A House in the Country

Designer Alice Busch helps a young couple create an elegant new home in record time


Interior designer Alice Busch infused the home with a
southern European influence.

“Farther west,” homeowner Margaret Kay kept insisting. “I wanted to be farther west and be out in the country.” For her husband, David Kay, one of the founders of Capital Automotive inMcLean, Virginia, this would mean a longer commute. He was reluctant to move.

The couple’s Leesburg home in River Creek had been beautifully decorated by interior designer Alice Busch (Home & Design, Spring 2004). Busch just needed to select a few more accessories and it would be finished.

Nevertheless, the Kays began taking Sunday drives west through Beacon Hill, the expansive rolling parcel of land near Leesburg that once belonged to Arthur Godfrey, a well-recognized personality from the early days of television.

The Georgian-style house they found couldn’t compare with their home in River Creek. The interior lacked its fine moldings and grace. Margaret said, “Yes,” but David said, “No.”

Their solution was to call Alice Busch and ask her opinion. Margaret Kay laughs as she recalls Busch saying, “I prayed the whole way up the driveway that this was not the house.” As the three walked through, Margaret restrained her enthusiasm while David withheld his reservations.

Busch recalls telling the couple, “It will take a lot to make it what you have now, so if you want to do it we can do the design, and I have someone who can do the construction, but it is a big commitment.” When the Kays bought the house in September 2003, Busch and her team began design work at breakneck speed with the goal that the Kays and their two young children would move in as soon as possible. The house “had a good foundation,” recalls Busch, “but it didn’t have any of the millwork and proportions that were needed for the scale, or the detailing.” She began to rework the home’s interior architectural elements to create a grander, more elegant effect.

Her overall goal throughout the house was to gently veil the Georgian style in favor of a southern European influence, one that would evoke Provence or Tuscany. The deep vibrant hues that were gorgeous in River Creek gave way to soft tints for an airier ambiance that would be rich, yet light.

The Kays settled on their new house in November and Busch brought in her contractor. Paneling was installed, columns were added or enlarged, archways were reconfigured and several were topped with friezes. Crown and shoe moldings were enhanced.

Busch’s workroom was busy fabricating new draperies and shortening others from the River Creek house. Custom sofas for the music room were designed and constructed. Furnishings were purchased for the family room and gathering room.

By the mid-March day when the contractor moved out, wallcoverings had already been hung and painting and faux finishes were complete. The next day the house was cleaned, draperies were installed and rugs rolled out. The day after that was moving day.

Trucks drove up the drive and a transformation occurred like a well-choreographed ballet. The following day Busch’s staff was in the house accessorizing, and they were done. In the back, the uninspired lawn has been transformed into multiple garden rooms, hidden retreats for quiet conversation.

The couple’s French-style living room furniture, upholstered in silk, was almost completely transferable to the new home. Rather than placing a coffee table in the space, Busch pulled in a tufted ottoman upholstered in an iridescent fabric for a multi-hue shimmer under the chandelier.

The coffee table from the previous home’s living room was moved to the music room, where it joined its new twin in front of two custom sofas. Busch hung the light and airy, Italian double voile draperies trimmed in fringe high to keep the eye moving upwards, countering the weight of the piano.

In the light yet formal dining room, French-style chairs replaced heavier leather and velvet ones from the previous home. The mirror, previously hung on deep gold walls below weighty, ornate moldings, looks lighter now against aged walls finished in an Old World, damask-pattern.

In the family room, Busch chose textured chenille fabric for the sofa and chairs. “Chenille is most resilient to children, very durable,” she emphasizes. Plantation shutters are warmed with waterfall draperies in silk plaid trimmed with black and gold fringe.

Busch also added shutters in the gathering room off the kitchen, where the children do their homework as dinner is prepared. It is a room for lounging about watching television, reading or playing games and family dining.

Between the kitchen cabinets and the fireplace, a window was converted to a door for easy access to the outdoor kitchen, living area and pool. Toile wallpaper lends a French Country appeal to the room.

With spring, work began landscaping their three-acre property. The home’s mottled-toned brick exterior was painted a creamy off-white. Busch called in landscaper Charles Owens and, as if by magic, the driveway now culminates in a motor court leading to a French parterre and fountain in front.

In the back, the uninspired lawn has been transformed into multiple garden rooms, hidden retreats for quiet conversation with a pool and a complete outdoor kitchen for easy entertaining. In the outdoor living room, a fire roars in the massive stone fireplace against the backdrop of the setting sun.

Once they were settled into their new house, the Kays gave it a name: “Remember When.” They want their children to have a life full of delicious memories in this house so that in years to come when the family gathers, they will say with fondness, “Remember when… .”Contributing editor Barbara Karth resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Photographer Gordon Beall is based in Bethesda, Maryland.Interior Design: Alice Busch, Great Falls Distinctive Interiors, Inc., Fairfax, Virginia


A rich blend of fabrics and textures creates an elegant
effect in the dining room.


Busch chose chenille fabrics for the family room upholstery.


A window between the kitchen and fireplace was converted
into a door for easy access to the outside.


Fine Landscapes created a massive stone fireplace in the
al fresco living area.