Back to Nature

 

After 10 years in their McLean, Virginia, home, Bob and Patty Finch were ready to renovate. Situated on five picturesque acres of densely wooded hillside, their 7,000-square-foot house already had a lot to offer. But it was an odd amalgam of contemporary architecture and Colonial influences that didn’t really fit its setting; built in 1980, it had been redecorated over the years, yet without any cohesive vision. The Finches wanted a home that would connect better with its setting, while also conveying a particular look and style. “The house was piecemeal,” explains Patty Finch. “It had Colonial banisters, Spanish tiles and creamsicle-pink walls. After all the mismatching, we wanted to make it more formal and uniform. More traditional.”

Armed with a design plan from Rebecca Bostick, an Alexandria, Virginia-based architect, the couple turned to the Fort Valley, Virginia-based Hayes Construction Corporation to help them achieve their goal. The project, which won a 2009 Contractor of the Year Award merit prize for whole house renovation over $1 million, required that the interior be largely gutted, and the outside altered completely. According to Bill Hayes, principal of Hayes Construction, “Ninety-eight percent of the house changed, even though the footprint only grew 850 square feet. The whole roof structure changed dramatically.”

In fact, the altered roofline transformed the front façade from contemporary to traditional. “We extended the front elevation out to add the stone entryway, creating a gabled roof above it,” Hayes explains. The roofline over the original home’s clerestory windows was raised, creating another gabled roof. The result was the traditional structure the Finches wanted. The couple chose a massive pine front door, reclaimed from Philadelphia’s Constitution Hall, to complete the more formal look.

Inside, what was a series of smaller rooms became one big room, encompassing a two-story entry hall, sitting area, kitchen and family room. The room’s ceiling height varies from nine feet in the kitchen to a soaring 35 feet in the sitting area. Two huge fieldstone fireplaces anchor near-opposite ends of the space. In addition, as Hayes describes it, the original house “had high ceilings and low windows. It looked odd.” Taller windows were installed, both for aesthetic purposes and to let in more light.

The new design also called for the stairway to be moved from its original, cramped location in the entryway. By repositioning it, the builders were able to open up the space; they also removed the wall separating the entry hall from the sitting area. This, however, created a dilemma. The wall between those spaces had supported a bridge between the master bedroom suite and the other three bedrooms on the second floor. “The bridge was no longer held up by a wall,” Hayes says. “So we installed steel beams to hold it up.” The catch, apparently, was that it had been a load-bearing wall. So the steel beams had to support the roof as well as the bridge.

The task of balancing the original contemporary design with a more traditional style was another challenge. Patty Finch recruited Falls Church, Virginia-based interior designer Karen Aylestock to work with her on the home’s interiors. “I can definitely say I had a vision,” Finch says. “I wanted earth tones and materials like stone and wood to be brought in to connect with the outdoors.” Finch was attracted to the Arts and Crafts style, so she and Aylestock tried to blend that sensibility with something more modern. “I call it transitional Arts and Crafts,” Finch says.

In addition, other rooms such as the dining room and formal living room have been updated to blend with the new décor. “To really change the feel of the house,” Aylestock recalls, “we put in new casings, light fixtures, hardware. Just changing finishes and windows made a big difference.” Design elements such as the library fireplace—formerly white-painted brick and now refaced in fieldstone with a warm cherry mantel—and the rich, alder-wood newel posts on the stairs, add the charm Patty Finch was looking for.

For the kitchen and baths, Aylestock and Finch chose natural materials that would reflect the outdoors such as copper sinks and porcelain-tile floors and a backsplash made to look like slate. In the kitchen, alder-wood cabinetry matches the newel posts, connecting the spaces. Patty Finch says she requested that the sink be positioned “at the right angle to be able to do the dishes and look out the windows.”

In fact, looking out the windows here could be a full-time occupation. Against a breath-taking view of the woods, a spacious deck and terraced patios lead down to a swimming pool and tennis court; a rope bridge offers the only access to Bob Finch’s home office, a structure they call the tree house, which was there before the renovation. Then there’s the five-panel NanaWall, an accordion-style set of doors that the couple had installed by the deck. It looks like a wall of windows; folded all the way back, however, the wall disappears entirely, making the deck an extension of the house.

As Patty Finch says, there’s room in this house for everybody: “We get to enjoy the house as a family, in one big room.”

Photographer Greg Hadley is based in Fairfax, Virginia.

ARCHITECTURE: Rebecca L. G. Bostick, AIA, Alexandria, Virginia. CONTRACTOR: Bill Hayes, Hayes Construction Corporation, Fort Valley, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: Karen P. Aylestock, ASID, KPA Design Group, Great Falls, Virginia. KITCHEN DESIGN: Patty Whitman, Kleppinger Designer Group, Fairfax, Virginia.