Home & Design

Classic Grandeur

Inspired by years spent in France, Haleh Niroo lavishes her home in 18th-century detail and Louis XVI style

Classic Grandeur

The exterior of the Niroo home features Juliet balconies,
scrolling wrought iron and French doors that grace the
front façade in perfect symmetry.

When the Niroos built their custom home in Potomac, Maryland, they drew on their love of Old World European construction and design. Haleh Niroo, an interior designer, and her husband, David Niroo, a builder and developer, carefully planned the home that would reflect their personal aesthetic. Haleh, who spent many years living in France, is drawn to the Louis XV and Louis XVI styles of the 18th century. “I love classical homes,” she says. “All my life I’ve seen beautiful villas. I wanted to have an 18th-century-style classical home.”

Although her focus is on interiors, Haleh was also involved in the design of her home’s façade, seeking symmetry and drawing on the features she so adores—classical qualities with a decidedly French influence. Juliet balconies are wrapped in balustrades filled with scrolling wrought iron on the ground level of the façade, contrasting with classical forms on the second. French doors with eyebrow mullions and an imposing entrance portico reflect her formative years as a student in France, where she lived from the age of 11 to 17. Her school arranged trips to Versailles, the Louvre and other notable architectural icons. “I am so grateful that I had an opportunity to live there and learn the culture and study the art,” she says.

Thus began her love affair with all things French, including domes. “All my life, my passion was to have a dome,” Haleh says. Inside the Niroo home, the expanse of the foyer and the double, curved staircase draws the eye 35 feet upwards to a dome and a neo-Greco-style mural depicting images of the sun, fire, water, figures and floating puti—imagery typical of the Renaissance. Tucked into the mural is the likeness of the family’s dog, Polo, an amusing touch in a seriously decorated space. Barrel vaults flank this hemispherical form.

“We wanted your eyes to come from the floor to the ceiling and the beautiful art,” says Haleh. At the top of the stairs, fully visible from the foyer, is a half-dome. Haleh creates “all these little exciting and unique treatments, all with symmetry,” she explains. Surfaces in this home are sculpted; this designer embellishes the space with architectural features and enhances them with gilt, paint and glaze. 

In the foyer, columns faux-finished as aged marble stand out against the caramel-hued walls painted in a subtle pearl finish. A broad niche highlights an entrance to the library and two small arched niches painted with flower motifs flank the opening to the grand salon. Deftly applied moldings are defined by gilt.

Opulence and ornamentation often generate clutter, a pitfall Haleh avoids. “The way we do our space planning is very critical,” she says. She attributes this to her knowledge and practice of feng shui. “We do not clutter a space so [much that] energy can’t even flow into it. I want to be able to create a space that is welcoming, to make sure energy flows inside the house.”

As she walks under the staircase and into the grand salon, Haleh explains, “I wanted to create a space within a space. This room is only minimally separated from the foyer, defined by the change of form in the ceiling and the change in pattern of marble tile on the floor.

In the grand salon, Louis XVI and Empire-style furnishings
are upholstered in silk damask and blue velvet.

Here, Haleh mixes Louis XVI and Empire-style furnishings. Tempered blues and golds define a palette that she uses throughout the house. Accessories are minimal; among her favorites are two modern Lalique panthers. The faux finishes on the bases of the columns emulate the black and gold marble border on the foyer and grand salon floors, while the columns themselves mimic the floors’ lighter Botticino marble.

As she opens the doors to her dining room, Haleh says, “You feel like you have walked into Versailles, literally.” Gold leaf reflects off the facets of crystal. Sumptuous window treatments dip, billow and drape “like a ball gown,” she notes.

The dining room's dramatic high ceiling plays up the crown
molding embellished in gold leaf, which gives way to a French
curved soffit in the ceiling.

