The days of the Grand Tour are long gone, but the glories of that well-worn itinerary are not lost on those with an appreciation for the past. Count Gary Inman among those for whom a fine hôtel particulier or a handsome Florentine palazzo are never out of date. His scholarly enthusiasm for historic styles stood him in good stead when he went to work on a substantial home in the Virginia countryside.
At 12,000 square feet, the French-inflected residence — designed by Toronto architect Stan Makow — is certainly scaled to its 2000 acre site. Inman — Director of Hospitality Design at Baskervill — has fashioned interiors that express a companionable authenticity. Outfitted with a mix of antiques and custom pieces, his design references French, English, and Italian decorative styles, along with some distinctly American motifs.
Even the most utilitarian space gets top-drawer treatment here. Take the mud room. “There’s a lot of coming and going in this house and this space gets used the most,” notes Inman. “I knew it had to be durable, but I also wanted it to have some character. It’s very English. I used William Morris wallpaper and ran the wainscot up to plate rail height, which is kind of aesthetic movement gesture I’ve seen a lot of English houses.”
In the dining room, Inman embraced the deeply-rooted local tradition seen in the great James River houses of using scenic wallpaper, opting for a pattern from de Gournay depicting birds perched on delicate, white-bloomed tree limbs. “One of the things my clients spoke of the most was nature,” shares Inman. “So bringing in a sense of outdoors really drove our decisions.” In the sitting room of the master suite, Inman hung a panoply of metal flowers made by North Carolina artisan, Tommy Mitchell. “We chose species that grow in Virginia,” says Inman. “Everything was about crafting a story that celebrated this location and the homeowners’ love of nature.”
Conceiving each room as a sort narrative was an approach that shaped the detailing of the spaces. A hand-painted backsplash in the kitchen pays homage to family pets. A painting in a guest bedroom that recalls a pear tree that once stood on the property. “We were able to draw from each storyline to evoke a sense of place through object selection, placement, playing with different materials, and juxtapositions,” explains Inman’s colleague, interior designer Dani Blake.
The essential story of the house is home. From the paneled library to the billiard room, from the kick-back kitchen to the sit-up straight dining room, this residence accommodates all kinds of activity. Envisioned by its owners as a haven for family and friends, it has become just that, brimming — as author Carson McCullers wrote in A Member of the Wedding, with “that old sense of company and commotion.”
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