They live in Washington, but their hearts are in France. This family’s main goal when they purchased a lot in DC’s new Phillips Park development (which Barnes Vanze planned) was to create a home that reminded them of the French countryside. They showed us pictures of cottages from Normandy to the Dordogne as their inspiration.
The new house is dressed in the old country, with clipped gables and a swooping roofline, pale-blue window shutters and trim, reclaimed ceiling beams, and a tumbled cobble-stone courtyard that continues into the foyer. One of our favorite gestures is a four-story belvedere stair tower with wrought-iron banisters.
With national parkland in back, the clients were also intent on blending the indoors with the outside. We leveled the yard—a full story below grade from the front of the house, since it once dropped steeply to a dry stream bed. That gave us an opportunity to create a sweeping exterior staircase from the main level down to the new yard and pool, while the lower level opens directly to the patio.
French relics highlight the interior details, such as a parlor fireplace crowned with an old coat of arms, rustic iron light fixtures throughout, and an antique butcher-block sideboard in the kitchen, which inspired our design of a similar wood top on the island. And while the massive stone fireplace and reclaimed flooring in the family room also channel the old country, its expansive scale and informal interiors are just right for these present-day parents and their three children.