To an equestrian, it is no small thing to be able to walk out the door and climb right onto your horse—no car rides to the barn or trailers necessary. No wonder it took designer Natascha Folens and husband Luke Dejager—devoted riders, fox hunters and owners of three statuesque steeds—two years to find just the right weekend retreat in Virginia’s Hunt Country. “We wanted to be able to ride out with the horses,” Folens explains. “That’s a big reason we bought this house.”
With a stable and paddock just steps from the front door and views hard by of grassy, fenced spaces where their horses frolic, the couple and their two kids, ages 10 and 18, got what they were looking for. Their 240-year-old stone abode nestles amid 22 acres of pastoral rolling hills and crumbling stone walls. Alongside it is a guest house that Folens rents out on Airbnb (she also rents out the main house when she and her family are at their full-time home in Great Falls).
The building began life as a low-ceilinged structure housing the existing kitchen and dining room and an upstairs bedroom. Over the years, a spare room off the foyer and a family room off the back were added. Today, the house measures almost 2,500 square feet and encompasses two upstairs bedrooms, two baths, four original fireplaces and a porch with breathtaking backyard views.
Not surprisingly, the house had developed problems over the years. But Folens, a Belgian native who prefers older homes with their innate character and sense of history, knew she could breathe new life into it. She lightened rooms that were painted in dark neutral colors and tackled an outdated kitchen and an inconvenient upstairs layout where the master bedroom could only be accessed through another bedroom. “I wanted to respect the architecture—that was number one,” she says. “I also wanted it to feel like a country house—since it’s in the country—but casual, comfortable and light, so the outside can come in.”
Folens overhauled the kitchen, retaining the original ceiling beams but adding fresh drywall between them. A waterproof plaster surface called Tadelakt, popular in Morocco and Greece, covers the cabinetry and countertops, with cabinet doors made of 200-year-old Chinese elm wood found in Paris. A French white oak table is paired with Australian basket chairs from Holland and a white oak bench custom-made to match the table. A solid-wood door out to the adjacent patio was replaced with one of steel-framed glass that lets in the light.
Upstairs, spaces have been reorganized to create a master bath and a hall leading from the staircase directly to the master bedroom. In the master bath, limestone floors and concrete walls are spare backdrops to a custom bronze-and-marble vanity from Italy and a wide Mastella soaking tub. “I didn’t want the room to be busy,” explains Folens. “I wanted an open feel where everything would blend and the vanity would stand out.”
Folens brought her European sensibility to each room, combining modern touches with historic architectural elements such as original heart pine floors, paneled window niches and a coffered ceiling in the family room. Yet mantels have been removed from fireplaces, walls are painted in off-white hues and windows are unadorned. Sculptural, exposed heat pipes from Belgium and metal light fixtures with bare bulbs add an industrial vibe.
As a designer, Folens imports virtually everything from Europe. Her own home reflects her eclectic, international eye. For example, a painting of a horse by New York artist Joe Andoe anchors the family room, where the rugs are kilims from Morocco, the coffee table is an African daybed found in Brussels, and the desk is made of Belgian bluestone. “I don’t like a lot of knickknacks, but I do like a bohemian architecture feel,” Folens observes. “I try to bring that in with materials.”
In the same vein, the dining room combines a B&B Italia table, a Belgian rug and a light fixture by Ochre, while the master bedroom boasts an elm console and a woven chair from Vincent Sheppard. Folens has draped a deerskin over the chair to evoke the idea of a hunting lodge—a perfect touch, considering the name she and Dejager have given the house: “Hunter’s Retreat.”
Photographer Gordon Beall is based in Bethesda.
INTERIOR DESIGN & CONTRACTING: NATASCHA FOLENS, NF Interiors, Great Falls, Virginia.
Family Room Horse Painting: Joe Andoe. French Wine Tasting Table & Desk Light: flamant.com through nfinteriors.com. Blue Glass Vase: henrydean.be through nfinteriors.com. Heaters: through nfinteriors.com. Antler Chandeliers anthropologie.com. Sofa: Custom. Coffee Table: Antique. Woven Bench & Sheepskins: bloomingville.com. Moroccan Kilims: Vintage. Pair of Chairs: vintage by Arne Sorensen. Blue Throw On Sofa & Sheepskin Pillows: maisondevacances.com. Desk: sempre.be through nfinteriors.
Kitchen Dining Table: heerenhuis.be through nfinteriors.com. Basket Chairs: bonluxat.com. Custom Bench: through nfinteriors.com. Pillows On Bench: flexformny.com. Pendants over Table: tierlantijn.com through nfinteriors.com. Grain Platter over Fireplace: Antique. Countertops: tadelaktlondon.co.uk. Cabinet Doors: Antique Elmwood through nfinteriors.com. Limestone Floor: stonesource.com.
Master Bath Soaking Tub: mastelladesign.it through nfinteriors.com. Plumbing Fixtures: hansgrohe-usa.com. Limestone Floor: architecturalceramics.com. Vanity: altamareabath.it through nfinteriors.com. Sconces over Vanity: lumens.com