April and Shannon Alford Barclays’ lively space invites people of all ages to enjoy a game night, which might include UNO, a board game, or Lyrically Correct, a musical trivia game. And the couple’s dining room table is just the ticket for some fun competition.

Likewise, a Crate & Barrel table the couple scoured online provides an easy, elegant setting for holiday gatherings — like Christmas brunch.

“We like to say the vibe we aim to create is relaxed and moody,” Shannon said. “We like anyone who enters our home to feel welcome and calm. Our design style is modern African. Because of this, you’ll see touches of black art, African masks, and an overall moody/relaxed vibe.”

Additionally, the women, who are adopting two young children, wanted to create a space that was child-friendly but didn’t compromise on style.

When friends and family come over, they say their style represents “who we are as people, and that’s the biggest compliment,” says Shannon. “When choosing décor, our biggest goal is to create a space that authentically represents us,” she added.

Location, location

“We bought our house in the midst of the housing craze of 2021. We had been looking for months and were constantly getting outbid,” Shannon explained.

The couple wanted to stay close to downtown, but the market was short on inventory at the time. Shannon discovered the house, located in the historic village of Wright-Dunbar, while April was on a cross-country trip.

Shannon went with a friend to check out the house. Immediately, I fell in love with the possibility of the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath residence. “We closed in September 2021,” she added. “Location was a major factor in our decision. Another attraction to the home was the space. We loved the design and knew we could make this home work for our family.

The 1,552-square-foot home (not including the finished basement) was built in 2004. The Wright-Dunbar Village neighborhood is made up of a mix of older homes and newer buildings that emulate the neighborhood’s historic atmosphere, according to the women. Their colonial-style abode, which has “good bones” architecturally, blends in seamlessly.

Shortly after the couple purchased the property, they began completely remodeling the house. “We worked with a contractor and redid the kitchen and all the bathrooms, added a room in our basement, painted the interior, and added hardwood floors throughout the house to create a cohesive look,” Shannon said.

The contractor completed all labor intensive work; Shannon and April came in last and completed all the design work. “We have some very basic construction skills, but we leave the heavy lifting to the professionals,” Shannon added.

Current projects

“We just finished converting the sliding closet doors into French doors by reusing the doors,” Shannon said. “We are also in the process of planning our outdoor space and exterior makeovers for the house. April is also planning to renovate her bathroom in September.

(Yes, women say – with a laugh – that having separate bathrooms is the key to a successful marriage.)

April, 50, is the chief administrator of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. Shannon, 34, is a work and family services specialist with the Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services.

Shannon works remotely, and her basement office space doubles as a library and music center. Around the corner is a family room with a large saffron sofa and plenty of space for watching movies.

Throughout the home, book vignettes thoughtfully add height, texture and color. Collections of beloved books also make bases for art and allow guests to learn more about the family. In a 6-year-old’s bedroom, for example, Spider-Man books are clearly his favorite subject.

Creative process

“Our interior design inspiration comes from many places,” Shannon said. “We follow a lot of designers on Instagram and YouTube who have similar design styles. We subscribe to a lot of design magazines. We love Pinterest because there are a lot of ideas on the site. We’re also big fans of HGTV.

Shannon doesn’t usually create a mood board. Her thoughts live in her head, so she is more “internally organized,” she said. As such, Shannon will jump headfirst into the project and hammer out the details as she goes along. April, on the other hand, is more “externally organized” in her planning process. So, she created lists and mood boards on Milanote, a stylish online dashboard for creatives, and Notion, a productivity and note-taking web app.

Despite their different design approaches, the couple shares a similar aesthetic that flows naturally through their urban retreat.

Shop your home

Much of the art in the house was purchased while traveling, while other pieces were inherited from family members, April and Shannon said. They also shop online, visiting sites like Etsy and Article Modern Furniture.

Women add that small touches can make noticeably big changes.

For example, adding a fresh coat of paint after about two years made a big difference, according to the women. “The other thing is that although the first thought when renovating our home was to buy new items, we were very surprised at how good the items looked when moved to different spaces,” Shannon added.

In the future, before purchasing new pieces, the couple said they will “shop our house” and see what things look like in different rooms.

Just work towards it

What advice do women have for others ready to embark on a remodeling project? “Just work for it! Many people are hesitant to exploit their own space. Take a chance and create a space that represents your authentic personality. Don’t live in a space that does not reflect your personality. Plan well and do it!”

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