A Warm Patina

Designer Gwen Seidlitz's new home in Vienna brims with timeless, Old World style

 


Designer Gwen Seidlitz’s new Craftsman-style home incorporates stone, shingles and a slate roof.

Interior designer Gwen Seidlitz has never been to Italy. But you’d never know it to visit her new home in Vienna, Virginia, which exudes Old World sophistication from the moment you step through the pair of oversized, iron doors that preside at the entrance.

“I think about making the trip all the time, but there’s a little problem,” Seidlitz allows with a slight grin. “I’m afraid I’d never come back.”

Instead, Seidlitz lets her love for pieces with a classic European soul run free at Sage, her home-furnishings boutique in Great Falls, Virginia. But while she is literally immersed in fabulous furniture and accessories at work, she cherry-picked only her favorite elements when it came time to build and furnish her new home.

“I basically wanted to take Sage and turn it into a home,” she says. “As a designer, I am constantly surrounded by stuff. But here, I wanted the things I have to be the things I love. It wasn’t about having more; it was about having what’s special and feels good.”

The project got off to a good start from the beginning. When they decided to relocate closer to the town center of Vienna, Seidlitz and her husband began combing the area in hope of finding a rare property on the market. When word of an impending estate sale surfaced, their bid was selected among numerous prospects with the blessing of the former owners. The property, which backs to parkland, is within walking distance to the town of Vienna. “We can walk to three Starbucks now. What more could we ask for?” Seidlitz jokes.

Seidlitz’s friend, builder Tommy Staats of Staats Developers, was available to do a teardown of the existing home on the property (the Seidlitzes donated the small home to the local fire department for training exercises prior to the teardown).

Staats happened to have a set of architectural plans that would serve as a loose blueprint for their new home. Seidlitz adapted the designs to reflect her vision for the house. She wanted slate roofs and, as luck would have it, Staats was in the process of tearing down a home in McLean with a slate roof; he was able to salvage the tiles and use them on the Seidlitz home. “When you buy slate today,” says Seidlitz,

“it doesn’t have the same character as these old tiles.” She also turned a library into an enlarged bathroom for the first-floor master suite and melded indoor and outdoor elements by grounding the foyer with stone-based columns and canopying the kitchen and family room with dark wooden beams. “This house has an older soul,” she notes. “I wanted that feeling that we’ve been in it for a while.”

The result is a casually elegant home with a neutral palette—Seidlitz opted for a single Farrow & Ball beige shade throughout the first floor—that provides a soothing backdrop for an abundance of details that the designer pulled together with characteristic aplomb. “The whole house was completed in seven months,” she says. “I knew exactly what I wanted. I had more color in my last house but I wanted something more serene here.”

Among those coveted items is a collection of fixtures by Fine Art Lamps that imbue each room with character.

Seidlitz opted for a line of Rohl hardware with a “live” finish that develops a warm patina over time. Asmara rugs lend a timeless beauty to the dining room, family room, master bedroom and living room, where Seidlitz’s collection of brightly hued vintage Italian pottery is on display.

The designer embraces a mix of textural fabrics, such as the environmentally friendly, organza-trimmed burlap drapes in the master bedroom, and the burlap panels that hang from “floating” hooks in the den. Tapestries, including a jewel-toned textile in the dining room, provide an understated, collected-over-time aura.

The master suite is on the main level of the house. The second level houses a bedroom and bathroom for the couple’s teenage son, two guest suites and a gym. There’s also a full basement, which Seidlitz eventually plans to finish with a wine cellar and entertainment area.

Cabinetry and built-ins by Habersham are an ideal complement to the home’s Old World style. The most notable installation can be found in the centrally located kitchen, where an open floor plan dictated complete visibility from the adjacent family room. Creating a strong sense of symmetry, twin paneled Sub-Zero refrigerators preside at either end of the single wall of cabinetry. A large range and custom tile backsplash sit center stage, canopied by a custom hood that’s accented by ironwork Seidlitz commissioned.

She opted for two smaller islands rather than one large one; both are topped with Jerusalem stone and house an assortment of user-friendly storage space. An L-shaped counter is grounded by a large farmhouse sink and prep area, while a second island provides ample serving space.


Stone-based columns bring the outdoors into the entry foyer.

 

“They were just waiting for this home to find their place,” says Seidlitz. “There’s a cozy, laid-back feeling in here,” she adds, surveying her kitchen. “I’ve done more cooking in this house in the past two months than I did in three and a half years in the last house.”

Catherine Applefeld Olson is a writer based in Alexandria, Virginia. Bob Narod is a photographer in Sterling, Virginia.

Interior Design: Gwen Seidlitz, Sage Interiors, Great Falls, Virginia. Builder: Tommy Staats, Staats Developers, Inc., Vienna, Virginia.


The foyer opens to the dining room, where a David Iatesta chandelier and a jewel-toned tapestry set an elegant tone.

The facing seating arrangement incorporates comfortable loveseats and a chair by JM Paquet upholstered in vintage fabrics.

Designer Gwen Seidlitz

Two islands topped with Jerusalem stone anchor the open kitchen with cabinetry by Habersham. Seidlitz commissioned the ironwork on the custom canopy hood.

Open to the kitchen, the family room features an Asmara rug and custom furniture by Dino Mark Anthony. The bookcase is by Habersham.

The entry foyer leads to the master bedroom, which enjoys views of the back yard and parkland beyond.

The master bathroom boasts an antique Italian chandelier and a BainUltra air-jet tub.

Burlap drapes trimmed in organza and velvet ribbon add an earthy contrast to the luxurious bedding. Ebony-stained, wide-plank hickory flooring extends throughout most of the first level. On the far end of the family room, a comfortable sitting room doubles as Gwen Seidlitz’s office.