Upgrade Your Pad With Some Swedish Design Tips From This Local Pro

Maybe it’s just because we're currently hunting for the perfect white cotton dress and some truly classic jeans, but lately, we’ve been inspired by clean, timeless designs and pared-down, simplified style. We like our stuff too much to ever become true minimalists, but there is something to be said for an edited aesthetic — and we just found the D.C. design guru to help us exercise a little stylish restraint, and make it look effortless.
Meet interior designer Loi Thai, who co-owns Tone on Tone, an amazing Scandinavian interiors shop in Bethesda with a sharply edited collection of Swedish finds. Most of the furniture dates to the 18th and 19th centuries, but these pieces will fit right into a modern home — and be warned, they'll put your EKTORP sofa to shame. Our conundrum? Deciding which room to make over first, using Loi's simple, affordable ideas for incorporating the Scandinavian aesthetic. That's right: We got him to dish a bounty of easy DIY design tips, share his favorite D.C. interiors spots, and explain what makes Scandinavian style so hot right now. Click through for the full scoop.
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Where does the name Tone on Tone come from?
"Tone on Tone means that we focus on a light color palette — pale pinks and grays [which are] very in right now. Everyone is trying to lighten up. When we first started, gray wasn’t as popular — now you see ‘greige’ everywhere, from Restoration Hardware to galleries. Swedish antiques have that look, but with clean lines and a pared-down look. It’s antique, but fresh!”

Photo: Courtesy of Tone on Tone
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Describe your style.
“I buy and sell what I love and use myself. I like things that are timeless, which is why I love antiques – I don’t follow trends. I am drawn to Scandinavian because it’s timeless, clean, not overdone."

Photo: Courtesy of Tone on Tone
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Why did you focus on Scandinavian antique furniture?
“The gist is that it’s very versatile – it goes with everything from contemporary design to English or French aesthetics. [Scandinavian furniture] is so well edited; even pieces from the 1700s or 1800s work well in today’s homes, because they aren’t fussy.

[My partner Thomas Troeschel and I] started Tone on Tone nine years ago after an inspirational trip to Europe. We traveled to Scandinavia and fell in love with the aesthetic, bought some pieces to send home, got great feedback, and decided to start a store.”

Photo: Courtesy of Tone on Tone
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Did you help make the Scandinavian aesthetic hot?
“I think we did! We coined the term ‘tone on tone’ to mean shades of the same color found in Scandinavian design. Now, people commonly use the phrase ‘tone on tone’ [to describe] Swedish furniture. We’ve become well known in the design community, thanks to many design publications that have featured [the store]. I am so grateful [to them] for putting Tone on Tone out there."

Photo: Courtesy of Tone on Tone
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How can we incorporate Scandinavian style into our tiny D.C. apartments?
“The easiest way is with paint! Lighten up your dark walls — even your ceilings — with gray or light gray [paint]. Scandinavian style is all about light — finding ways to lighten up your space is key. Replace curtains and window treatments to let in more light. To lighten up dark floors, try a sisal rug. Change your upholstery, and focus on one piece at a time. I have built my collection over years!

Also, I am all for mixing things for a personal effect— all furniture looks better when it is mixed with other pieces. Take the best from each look that you love and make it yours. Finally, don’t overdo it – choose timelessness over trends.”

Photo: Courtesy of Tone on Tone
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Tell us about your favorite places to go for inspiration in D.C.
“There’s a home furnishings store on 14th Street called Room & Board – they have an incredible space and their pieces are so handsome, and the room settings are relatable for a city dweller. Their furniture is nicely scaled — not ginormous like many places! I also love Random Harvest in Georgetown for their selection of new and old pieces.

I believe the interior and exterior are related. I’m inspired by the outdoors, and am a passionate gardener! Living in the city, people may not have access to their own outdoor space, but there are wonderful gardens that are open to the public. I love Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral or Dumbarton Oaks. For dining, there is a wonderful place by my shop in Bethesda called Tout de Sweet – it is divine! It’s very European, and also has an accomplished pastry chef.”

Photo: Courtesy of Tone on Tone