Framed by a gentle slope in front and wooded hills rolling toward the horizon at back, a new home in McLean, Virginia, blends so naturally into its pastoral setting that it seems to have always been there, as owners Bob and Debbie Glamb are regularly reminded. “I’ve had workmen come in and ask, ‘How old was the original house?’” Debbie reports. “A lot of people think we’ve renovated. It happens over and over.”
The new house blends with its surroundings in part because its design springs from the 10-acre site and its rustic history. Architect Donald Lococo nimbly shaped a contemporary residence, drawing inspiration from the past and the owners’ aspirations for the future. As in a complex puzzle, all the pieces fit together precisely once the picture is completed.
Reaching that point was rocky. Before the Glambs acquired the property decades ago, it was a working dairy farm. A barn on the site was used for a time as a horse stable; tractors were stored in another outbuilding. In one plan, the owners considered demolishing these structures and subdividing the property for three new homes.
The Glambs decided to build after realizing it wasn’t practical to renovate a house on the property to accommodate their growing family. They envisioned a welcoming residence for their three teenage children and friends, a place for everyone to gather before the kids headed out on their own. “We wanted a livable house with good flow, big enough to entertain and casual enough for the dogs to run through on bare floors,” Debbie says.
When the process began, however, the couple was not in perfect accord. “I wanted a stone house with hardwood floors and a beer tap,” explains Bob. For her part, Debbie pictured a homestead that would be “light, bright and airy.” They discussed their divergent views with several architects who advised them to iron out their differences before proceeding. Lococo offered a different tack. “I thought we could take what they both like,” he recalls, “using the fact that opposites attract as a whole direction, instead of trying to push them to the middle.”
After a year of designing and another of construction, the ambitious challenge was realized. “Donald had a vision and it worked,” Bob says with admiration, while also praising builder Tony Paulos of The Block Builders Group.
Preserving the barn was at the heart of the plan. Having grown up in an area of Canada where barns were prevalent, Lococo is nostalgic about a time before the scenic buildings became endangered. “Saving these barns is really important,” he says, “and this was an opportunity to save one as a beautiful architectural centerpiece.”
The residence was positioned to capture picturesque barn views from all rooms across the back as well as from two terraces and a screened porch. A few steps away, the former tractor garage is now a stunning pool house with a new pool. Landscape architect Joan Honeyman designed the grounds “in keeping with the modern farmhouse nature,” she says, using hydrangeas, roses and seasonal perennials that would have been found on old farmsteads.
The home’s simple, straightforward lines and natural wood pay homage to the barn aesthetic. Tall ceilings echo the barn’s soaring scale, while rooms are more intimate than expected in a 10,000-square-foot residence. Lococo guarded against anything that might be “too grand or formal.” Nooks, bays and built-ins break up the spaces, creating architectural focal points.
Additional layers of character and charm result from the architect’s approach to the owners’ dueling requests. On the exterior, rough stone is set off against smooth board-and-batten siding, creating in Lococo’s words, “a heavy anchor against a lacy top.” Along the façade, natural materials, stepped rooflines and staggered projections contribute to a vintage impression. “More than just weight, we wanted a sense of history, a sense of time,” Lococo observes.
Indoors, opposing elements again are united. Guests arrive in a bright, two-story space. Plentiful light and crisp white walls provide a perfect foil for the darker textured surfaces of a massive stone wall, rugged roof trusses and random-width hardwood floors. “When you have that polarity of rustic against refined, everything in between works better,” says the architect, adding, “Nothing feels out of place, not even the two dogs.”
All the pieces came together, including Bob’s beer tap: It’s installed on the lower level in a recreation room paneled, appropriately, with wood reclaimed from the nearby barn. But he is more likely to be found outside planting in the garden—a favorite pastime—as Debbie prepares meals with the kids in their inviting custom kitchen.
It’s further evidence that this casually elegant home carries on another aspect of neighborhood history—the tradition of genteel country living.
Writer Tina Coplan is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Paul Warchol is a photographer in Baltimore. John Cole is a Silver Spring, Maryland, photographer.
ARCHITECTURE & INTERIORS: DONALD LOCOCO, AIA, Donald Lococo Architects, Washington, DC. BUILDER: TONY PAULOS, The Block Builders Group, Bethesda, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: JOAN HONEYMAN, ASLA, Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture, Washington, DC.