Home & Design

The 1970s home overlooks pristine parkland.

A Fortuny floor lamp welcomes guests into the double-height foyer, where glass panels line the upper-level stair landing.

A painting by Peruvian artist Simeon González and South African tribal masks are on display in the piano room. Brushed stainless steel details an opening to the living room and dining room beyond.

Mariela Buendia-Corrochano’s makeover primed the house for parties large and small. Pocket doors can close off the adjacent breakfast room and kitchen during catered events.

New Fleetwood doors lead to a terrace featuring Paola Lenti lounge seating and a JANUS et Cie dining table.

New doorways promote easy circulation between the front and back rooms.

An Artemide light fixture hangs in the dining room, which enjoys a clear view of the piano room’s black travertine fireplace wall.

Capitol Woodwork fabricated custom cabinetry in the large, open kitchen. Lights by Mexican manufacturer Birot can be moved in and out of the ceiling and articulated in any direction.

Vintage Quinta chairs by Mario Botta convey a sculptural presence in the family room; wooden print stamps from Thailand flank the window.

Designer Mariela Buendia-Corrochano and husband Gerardo Corrochano relax on a new balcony built outside their bedroom. Giant windows accentuate forest views.

Krion wall panels envelop the revamped primary bath, which features black travertine flooring, a glassed-in shower and a Kohler soaking tub.

Black travertine clads an accent wall in the new family room, enlivened by a parametric ceiling sculpture. Designed in tandem with the owner’s colleague Yoonho Lee, it marks the location of a former indoor pool, as does a bronze sculpture of a diver by Mexican artist Olivia Guzmán.

Art + Soul

A designer transforms her McLean home into a haven displaying treasures from around the globe

There’s more to the ceiling sculpture in Mariela Buendia-Corrochano’s family room than meets the eye. One hundred twenty-three panels of lacquered wood, each embedded with LED lights, make up the dramatic, undulating work of art. It’s one of many moves conceived by the designer during a recent renovation that turned her 1970s-era residence into a modern masterpiece. 

The makeover reimagined the McLean home’s interiors and introduced a crisp, minimalist palette to showcase bold artwork collected around the globe. An airy new family room replaced an indoor pool that had seen better days.

“The pool was an integral part of our family,” recalls Buendia-Corrochano of the time when she, husband Gerardo Corrochano and their two young sons moved into the 5,700-square-foot home 20 years ago. “We used it all year round.”

With the boys now out of college and living in New York, the empty nesters decided during the 2018 renovation that the pool should go. But instead of sweeping it away without a trace, Buendia-Corrochano celebrated the beloved amenity with the ceiling sculpture. “The curves are an interpretation of the DNA of water. It’s not only a piece of art that I wanted to design for the house, but it is also about creating a reminiscence of what existed before,” she explains. 

The renovation remedied a number of design flaws. The owners love to entertain, but the floor plan cramped their style. The foyer opens on the left to a double-height living room with a piano room beyond. The dining room and kitchen were crammed in on the right, leading to a narrow, sunken family room—all small, inefficient spaces. Along the back of the home, the pool was the only spot that enjoyed prime views of their wooded property, which backs onto parkland and Pimmit Run, a tributary of the Potomac.

“We love the natural environment, but the existing house didn’t take advantage of it,” explains Buendia-Corrochano, a design principal at Gensler who also takes on residential projects through her own firm, estudio_MBC. “And the back of the home wasn’t connected to the front. We wanted to have free flow so we could use the whole house.”

Her redo added doorways and centered off-kilter openings, which set a clear axis from the dining room to the piano room. Glass panels replaced wooden spindles on the stairway and landing above. “As an architect and a designer, I’m very focused on trying to create internal vistas,” Buendia-Corrochano notes.

She expanded the dining room and kitchen from the front to the back of the house, taking over the sunken family room. Its floor was raised to make way for the new kitchen, now equipped with custom, white-lacquered cabinetry and a large island. 

In lieu of the pool, the designer created an open breakfast area and a new family room, where wide expanses of glass maximize views of the landscape. State-of-the-art lighting and audio systems now let the owners control sound and mood throughout the home.

Taking cues from nature, Buendia-Corrochano chose reclaimed white oak flooring stained gray. Black travertine embellishes fireplace surrounds and the kitchen backsplash. “I’m a total modernist. I love natural, earthy finishes and patterns,” she declares. “It’s a minimal use of materials but their impact is what matters. All the finishes, materials and textures work together harmoniously.”

No detail was too small for Buendia-Corrochano to articulate. “I’m very focused on the whole experience,” she says. “Everything is curated and thought through.” Panels of brushed stainless steel mark passageways. Cabinets sport precise, mitered edges. And in lieu of grout, open joints rim each travertine slab to make it look like the stone is floating.

The subdued palette, says the designer, “created a canvas for our collection of furniture and art.” She and Gerardo, a former World Bank director and now an executive at the Inter-American Development Bank, have been traveling and collecting treasures together since meeting in their native Peru four decades ago. Timeless, iconic furnishings acquired over the years fit perfectly into their updated spaces, where paintings, sculptures and artifacts from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas are displayed gallery-style. “Art is such a special part of who we are,” reflects Buendia-Corrochano. “Our Latin and Peruvian heritage is also really important to us.”

Many pieces hail from Mexico, where Buendia-Corrochano opened an office for Gensler in 2014. When they returned to Washington after spending four years in Mexico City, the couple considered downsizing to an apartment. 

“It was just the two of us,” she recalls, “but we really love the house and its surroundings. We decided that an apartment wouldn’t foster the strong relationship and ties that we have with our kids and extended family. In order to lure our kids back when they have families in the future, we wanted the house to be the hub that it has always been.”

No apartment could have replaced the connection to nature that the couple enjoys on their woodsy property. “There’s nothing better than waking up early, getting a cup of coffee and looking out over the forest,” reflects the designer. “When it’s winter, I turn on the fireplace. Even when I’m working, it’s so soothing to be here.”

Though they initially bemoaned the pool’s demise, the owners’ sons gave the renovation a thumbs-up. “If you bring me grandkids,” their father told them, “I’ll build a pool outside.”

Renovation Architecture & Interior Design: Mariela Buendia-Corrochano, IIDA, LEED ID+C, estudio_MBC, McLean, Virginia. Architectural Consultants: Don Ghent, AIA; Gonzalo Gomez, IIDA, Yoonho Lee. Millwork Fabrication: Capitol Woodwork, Marlton, New Jersey.

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