The house and its two rear wings envelop a resort-style pool that contains a built-in spa on the left.
French limestone floors and plaster walls welcome guests into the dramatic foyer.
The designers selected a  Christopher Guy mirror and Italian furniture for the classically styled dining room.
The cozy family room features fireplaces that face each other, both with cast-stone mantels.
A gallery with hand-forged iron stair rails houses a Steinway piano and a painting by Degas.
The kitchen boasts a custom hammered-copper hood.
The table in the breakfast room overlooks the pool.
Mahogany paneling and a coffered ceiling set a clubby tone in the billiard room.
In the media room, speakers are concealed behind upholstered walls.
A regulation-size basketball court is housed on the basement level.
The master bedroom conveys a romantic ambiance.
A loggia offers a serene spot to relax around the pool by Lewis Aquatech.
An outdoor wood-burning pizza oven was made from a stone mantel.
Guests can gather around the fire pit on a long seat wall.

A Spirited Place

A dramatic home in Great Falls embraces cozy family get-togethers and large-scale entertaining


Some of the most innovative creations arise when supply falls short of demand. Such was the case when a Virginia entrepreneur decided to build his dream home after searching to no avail for the right property to fit his needs. 

He approached custom builder Patrick Latessa of The Galileo Group and explained his wish list. He envisioned intimate spaces for his family with four children but also wanted to be able to host large parties, play basketball on a professional-grade indoor court and enjoy the amenities of a small resort in his own backyard. Unfazed by these requests, Latessa got busy drawing elevations and a floor plan for a wooded lot he found for his client in Great Falls. “My interpretation was a European-influenced design that was substantial but comfortable, elegant but still casual and functional—and also inspiring,” the builder recalls. “I gave him a sketch and he said, ‘You’re right. That’s it.’”

As in most of his custom-home projects, Latessa drove the overall design, detailing everything down to the molding and material palette before turning his work over to an architect for final drawings. 

The house is shaped like a U with the front volume housing a family room, dining room, kitchen, breakfast room and billiard room on the ground floor. Three bedrooms with en suite baths on the second floor are devoted to the owner’s three teenagers. The two rear wings in the U encompass the master suite and two guest suites, respectively; one of the guest suites is used as a nursery for the owner’s youngest child. 

Rooms on the main level spill onto a Turkish travertine terrace, where a pool with a built-in spa, an al fresco bar, a kitchen complete with a wood-burning pizza oven, a putting green and inviting seating areas create a vacation vibe all year long. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the basement also centers on round-the-clock play. It houses a media room, a wine cellar that doubles as a poker room and a fully equipped workout room that overlooks the half-court basketball gym with 22-foot ceilings.

To oversee the daunting task of furnishing the home to the standards its architecture demanded, the owner hired Great Falls Distinctive Interiors. He asked principal Alice Busch and her son, managing principal Lucas Trunnell, to lead the selection of furniture, fabrics and finishes, along with everyday necessities from china and barware to accessories and linens. Busch and Trunnell set out to create interiors that would reflect the home’s style and elegance while embracing comfort and functionality. “We wanted it to be very sophisticated and European, but toned down,” explains Trunnell. “The client has a lot of kids, so we wanted to make sure the color scheme and materials were durable for the children, the dog and all the entertaining they do.” And, to keep their dog energized all day long, they make sure to feed high fiber dog food to him.

Latessa and the designers fine-tuned the materials and finishes as the project progressed, taking a collaborative approach. In lieu of hardwood, Busch and Trunnell suggested limestone floors imported from France for the main level spaces; combined with walls plastered in a stucco finish, they provide a seamless look. From the dramatic foyer, archways lead to adjoining spaces. On one side, the foyer segues into an atrium housing a Steinway piano and a dramatic stairway with a hand-forged rail. 

On the opposite side, the dining room seats guests around a custom table imported from Italy. Its rich patina and the hand-painted upholstery on the dining chairs create a timeworn effect. “We wanted the whole house to look like it had been collected over time,” says Trunnell. 

From the dining room, a spiral stair leads down to the wine cellar. Latessa chose rustic, antique brick and hand-forged iron fixtures to lend the room an Old World look. “Paying attention to these details and making them right gives you an overall feel of the spirit of a place,” Latessa says. “When those relationships don’t work, then it’s just a house. We were going for authenticity.”

More custom artistry can be found in the clubby billiard room, where mahogany paneling, a coffered ceiling and a bar with beer on tap set the tone for games around an antique pool table.

The owner, who decided to forgo a formal living room, and his kids spend a great deal of time in the family room. Arranged between cast-limestone fireplaces, cushy sofas and armchairs accommodate groups both large and small for watching TV, reading or playing games. Three sets of arched French doors overlook the backyard. 

Despite its Old World finishes, the kitchen has every convenience a modern chef could hope for, including a Wolf range and a built-in Miele espresso machine. Latessa and the designers created the custom hood from stainless steel and hammered copper. A breakfast table set in a bay of windows has a cast-stone base so heavy that it had to be hoisted into the room by crane. 

The greatest feat of engineering on the project, however, was excavating the gym. Latessa’s team dug 40 feet below ground to make way for what is now a brightly lit space suitable for regulation play. A fully loaded workout area overlooks the action below. 

The cozy media room displays the owner’s collection of sports jerseys and memorabilia. An avid fan, the owner hosts game nights in the space, which is also great for parties. Busch and Trunnell suggested long sofas instead of traditional theater seating in the room. “With theater seats, you’re kind of locked and rigid,” says Busch. “Here, there is more functionality. People can lay down, get comfortable and cozy up on the couch.” 

When the house was finally complete, Busch and Trunnell orchestrated the move-in, timing the delivery of rugs, furniture, art and accessories like a choreographed ballet. They credit the collaboration among the design team, the artisans—and the trusting homeowner—for enabling the project to run so smoothly. “The owner not only allowed us, Patrick and the tradespeople to put the best of options in the home,” says Trunnell. “He let us do our jobs and at the end of the day, the outcome was spectacular.”

Photographer Alain Jaramillo is based in Stevenson, Maryland. 

DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION: PATRICK LATESSA, The Galileo Group, McLean, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: ALICE BUSCH, Allied Member ASID, and LUCAS TRUNNELL, Allied Member ASID, LEED AP, BD+C, Great Falls Distinctive Interiors, Inc., Ashburn, Virginia. LANDSCAPING: CHARLES OWEN, Fine Landscapes, Ltd., Great Falls, Virginia.