple of days. I just wouldn’t keep anything I wasn’t in love with.
I wanted to be in love with every. single. piece. I think when you’re in love with something you’ll find a way to make it work, but, if not, it will always bother you.
I didn’t want to have “a look”. I didn’t want it to be expected.
In apartments I’ve lived in before I would go to West Elm or CB2 and say, ‘Ok, I’m gonna get that chair, and this, and this, and I’m done.’ I didn’t want that. I wanted it to feel like me, which takes time.
On Finishing Touches
When I travel I always try to bring something back that I love. Not a lot of things, just one or two things. I have pottery that I bought in Vancouver during my sabbatical, pottery I found in a market in Abu Dhabi that cost 50 cents.
And the books. I talked to so many people about how to make it work. I actually got rid of 100 books. I had so many. I’m the kind of person where if there’s a book sale at a library I will to buy like 50 books. I want to read all of the books. It’s crazy.
I kept books that I have read and loved. I kept the books that I really want to read—so like the next 50 books I’m going to read. And resources—beautiful books that I want to go back to, or that have poetry or stories that I want to share with other people.
On Art and Framing
I would say maybe 30% of the art is from traveling. Some I got with my mom back home in Abu Dhabi, I picked up some art in Egypt where I’m actually from originally, the art I’m about to frame is from Barcelona, some pieces are from Paris. The art is from everywhere abroad, but also from vintage markets in Pennsylvania, craft markets in DC. It’s literally from everywhere.
I love that the frames let me tell a story. That’s what I love about Framebridge. You inspire people to tell a story with their frames.
I know photos do it, but you open peoples' minds to framing things and memories that I don’t think people would do otherwise. I get a lot of my design ideas from you all. I never would have thought to frame the postcards. I know that seems silly, but I never would have thought to frame them. A lot of the gallery wall inspiration is from you guys. Mixing and matching is not my expertise, so I got a lot of help from your team in making this happen. Actually your designers, Teresa and Tessa, helped me over email pick the frames in my collection.