If your idea of DC is all politics and bureaucrats—think again. From neoclassical to mid-century modern architecture, design-driven boutiques to cutting-edge eateries, the nation’s capital is often overlooked for its thriving creative scene.
And it’s the endless source of inspiration for Pum Lefebure, one of design’s most influential craftswomen—and local Washingtonian for over 25 years. “Because DC isn’t a big trendy city, it gives you the breathing space to find your own originality. Yet, there’s such a unique international vibe that it sparks creativity like you’ve never seen—drawing and creating top artists, chefs, dancers and beyond with POV’s that are anything but the usual.” And be it graphics, fashion, interiors or film, this co-founder and chief creative officer of Design Army has brought that wild imagination to the Washington Ballet, Netflix, Saucony, the Smithsonian, and more. Here, she shares her favorite haunts to inspire creativity on the ultimate design lover’s trip to DC.
WHERE TO STAY “If you love design with a fresh spin, Riggs Washington DC in downtown is decked with Instagrammable pics. Set in the former Riggs National Bank, the hotel gives a bold twist to authentic DC—blending original architectural details with modern furnishings and eye-popping colors (which is so refreshing against the capital’s ubiquitous white and gray hues).
Every element is well-considered from cool vintage key chains hanging on the lobby wall to the giant paper flower sculpture —a magnificent centerpiece that’s as creative as it is sustainable. Or for true DC on steroids, the iconic Hay-Adams—literally across the street from the White House—is a must. I love its rich history, classical architecture, and boutique charm. And if you want to feel more like a DC resident (and avoid the tourists), check in to the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan for its super modern design and neighborhoody vibe.”
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK “For a taste of DC, my go-to is Maketto. It’s a great one-stop communal spot inspired by DC’s melding cultures—mixing tasty Asian bites, a cozy café and cool concept shop stocked with artsy, rare finds by local labels. The menu is a Taiwanese/Cambodian combo that’s the city’s best easy street food. For dinner, minibar by José Andrés is a total avant-garde sensory experience. It’s like eating art—every bite and dish is meticulously curated, from creative cooking technique to stunning presentation in this (3-4 hour!) Michelin tasting-menu restaurant. I also love the just-opened L’Avant Garde with its gorgeous Parisian interior and gourmet French dining by Brittany-born, Michelin-starred chef Gilles Epié. For authentic Italian, Centrolina in CitycenterDC is a must for its delicious homemade pasta, seasonal menu, and al fresco dining underneath Palmer Alley’s rotating art installation.”
“And for the best drinks in town, head to Silver Lyan that’s a favorite for the DC’s design/creative community. Set downstairs in Riggs’ hotel basement, it has a cool, intimate speakeasy vibe with its low-slung ceilings, all-red decor and creative cocktails.”
WHERE TO SHOP & EXPLORE “For fashion lovers, off-the-grid Relish curates clothes with the best eye for art and craft. Tucked in Cady’s Alley, in the heart of Georgetown, you’ll find utterly unique, covetable pieces by Dries Van Noten, Marni, Sacai, and other international labels in designs you can’t find anywhere else. And for a cool urban vibe, Somewhere Official is worth a visit. Even though it’s a men’s shop, I love the design-minded caps and totes.”
“There’s no shortage of amazing art in DC, be it the Smithsonian to world-class museums and monuments. My favorite is the Hirshhorn—inside and out. I love its mid-century modern exterior and circular design that creates an intimate path to interact with the art. There’s an incredible sculpture garden with beautiful landscape design and the museum itself houses the best contemporary collection—bringing the most avant-garde artists, like Laurie Anderson’s immersive painted-room exhibit. And the Barbara Kruger permanent installation with its huge typography and quotes is so impactful.”
“And I love The U.S. National Arboretum—the themed gardens (like the Asian collection) are gorgeous and walking through the massive National Capitol Columns feels like you’re on a fantastical movie set with the most surreal and beautiful mix of nature and design. It’s arguably the most underrated spot in DC for a breathtaking spot to hike or stroll, in any season.”