May 22, 2024


Amazing design, nonpareil

Subtle Motif – Home & Design Magazine

A design team infuses a traditional McLean home with understated sophistication and a thoroughly modern sensibility

Half a lifetime ago, Ajaipal “Jay” Virdy anticipated the serene home that he and his wife, Shalu, now enjoy. Back then, Virdy’s fledgling tech company occupied space next to a builder whose work he admired. Virdy promised himself that one day, he would ask that company to create an awesome house for him and his family.

Two decades later, the dream came true. With two grown children and an enviable career complete, Virdy and Shalu were moving from Leesburg to a classic, two-story abode in McLean. The property was endowed with an ideal setting and recently added guest quarters perfect for Virdy’s aging mother. But the 9,422-square-foot house, built in 2001, came with awkward and dated interiors.

Virdy called on his former neighbor, design-build company BOWA, which in turn enlisted architect Sarah Armstrong of Studio 360 and Betsy Delisi of Lotus Interior Design. The team quickly sized up the home’s quirks: The owners’ suite was an unwieldy labyrinth, the kitchen lacked warmth—and something about the entry hall didn’t work. What followed was a two-year, top-to-bottom reimagining that converted the home’s nine bedrooms to five with three sitting rooms, and revamped the rest of the existing spaces.
“It’s heaven,” says Shalu Virdy. “It’s our forever house.”

Armstrong imparted drama and functionality without expanding the footprint. “We started with the architecture, creating a really great space,” she notes. Walls were moved, ceilings raised, windows expanded, paneling gutted, the attic reclaimed, the owners’ suite redesigned, the kitchen enhanced, and the lower level personalized with a golf simulator and sufficient room for musical equipment to sustain multi-generational family gatherings. (Jay plays guitar while Shalu sings.)

First came the entry—a low, narrow space where any sense of arrival had been cut short by a blank wall straight ahead. That barrier hid a sun-filled family room at the back of the house. By raising the ceiling, widening the space and replacing the wall with black-framed, sliding-glass doors, Armstrong established a fresh dynamic and compelling vista from the front door. “My goal was to have a straight shot through to the garden view,” she explains.

Next, partial walls and classically styled columns between the family and breakfast rooms were removed, effectively adding 11 feet of living space. The outside wall of the breakfast area was replaced with matching black-framed sliders opening to the patio. The expanse of glass marries the interior to a 1.16-acre landscape, where a pool and putting green blend in amid flowering trees. Says designer Delisi, “The house didn’t present as interesting until Sarah got hold of it.”

To establish a uniform envelope, Delisi had the walls and ceilings throughout painted Benjamin Moore’s China White. Furnishings were added in soft blues and greige. The interior scheme honors Armstrong’s black-framed doors by treating the existing window frames to a thin outline of gray paint; draperies soften windows only in the dining room and owners’ bedroom. With 10-foot ceilings, Delisi chose dramatic lighting for size and presence.

The move to a new house enabled the owners to shift to a more contemporary style. That choice led to the decommissioning of a collection of Indian carpets and richly carved wood furniture. “We sold almost everything,” declares Shalu Virdy, adding, “I have no regrets.”

However, the couple has not abandoned natural wood or fine craftsmanship. The breakfast table showcases a live-edge slab of Claro walnut 15 feet long, which Delisi sourced in Oregon and had finished in Wisconsin. The remodeled kitchen, a collaboration with kitchen designer Eric Lieberknecht, boasts a paneled ceiling, striaed-veneer cabinet fronts and a hand-rubbed, stainless-steel range hood. A white oak display cabinet provides a focal point from the stair hall. “Wood is back,” Delisi avers.

Upstairs, Armstrong reconfigured the owners’ suite. The bedroom awaits a Maya Romanoff wall covering, but the master bath is ready for its star turn. The couple asked to replace his-and-her spaces with a single bath, centered on an extravagant porcelain-and-glass shower and floating tub. At Jay Virdy’s suggestion, a spiral stair was added in the owners’ closet; it accesses a storage loft, carved from unfinished space in the attic, where a glass-fronted cabinet showcases Shalu Virdy’s colorful collection of Indian saris.

Today, sunlight streams through the bare, crisply painted windows in the living room, where plush seating designed by Betsy Delisi and fabricated by Stewart Furniture accompanies the family’s baby grand piano, one of the few keepsakes that transitioned to McLean. Throughout the house, Delisi commissioned wall panels, carpets and lighting with subtle musical motifs as well as a keyboard painting above the mantel to reflect her clients’ love of music. She also incorporated contemporary patterning suggestive of their Indian heritage; in the foyer, for instance, a mosaic niche spotlights a precious sitar.

The lower level came last—but not for lack of importance. A nifty wall of acoustical white oak slats forms the backdrop for a wet bar with a backlit onyx countertop. A hidden door in the slats reveals a movie theater. Essential music equipment occupies half a wall. Nearby, a door leads to a golf simulator enlivened with an image of the course at Pebble Beach. A delighted Jay Virdy says, “I live in the golf room.”

On cue, Shalu responds, “And I have the rest of the house.”

Renovation Architecture: Sarah Armstrong, AIA, Studio 360, Clifton, Virginia. Interior Design: Betsy Delisi, Lotus Interior Design, LLC, Ashburn, Virginia. Kitchen & Bath Design: Eric Lieberknecht, Eric Lieberknecht Design, Washington, DC. Contractor: BOWA, McLean, Virginia.



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