Tucked just blocks off teeming thoroughfares, DC’s Spring Valley enclave boasts a rolling landscape and lush greenery that belie its urban address. One storybook setting there entranced a pair of retired attorneys looking to return to the district after raising their children in Bethesda. “We saw the yard and said, ‘This is it,’” recounts the husband. “For being in the middle of the city, it’s very special.”
A 1930s Tudor-style abode occupied the parcel. Though charming, it lacked the entertaining space and modern amenities—a kitchen with elbow room being one—that the couple desired. Initially gearing up for a renovation, they enlisted architect Chris Snowber and builder Richard Zantzinger. The team explored the makeover option at length but ultimately recommended starting afresh.
Snowber planned the new home around a scenic, albeit somewhat restricting, stream running through the rear yard. As he reveals, the feature “was a constraint but totally drove and enriched the design.” To maximize the footprint, the back of the house progressively steps out to follow the path of the water. “Our plan grew out this way because we wanted to get as close to the stream as possible,” the architect adds. “The stream diverts towards the rear of the property; the plan does that as well. Much of the design was about orienting the house to its remarkable site and connecting it visually and physically.”
With stretches of glass opening to backyard views, the living room sits at the main level’s narrowest end, followed by the family room and eat-in kitchen. The owners’ suite enjoys a second-floor vantage point above the kitchen in the widest section. Lower-level spaces spill directly outdoors.
Following its predecessor’s lead, the 6,500-square-foot dwelling expresses a Tudoresque quality. The exterior’s mix of stucco, stone, timbers and brick speaks to the Old World aesthetic. “It felt like a natural fit to continue in the Tudor style since it had a connection on the site,” states Snowber. “We weren’t looking to make a Tudor house, which can sometimes feel sort of dark and heavy. The challenge was finding the balance between capturing the spirit and making the house feel open and bright.”
Interior designer Skip Sroka came on board early, bringing his interpretative lens to everything from architectural details to decorative touches. “We took a few design liberties,” he admits freely. “We wanted to create a ‘new old’ house, with the wonderful quality and bones of an older home but one that has been updated to be part of this century.”
Wrapped in hand-painted wallcovering, the elegant foyer serves as a harbinger of what’s to come. “The Chinoiserie wallpaper, with its glowing gold background, sets the tone,” Sroka explains. “This home is a joyful balance of past and present with an easy dollop of glam.”
Fresh approaches throughout energize the residence’s traditional bones. The designer dialed up the drama in the library, coating its millwork in a deep-green lacquer. Across the hall, celadon-hued faux finishes enliven the dining room’s paneled ceiling and walls.
Sroka’s attention to detail is evident at every turn. The library’s teal hue reappears on the sofa trim and chair upholstery in the adjacent living room, establishing visual flow. The kitchen cabinets sport back-painted glass doors, while the pantry near the breakfast area showcases antiqued-mirror doors. The velvet-upholstered headboard on the owners’ four-poster bed extends to the sloped ceiling.
The furnishings constitute a mix of new and old finds, repurposed pieces from the owners’ collection and bespoke creations of Sroka’s design. A livable yet elevated look prevails. “It’s a beautiful, happy house that has some sophistication, but it’s not off-putting,” asserts Sroka. “Balancing what you need to have for comfort with what you want to have for delight is very important in a home.”
Before covid struck, the empty-nesters threw their daughter’s wedding in the garden and held a fundraiser for the DC-based Latin American Youth Center. “We built the house because we like to entertain and hopefully we can again someday soon,” says the wife. “This is a great house for hosting events. There’s lots of space for people to roam around.”
Indeed, guests can stroll outdoors, where four gathering areas await. Campion Hruby Landscape Architects refreshed and augmented the surrounding scenery. For improved access, the team added stepping-stone paths and a bridge to a respectfully restored terrace across the stream. “There were relics of a past garden,” recalls Kevin Campion. “It was clearly meant to be a garden of exploration. [The owners] wanted to follow through with that idea and to be able to move through their garden in a graceful way.”
The couple credits the project’s success—inside and out—to a close collaboration. “The team worked together so beautifully,” marvels the wife.
Her husband concurs: “The ensemble was just great.”
