Just one year after Marisa Ruiz of Madrid-based Lalzada put the finishing touches on a long-time client’s DC residence, a two-alarm fire ravaged the house. Thankfully, no one was hurt; the owners and their five children were on holiday in their native Spain when they learned that their Spring Valley home and its contents were in ruins.
“It looked like old Civil War pictures of Richmond after the flames. Only the outside walls were left standing,” recalls architect Dwight McNeill, who was hired to recreate the grandeur of the original European-style country house, built in 1996.
But the owners decided to make some dramatic improvements along the way. They wanted to create more bedrooms, as well as better circulation for entertaining. Ruiz’s goal was to combine the open, welcoming style of today’s American homes with an Old World respect for detail and craftsmanship. “In Europe, it’s typical to put doors everywhere,” she explains. “But in America, homes are wide open. When we revised the house, we tried to keep this kind of open, American style.”
She and her team—who designed the clients’ four other homes, all located in Spain—collaborated closely with McNeill and architect Dean Cretsinger throughout the design phase. The new plan added a third floor to the home, as well as an elevator, a secondary staircase and a butler’s pantry near the kitchen. Unlike the former, traditional kitchen, the new one would be open, sleek and modern—designed with the homeowners’ close friend, chef José Andrés. The lower level would see a new wine cellar and movie room, while an ambitious landscaping scheme would create more space for al fresco entertaining.
The owners hired M & M Builders and Contractors to build the project. “We took it down to the original foundation,” says M & M’s Ralph Mollet. “And by some miracle, we brought everything up and out of the ashes, so to speak, in eight and a half months.”
From Italian travertine tile in the foyer to Spanish oak floors and bespoke millwork, Ruiz and her team selected top-quality materials to achieve a refined, elegant look. Most of the furniture was designed by Lalzada and fabricated in Spain by artisans—including metal workers, upholsterers and woodworkers—who frequently collaborate with the firm.
“Custom-made furniture was adapted 100 percent to our likes and needs like a tailor-made suit,” says the homeowner, a businessman who works in the U.S. and Spain. Ruiz, who recently opened an office in Washington, sees the custom route as a true expression of her creativity. “I prefer to think about what I want to create and then do it,” she observes. “You have more control and each piece is unique to each client.”
Today, the 11,000-square-foot residence suits the lifestyle of a busy family with kids ranging from seven to 16. “The house is always full,” says Ruiz. The layout is ideal for large parties, with the expansive foyer leading into the living, dining and family rooms.
The kitchen is designed to perform on all cylinders. And from a cooking standpoint, it would be the envy of any home chef—even one with José Andrés on speed dial. White Poggenpohl cabinetry is organized around a large central island and a massive custom hood. With input from the chef, the owners selected cooking appliances that run the gamut from gas, teppanyaki, wok and induction burners to traditional and steam/microwave ovens.
The second floor houses the master suite and two guest suites, along with a casual family room for the kids. But the third floor is the younger set’s domain, where new bedrooms were designed with custom furniture and novel accents—from tufted panels that give the teenage daughters’ room a hip vibe to a “wall” of stretched bungee cords in the younger girls’ room. The middle son’s room is covered in wallpaper depicting vintage maps of the U.S.
The completed home “takes its place in the neighborhood just as it did before the fire,” says architect Dwight McNeill, who has since launched his own firm. “We wanted to be honest to what had been there without downgrading the finishes or making it less of a grand house than it was.”
The homeowner agrees, “The fire was awful, but now we’re so pleased in our new home. It’s even better than the previous one.”
Photographer Stacy Zarin Goldberg is based in Olney, Maryland.
ARCHITECTURE: DWIGHT McNEILL, AIA, McNeill Baker Design Associates, McLean, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: MARISA RUIZ and CARLOS ALVAREZ LOPEZ, Lalzada, Madrid, Spain, and Washington, DC. BUILDER: RALPH MOLLET and RYAN MOLLET, M & M Builders and Contractors, Gaithersburg, Maryland.
THROUGHOUT Wood Flooring: lignumelite.com
FAMILY ROOM Sofas, Leather Chair & Ottoman, Bench: Custom through lalzada.com/en. Sofa & Bench Fabric: linwoodfabric.com. Framed Maps, Coffee Tables & Lamp: rh.com. Foyer Tile: architecturalceramics.com. Millwork Fabrication: twperry.com.
KITCHEN Design Consultant: José Andrés; thinkfoodgroup.com. Cabinetry: poggenpohl.com. Countertop: silestoneusa.com. Stools: capdell.com. Refrigerator: subzero-wolf.com. Pendant Lights: usa.flos.com. Oven beside Fridge: mieleusa.com. Hood Fabrication: akmetalfab.com. Plumbing Fixtures: porcelanosa-usa.com.
DINING ROOM Dining Chairs & Chandelier: guadarte.com. Dining Table & Sideboard: Custom through lalzada.com/en. Chair Fabric: g-lamadrid.com. Antique Mirror & Persian Rug: Clients’ collection. Table Lamps: rh.com. Wall Covering: omexco.com. Drapery Fabric: llonchysala.com.
MASTER BATH Wall Covering: lamaisonbarcelona.com. Mirrors & Vanities: Custom through lalzada.com/en. Flooring, Wall & Shower Tile: architecturalceramics.com. Countertop: silestone.com. Plumbing Fixtures: porcelanosa-usa.com.