Family Style - Designed for large gatherings, a new custom home celebrates its bucolic, central-Virginia surroundings

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Designed for large gatherings, a new custom home celebrates its bucolic, central-Virginia surroundings

By Catherine Funkhouser | Photography by Kip Dawkins

For a Quinton, Virginia, couple, the empty nest proved to be anything but. Theirs is a hub of activity, with grown children and umpteen grandkids visiting often. So after living for several years in a cottage tucked into their expansive farm, the pair decided to build their dream home—with plenty of space for gathering their clan and entertaining friends. “The house grew out of a need to have a beautiful but comfortable place, large enough to accommodate their family and lifestyle,” reveals interior designer Gary Inman, tapped by the pair to help achieve those goals.

The husband, a business owner, and wife envisioned a home that would fit the character of their pastoral property comprising 2,000 splendorous acres outside of Richmond. They found their vision online: a Tudor-style house in Toronto designed by Stan Makow. A journey north to tour that residence and meet with Makow sealed the deal. Using his Toronto house plan as a springboard, the Canadian architect conjured a 12,000-square-foot abode with the relaxed elegance of a country estate and a strong connection to its setting.

“The house relates to the surroundings and flows from the inside to the outside,” notes Makow, referencing the tall windows lining the rear and wide French doors connecting the main hall to the loggia. “There is a view from the front entrance right through to the back—to the outdoor sitting area and pool. All the principal rooms are oriented to those backyard vistas.” The first-floor master suite and the library, located in opposite front corners, enjoy side views of the rolling landscape.

With four guest bedrooms upstairs and two more downstairs, the house easily accommodates the couple’s combined brood. The lower level’s other attractions—a wine cellar, hangout/TV space and game room—lure guests of all ages.

Makow describes the home’s exterior, which marries Pennsylvania-quarried stone with mahogany windows, as “transitional Tudor with French influences.” He delivered the architectural drawings, and Williamsburg architect John Hopke took the reins from there, overseeing construction on site.

The interiors suggest a French bent too. The owners enlisted Inman and Dani Fraizer, his design partner at Baskervill, just as construction got underway. Augmenting the millwork already planned, the designers added bespoke interior-architecture details, using what Inman calls “the basic French Country vocabulary of metal, stone and wood.” The main hall’s mahogany and hand-forged-steel stair railing and the library’s walnut parquetry floor take their cues from age-old French country style designs Inman uncovered during extensive research.

Dovetailing with the French Country lexicon, nature emerged as a powerful design catalyst. The color scheme certainly echoes the large outdoors: blue plays a starring role and green offers support. “The owners talked a lot about the land and wildlife,” recalls Inman. “All the joy always returned to nature. So ‘celebrating nature’ became our catchphrase, and it helped us stay focused with everything we selected—the patinas, the materiality, even the patterns of rugs and textiles.”

Nature motifs appear in many artisanal elements commissioned for the home. Adorning the dining room’s built-in cabinets, works of pietra dura, an ancient Italian decorative art, depict birds and branches. Craftsmen in Florence created the images using colorful, inlaid stones. Over the kitchen range, Delft tiles, hand-painted by a Welsh artist,
capture meaningful scenes from around the couple’s farm.

“I’m proud of the level of detail throughout the entire house,” says Fraizer. “The owners and their guests are still looking around and discovering new details.”

When it came time to furnish the house, the designers faced a virtually blank canvas (just a handful of family pieces made the move from the cottage). While Inman admits he “is a big advocate for using antiques” and mixes styles and periods with aplomb, he tends to blend past and present. An old mail-sorting station that started life in a Paris hotel now adds character and French provenance to the family room’s largely new grouping. Though the furniture plan includes “quite a few antiques,” Inman notes, “the house doesn’t feel stuffy.”

Contemporary art keeps stuffiness at bay, as the stairway’s vibrant, abstract paintings affirm. “We wanted the interiors to be elegant and tasteful, but also fresh,” says Inman. “There are moments of modernism throughout, but the overall feeling is French.” The master suite exemplifies the evenhanded approach, juxtaposing a Louis XV-style mantel in the sitting room with abstract works by California artist Linda Donohue in the bedroom.

The back mudroom exudes country-house charm, albeit more English than French. Inman admits that he “kind of went William Morris crazy” in the space where the wallpaper and Roman-shade fabric, both from Morris & Co., are inspired by the late English textile designer’s original creations.

Upstairs, each of the guest rooms carries a different theme. With its whispery green walls, The Old Pear Suite (which boasts a separate sitting room) memorializes a beloved tree that once graced the property. The Audrey (as in Hepburn) Room—where pops of pink zing against a graphic scheme—takes inspiration from the departed actress and fashion icon. “We built each design off the story we developed for the space,” reveals Fraizer. “Everything had a purpose, an order and tied back to the story.”

Visiting grandchildren and the couple’s two Yorkshire terriers figured prominently in the overall narrative. Drawing on their backgrounds in hospitality design, Inman and Fraizer prioritized performance. They selected durable finishes and stain-resistant textiles, such as the topcoat-protected leather on the kitchen’s barstool seats.

The relaxed environment aligns with the owners’ open-door policy. “The house has provided both an exterior and interior that are perfectly set up for socializing and entertaining,” notes Inman. “It’s getting a lot of use and is often at maximum capacity. The owners seem to be living the dream.”

Architecture: Stan Makow, Makow Associates Architect Inc., Toronto, Canada. Architect of Record: John Hopke, RA, LEED AP, Hopke & Associates, Inc., Williamsburg, Virginia. Interior Design: Gary Inman, Allied ASID, and Dani Fraizer, Baskervill, Washington, DC, and Richmond, Virginia. Kitchen Design: Matthew Gunn, CKD, Classic Kitchens of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Builder: Superior Contracting, Midlothian, Virginia. Landscape Architecture: Doug Aurand, Siska Aurand Landscape Architects, Inc., Norfolk, Virginia.