The caramel shade of the foyer carries into the dining room, touched with green to blend with the gold. Tinctures of pink accent the rug, window treatments and the ceiling. The room’s dramatic high ceiling plays up the crown molding embellished in gold leaf, which gives way to a French curved soffit in the ceiling. “Repetition of rhythm, form, balance and scale. I try to accomplish that in every room,” she says. More gold leaf is lavished on the dining table; Haleh repeats its curves in the cornices surrounding the windows. Medallions, ribbons, rosettes and acanthus leaves adorn the furnishings. A rosewood border inlay contrasts with a light-toned Brazilian teak floor.

In more casual spaces such as the family room, the gilt of the molding gives way to a depth-defining glaze. Upholstered chairs and a sofa invite the homeowners to curl up with a book or watch television. Chairs have quilted velvet arms, carved chenille

The domed foyer is embellished with a neo-Greco-style
mural; a broad niche opens to the library.

The designer calls the adjacent kitchen her “heart.” A centerpiece in the room is a fireplace raised to a height that allows her to see it over the island as she cooks. Storage is abundant in cabinetry with moldings and paneling that would be equally appropriate in a library. The island is topped with a dark walnut butcher block. “To me, it is the focal point of my kitchen. I cut vegetables on it. The more you abuse it, the nicer it is going to get,” she says. Refrigerator drawers in the island hold vegetables and a small sink makes preparation simple and quick. She just turns around to the range for cooking; spices and condiments are close at hand in pull-out shelving flanking the range. A Renaissance-style painting adorns the back-splash tile.

A Renaissance-style painting adorns the backsplash tile in
the kitchen. Opposite the range, refrigerator drawers in the
island and a small sink make preparation simple and quick.

Part of the kitchen, yet separate, the casual eating area is defined by its location in a turret—with a domed ceiling, its bronze-toned embellishments echoing the bronze chandeliers. Emphasizing the roundness of the dome, Haleh selected formal balloon shades adorned with light-catching, crystal beads and arched cornices upholstered in damask.

The Niroos built a bit of intrigue into their home with a secret door that leads to the master suite from David’s office located off the foyer. Located on the main floor, the master bedroom suite boasts an abundance of closet space, both his and hers, plus a spacious master bath. Bookshelves conceal the entrance to Haleh’s meditation room.

An 18th-century French reproduction bed with a canopy
furnishes the master bedroom.

In the bedroom, an antique-silk-lined canopy with festoon detailing cascades down from the ceiling toward the bed. “The bedroom is very sensuous,” she says. “Your bedroom and bathroom have to be your sanctuary. My clients work 90 miles an hour. When they come home, they need a place where they can just be content and happy.”

Throughout her home, Haleh has lavished attention on the ceilings. In one of the guest rooms, Haleh proves the point; she recently painted the ceiling terracotta red. “To me, the ceiling is so important and everybody leaves it out,” she says. “If I had left it white, it would have been so empty.” In this comfortably elegant room, silk Dupioni drapes ascend to the crown molding to accentuate the height of the room.

On the lower level of the home, Haleh has a spacious office suite. There is an exercise room and game room, a favorite spot for the couple’s teenage son. Outside, a rear terrace spans the width of the house, overlooking the property’s pool, gardens and two tennis courts.

This opulent home reflecting design pulled from the courts of France and Western Europe “brings the old back with the true definition of classical form: scale, proportion and symmetry of columns and moldings.” Haleh concludes, “I can never get tired of classical.”

Designer Haleh Niroo.
The dining room's dramatic high ceiling plays up the crown
molding embellished in gold leaf, which gives way to a French
curved soffit in the ceiling.

Haleh created an interesting mix of fabrics and textures in
the informal family room, where chairs are upholstered in
quilted velvet, curved chenille and damask.

A chandelier made of hand-blown Venetian glass makes a
statement in the luxurious master bath.

In the guest room, silk Dupioni drapes ascend to the crown
molding. The ceiling is painted a terracotta red for emphasis.

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