Brian and Lauren Lang both grew up in homes from the ’60s and ’70s: bland, tan-and-beige, with eight-foot ceilings and small kitchens. So when the couple purchased their 1950s-era home in Bethesda, they chose to tear down and rebuild. “We wanted to take a different direction, one that was away from our comfort zone,” says Lauren. Their new, French-inspired abode is a far cry from their childhood homes, yet it blends graciously into its neighborhood of diverse styles.
The house also represents a leap of faith into the realm of color. Designer Skip Sroka helped his clients go where others fear to tread, imbuing their interiors with saturated shades that seamlessly work together. “Skip opened our eyes to color,” says Lauren Lang.
“I think Brian and Lauren were open to a little bit of fun,” says Sroka of the Langs, who have a two-year-old and a baby due at press time. “They are a young, friendly couple and they wanted it to be fresh and vivacious.”
Though color selection didn’t take place until the end of the building process, Sroka was involved in the project from its initial planning stages and worked in close collaboration with the architect and builder. “Putting a team together is the hardest part of the job,” says Brian Lang. “Once we had the right people in place—Skip, Steve Howard of Gibson Builders and Mark Giarraputo of Studio Z—the rest was making decisions based on their feedback.”
The design team ironed out all of the details early on, avoiding any surprises that might come up during construction. “We planned this entire house prior to breaking ground,” says Sroka, “so every lighting fixture was picked, every cabinet and every tile.” By the time the paint colors and furnishings were chosen, he knew his clients so well that the selection process was a breeze.
Sroka deftly played with a palette of rich, saturated hues, at times tempering, juxtaposing or diluting them to a serene tincture. The golden tan in the entry hall—no throwback to the past, but current and sophisticated—is a stabilizer, vibrant in the hallway, subdued on the family room walls and a soothing foil on the dining room ceiling for the coral red of the dining room walls. Throughout the rooms, crisp white accentuates the refined, well-proportioned moldings.
The coffered ceiling in the family room is the only white ceiling in the house. “You view the family room from many different directions,” Sroka notes, describing how it pulls visitors in from the front door past the dining room, where the contrast between the two rooms’ color schemes is dynamic. The family room itself is a warm and inviting adjunct to the large kitchen.
French doors bring the garden inside. To further emphasize the connection with the outdoors, Sroka chose a family room rug that deconstructs a formal French garden design; it echoes a trellis-inspired pattern on a rug in the adjacent hallway.
Cabinets flanking the fireplace reflect a centuries-old French architectural motif, but for the most part, the home’s French influences allude to updated versions of early 20th-century furnishings. “There is an old saying that every English house needs a little touch of French and every French house needs a little touch of English,” says Sroka. In the dining room, he paired a white Chippendale-style cabinet with a French Empire-style chandelier. With his typical attention to detail, he replaced the fixture’s crystal with wooden beads for a less formal look.
Despite his clients’ trepidation, Sroka introduced green into the kitchen. “We really need to make those white cabinets pop,” he told them. A stripe of green above the cabinets and an arched doorway created the perfect contrast. A combination of chocolate and green in the kitchen’s barstool upholstery harmonizes with the chocolate granite countertop and green walls, and picks up the colors in the adjacent family room rug.
“The green [in the kitchen] was probably one of the biggest risks that I took with the house … but ultimately it turned out beautifully,” says Lauren, who then chose green walls in her home office, where toys and the dog’s crate share space with her desk. It is a room designed for change—more desk space and computers will arrive when the children reach the homework years. It contrasts with Brian’s office, located off the hallway near the front door. Sedate and sophisticated, his is a quiet refuge from the hubbub of family life. “We went into more soothing colors, more of the tans and browns combined with the blues,” Sroka says.
A powder room across the hallway reflects the elegant French style of the home, while a very practical tile bathroom is located to the rear of the house with a shower designed for muddy kids and dogs.
The vibrant and energizing palette on the main level gives way to a serene and relaxing vibe on the second floor. “I think everyone needs a place where they can go to recharge their batteries; I think of the bedroom as the battery-recharging station,” Sroka explains. The ceiling soars well beyond the eight-foot heights the Langs remember from their childhood rooms. Brian Lang chose the rug’s motif when he spotted the design in Sroka’s office, on a rug meant for another client. “We had to blow up its scale to go into the bedroom,” the designer notes; its large circular repeat is about two feet by two feet.
The master bath is a calming space with a palette of creamy neutrals. “Color,” Sroka points out, “gives a home the most welcoming and wonderful aspect.” In this retreat, the Langs often bathe their toddler in the oversized tub and relax on chairs upholstered in water-resistant Sunbrella fabric. What better environment in which to welcome the newest addition to the family?
Contributing writer Barbara Karth resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Stacy Zarin Goldberg is a photographer in Olney, Maryland.
INTERIOR DESIGN: SKIP SROKA, ASID, Principal, MARY ELFRETH WATKINS, project manager, Sroka Design, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland. ARCHITECTURE: MARK GIARRAPUTO, AIA, Studio Z Design Concepts, LLC, Bethesda, Maryland. BUILDER: STEVE HOWARD, Gibson Builders, Washington, DC.
**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home designs. Wonderful visuals of inspired décor and lush landscapes are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design ideas to life.