Home & Design
Interior Design Services - Lobby
Interior Design Services - Lobby

A Eurofase chandelier hangs from the barrel ceiling in the foyer.

Interior Design Services - Living room
Interior Design Services - Living room

BEFORE: The foyer prior to the renovation.

Living room - Interior Design Services
Living room - Interior Design Services

Pendants by Satori Light Sculptures appear to float in the family room.

Interior Design Services - Design
Interior Design Services - Design

Among the many challenges of the renovation was the construction of a large saltwater aquarium in the billiard room.

Interior Design Services - Wood flooring
Interior Design Services - Wood flooring

Fitness Centre - Home Gym
Fitness Centre - Home Gym

On the lower level, former guest rooms were converted into a spacious gym with a wall of windows overlooking the Potomac River.

Interior Design Services - Living room
Interior Design Services - Living room

BEFORE: A portion of the space that became the gym.

Window - Room
Window - Room

The team integrated a 108-inch TV into the media room, decorated with a custom sofa and ottomans and a sculptural iron table by Philip Nimmo.

Interior Design Services - Kitchen
Interior Design Services - Kitchen

The service kitchen is equipped with multiple refrigerators and dishwashers and ample counter space.

Living room - Curtain
Living room - Curtain

In the living room, the coffee tables are from Holly Hunt and the rug is by Tai Ping Carpets.

High-Impact Design

Custom finishes and amenities abound in this newly renovated mansion on the Potomac

High-Impact Design

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010

Most remodeling projects begin with structural elements and wind up with interior design. Others, such as the overhaul of this glorious 18,000-square-foot home in McLean, Virginia, are driven by their interiors. The result is a layering of surprising elements that surface like a gift box being unwrapped for the first time. 

 

“This home was definitely designed from the inside out, from the interiors to the architecture,” says architect David Cooper, a principal at ACG who was hired to design the renovation. “In a lot of cases the architect would have a strong role in definition and scale of spaces, but here the challenge was how to achieve the objectives of the interior designer. We were given design documents, not construction documents, and had to figure out AV, HVAC—all those elements—around the design.”

 

The objectives of Los Angeles-based interior designer Joan Behnke, whom the new homeowner tapped to realize his vision, centered around a bit of a dichotomy: Due to his work, he would frequently be entertaining on a large scale, so the home needed to have gracious public spaces. But as a young man who enjoys kicking back in his leisure time, he sought ample casual private quarters where he could relax and spend time with family and friends.

 

“The other criteria was that he loved quality,” says Behnke. “He wanted the home to reflect a kind of classical contemporary approach with a focus on custom items.” In order to achieve the desired results, the remodel would have to morph from what was initially envisioned as a quick turnaround into a major redesign in which virtually every floor, wall and ceiling was altered and customized.

 

“Essentially the client was on the fast track, but when we were opening things up there was an opportunity to take it to a different level, and he was willing to wait,” Behnke says.

 

A different level, indeed. The home, which is built into a hill, encompasses four floors including a main level with expansive gathering spaces and a large working kitchen, which was completely gutted and remodeled to accommodate multiple refrigerators and dishwashers and ample counter space. The home’s lower “layers” contain more casual entertaining spaces, guest rooms, a second kitchen and a luxurious master suite and bath. Many of the rooms were upgraded with dramatic ceiling architecture, including the living room and the upstairs office, which is canopied by a barrel ceiling.

 

Making the most of the home’s views of the Potomac River was as important as the remodel itself. Nowhere is this more evident than in the new exercise room. 

The space, formerly occupied by several guest rooms with only scant small windows, is now a spacious gym and adjacent spa that seem to float in the foliage over the river like a tree house. A wall of windows that are retractable at points and a balcony edged by glass rails offer unobstructed views. 

 

Back inside, the eye is drawn to a treasure trove of details, some small and some larger than life. Take, for instance, the massive wall-mounted aquarium that presides over the billiard room. The colorful saltwater tank, which had to be craned in, is surrounded by custom carpentry that mirrors the millwork in the adjacent media room and is maintained by equipment housed below in a separate 10-by-20-foot room.

 

“By the time we got to this stage, we’d blown all the conventional notions of designing and building apart. So we said, ‘You want an aquarium? We’ll give you an aquarium,’” Cooper recalls with a chuckle. “It’s all about the wow factor, all about impact with this house. We also accommodated a 108-inch TV in the media room, so we needed to figure out a way of integrating that into a piece of millwork that had eight coats of enamel on it. It brings a whole different range of adjectives to mind.”

 

Given the level of sophistication and involvement of different vendors, “Everyone wanted to be the last one in the house,” notes Patricia Tetro, vice president of BOWA, which acted as the contractor and central point of accountability for the project. “It was a come early, stay late kind of project.” More than a sum of its parts, the home evolved into an elegant, classical contemporary space that complemented the homeowner’s growing collection of artwork, with a warm neutral palette that suited his lifestyle.

 

With the arrival of custom furnishings from floor to ceiling, the home began to exude a delightful mix of international flavors. This global warming is particularly resonant in the dining room, which houses cabinets constructed in Japan, Italian mirrors and a rug made in the Philippines, among other elements. “There was a real harmony; it expresses globalization in a very positive way,” Behnke says.

 

“For me, the most satisfying thing was to have dinner with the client after he moved in,” she adds. “He was so comfortable and at ease in his home. To me, that was the key to knowing it worked.”

 

Writer Catherine Applefeld Olson is based in Alexandria, Virginia. James Tetro is a Vienna, Virginia–based photographer.

 

RENOVATION ARCHITECTURE: DAVID COOPER, ACG Architects, McLean, Virginia. CONTRACTOR:  BOWA, McLean, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: JOAN BEHNKE, Joan Behnke & Associates Interior Design, Los Angeles, California.

**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home design and building/remodeling features.  Wonderful visuals of custom homes and eco-friendly resources are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design and remodeling projects to life.

You may also like:

A Close Collaboration
Gate One Builders fills a niche in high-end historic renovations
An Open Plan
Sun Design revives a Mid-Century Modern residence with spacious interiors and improved views of the outdoors
Bazaar - Furniture Fare
A vibrant international furniture scene offers bold color, innovative design and a little whimsy
HOME&DESIGN, published bi-monthly by Homestyles Media Inc., is the premier magazine of architecture and fine interiors for the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia region.

The company also publishes an annual H&D Sourcebook of ideas and resources for homeowners and professionals alike. H&D Chesapeake Views is published bi-annually and showcases fine home design and luxury living in and around the Chesapeake Bay.

The H&D Portfolio of 100 Top Designers spotlights the superior work of selected architects, interior designers and landscape architects in major regions of the US.

Stay Connected with HOME & DESIGN Newsletter

Copyright © 2021 Home & Design. All rights reserved. | Back to top
magnifier