Home & Design

Casual Elegance

Beth Stouffer and her architects update a 1950s ranch with Craftsman detail and an emphasis on outdoor living.

Casual Elegance

When Beth Stouffer first came upon the 1954 Potomac ranch that would become her family’s current home, her vision as an interior designer keyed her in to the overgrown property’s potential perfection. In search of a house that would provide privacy for her and her husband Scott’s blended family of four children and three dogs, she was drawn to the setting with six wooded acres and a creek. The beveled windows on the front of the house caught her eye; later, she found out her first childhood home in Oregon had the same style of beveled windows. Inside, despite what she describes as “zero curb appeal,” she was drawn to the eclectic sunken living room embraced by a surround of bookcases ample enough to accommodate her book collection. “Quite simply,” Stouffer recalls, “I felt like I was home.”

Having spent most of her life in the area, Stouffer wanted to preserve the look and feel of old Potomac—what she defines as “casual elegance” and the notion that the house belongs to the land. An avid outdoorswoman—she and her family ski, golf and enjoy summer water sports and boating—Stouffer wanted the house to embrace its natural surroundings.

“Texture is enormously important,” says BETH Stouffer. “I find it in the natural world and bring it into interiors where it creates interest and movement.” A 1980s two-story addition bumped out the house with a new family room on the ground level and a guest room above. The Stouffers wanted to improve the flow between the original home and the addition and expand their cramped galley kitchen. To actualize their vision, Beth Stouffer turned to architects Jim Rill and Kay Kim, whose approach to quality design and attention to detail presented the perfect fit.

“The challenge,” says Rill, “was how do you blend a 1950s rambler with a towering ’80s addition; how do you create, out of a wooded jungle, the inviting outdoor spaces essential to the family’s lifestyle?”

Scott Stouffer’s vision for the outdoor spaces also came into play. He wanted to develop the idea of a property set in the woods, but one that brings definition to the natural spaces in the landscape. Taking their cue from the sloped site and the multiple levels of the interior, Rill and Kim wrapped the house in a series of terraces, breezeways, porticos and courtyards to provide nine distinct outdoor spaces that flow down to the pool and its pavilion and bathhouse. Landscape designer Bob Hawkins of Hawkins Signature Design completed the plan, choosing vegetation that complements the natural setting.

“With this property, the most important room in the house is the yard,” says Rill. “It’s these outdoor rooms that the main rooms in the house actually define.”

Re-imagining the main rooms was a major part of the collaboration between Beth Stouffer and Rill. Stouffer was involved early on in the design process and discussions, with Rill and Kay presenting her with sketches and ideas.

Part of the ’80s addition, the long rectangular family room presented a design challenge in its combination of small traditional windows and an outdated brick fireplace on one wall and a vast expanse of contemporary glass on another. They decided to overhaul the entire room, changing its proportions and scale and imparting it with eclectic architectural details that would relate the traditional elements to the modern, from a paneled ceiling to a fireplace in rough-hewn Western Maryland fieldstone topped with a classical wooden mantel.

Despite the room’s exceptional openness, Stouffer im- parted a sense of warmth and embrace. Here, as elsewhere in the house where the rooms have a view of the outdoors, Stouffer used earth tones in a palette of greens, gold and red. “I wanted the inside of the house to reflect the outside. Almost every room has a view. That’s what I was really trying to keep,” she says. “We wanted to be in the trees, but I softened the wall of contemporary windows here with silk panels. The texture of the fabric further pulls in the outdoor textures.” She painted the ceiling a deep chocolate brown to echo and tie in with the soaring mahogany ceiling in the kitchen. Furnishings upholstered in fabric and leather anchor the room around the hearth, while two contemporary woven leather walnut wing chairs and a marble-topped game table provide a separate reading area.

The oversized master bedroom and bath were also gutted. “We didn’t need a huge master bedroom. We wanted it to be comfortable and to lend itself to the outside, as if we were sleeping in the out of doors,” says Stouffer. The newly designed space with a wall of windows opens onto a portico offering expansive views of the pool area. A new fireplace opposite the bed adds a sense of warmth.

The modest scale of the room and the color scheme hold balance with the panoramic views. Tones of soft gold and a watery blue with hints of green and brown moderate the lavishness of the fabrics. “Texture is enormously important,” says Stouffer. “I find it in the natural world and bring it into interiors where it creates interest and movement.” A pair of chairs—one in brown silk with small blue polka dots and the other in chenille with a suede-stamped cushion—is a case in point. A long-treasured Tibetan temple piece found a new home as a dramatic headboard. An antique Venetian glass chandelier, a distressed country bench and an antique nine-foot Louis XIV walnut armoire add to the room’s uniqueness while the tonalities of the needlepoint rug reinforce the color palette.

In the master bath, Stouffer chose to execute the tile design in travertine for its texture and informality. Rill & Decker designed the cabinetry, which Stouffer softened with a woven cane front. Operable clerestory windows above the shower reinforce the focus on architectural detail and echo their use elsewhere in the house.

Stouffer possesses an eye for accessorizing to create subtle interest. On close inspection, the one-of-a-kind chandeliers discovered in a Naples, Florida, hotel now in place in the breakfast room reveal a group of tiny cavorting monkeys. In the living room, two whimsical red leopard print chairs add an element of fun to the sturdy leather and chenille sofas and the needlepoint rug that anchor the room.

“I search for pieces that provide engagement in the most subtle of ways, wherever the eye rests,” says Stouffer. “My husband and I are very casual people. We have four kids and three dogs. We wanted this house to feel extremely inviting to the family as well as guests, a place where one feels welcome to sit wherever you like and put your feet up. This house feels complete, it feels like home, but it doesn’t feel ‘done.’”

Interior Design: Beth Stouffer, BKS Designs LLC, Potomac, Maryland Contractor: Conrad Zink and Allan Smith, Zink Construction, Bethesda, Maryland Architecture: Jim Rill, AIA, and Kay Kim, Rill and Decker Architects, Bethesda, Maryland Landscape Design & Installation: Bob Hawkins, Hawkins Signature Landscape, Bowie, Maryland.

Designer Beth Stouffer with the family's pug, Bandit.

A breezeway connects the front of the house to the rear
galleries and terraces, which in turn spill down to the outdoor
living spaces paved in limestone.

In the family room, Stouffer chose to paint the ceiling a deep
chocolate brown to echo the wood on the kitchen ceiling.
Furnishings upholstered in fabric and leather anchor the room
around the new stone hearth.

The living room preserves details from the 1954 ranch home,
including beveled windows and a coffered ceiling.

Rich fabrics, an antique Venetian glass chandelier and a
Louis XVI armoire grace the master bedroom


Master bath.

The architects opened up the existing staircase with playful
metal rails and covered the ceiling in mahogany.

The pool pavilion boasts a complete outdoor kitchen with a
built-in grill,refrigerator and ice maker.

Stouffer selected rustic materials to reflect ger natural
surroundings: slate-tile floors, swinging doors made of ipe
and vanity hew from salvaged lumber and pearwood-twig legs.

An indonensian drum doubles as a table and a sounding
device for guests to announce their arrival.

View from guest room balcony.

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