Architecture: Christopher R. Snowber, AIA, principal; Michael P. Rouse, AIA, NCARB, project architect, Hamilton Snowber Architects, Washington, DC. Interior Design: Skip Sroka, ASID, NCIDQ, ICAA, principal, Sroka Design, Washington, DC. Builder: Richard Zantzinger, Zantzinger, Inc., Washington, DC. Landscape Design: Kevin Campion, ASLA, principal; Lindsey Tabor, project manager, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Annapolis, Maryland.
Flooring: Rift-cut oak through twperry.com. Cabinetry & Millwork Fabrication Throughout: zantzingerbuilt.com. Drapery Fabrication: fabriccreationsstudio.com. Upholstery Fabrication: designerworkroom.com.
FOYER & HALLWAY
Wallpaper: paulmontgomery.com. Console by Door: williamyeoward.com through jonathancharlesfurniture.com. Rug: designsurfaces.com. Gilt Demi-Lune & Mirror: antique. Settee: Custom by srokadesign.com. Fabric: architex-ljh.com.
Sofa, Coffee Table, Art over Fireplace & Rug: Clients’ collection. Sofa Fabric: kravet.com. Trim: houles.com. Blue Chair & Ottoman by Fireplace: kravet.com Kravet Furniture. Chair & Ottoman Fabric: Lee Jofa through kravet.com. Trim: fschumacher.com. Skirted Armchair: leeindustries.com through americaneyewdc.net. Fabric for chair & Throw Pillows: Duralee through robertallen.com. Wall Treatment: robsonworldwidegraining.com.
Sofa: highlandhousefurniture.com. Fabric: norbarfabrics.com. Trim: fschumacher.com. Coffee Table: Custom by srokadesign.com. Faux Leather: pindler.com. Rug: cavancarpets.com. Fabrication: jrsflooringpa.com. Club Chairs: centuryfurniture.com. Club Chair Fabric: kravet.com. Cording: jlambeth.com. Console by Fireplace: modernhistoryhome.com. Shade Fabric: Fabric: jab.de. Tape Trim: scalamandre.com. Floor Lamp: reginaandrew.com.
Sofa & Fabric: highlandhousefurniture.com. Chairs: Clients’ collection. Chair Fabric: jimthompsonfabrics.com through hinescompany.com. Trim: Lee Jofa through kravet.com. Coffee Table & Rug: Custom by srokadesign.com. Rug Fabrication: juliedasherrugs.com. Shade Fabric: jab.de. Trim: Lee Jofa through kravet.com. Chandelier: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Bookshelves: Custom by srokadesign.com. Bookshelf Paint: Mallard Green by benjaminmoore.com
Table: Clients’ collection. Side Chairs: charlesstewartcompany.com. Side Chair Fabric: jimthompsonfabrics.com through hinescompany.com. Host Chairs: hickorychair.com. Host Chair Fabric: architex-ljh.com, scalamandre.com. Chandelier: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Sunburst Mirror: wildwoodmirrorco.com. Rug: crystalcarpets.net. Rug Fabrication: jrsflooringpa.com. Drapery Fabric: scalamandre.com. Console: modernhistoryhome.com. Abstract Art above Console: Morris Schulman. Iron Door to Ceramics Collection: williamyeoward.com through jonathancharlesfurniture.com.
Cabinetry: Custom by srokadesign.com. Countertops & Backsplash: Quartzite through rbratti.com. Pendants: visualcomfortlightinglights.com. Counter Stools: woodbridgefurniture.com. Breakfast Table: bernhardtfurniture.com. Chairs: janusetcie.com. Hall Settee: highlandhousefurniture.com.
Bed: hickorychair.com. Upholstery on Headboard: Lee Jofa through kravet.com. Bedding: sferra.com. Window Treatment Fabric: rubelli.com, clarke-clarke.com, robertallen.com. Rug: maslandcarpets.com: Rug Fabrication: jrsflooringpa.com. Chairs by Fireplace: highlandhousefurniture.com. Fabric: scalamandre.com. Ottoman by Fireplace: Clients’ collection. Ottoman Fabric: jab-de, Tape Trim: cowtan.com. Overhead Light: crystoramalights.com.