It’s more than 3,500 miles from the South of France to Chateau Country in northern Delaware. Yet French-inspired design is decidedly at home amid the lovely rolling hills of the Piedmont.
Built in the 1980s, a large house in Centreville offered its new owners a stately stucco façade, cedar shake roof and copper downspouts, hallmarks of the French Normandy style. But inside, the home featured disparate elements from other times and places, including expanses of glass block. To guide the interior’s home to its French roots, the owners brought in Kirsten McCoy of Meadowbank Designs in Wayne. “They were ready to brighten things up and create an interior that’s representative of the outside of the house and the surrounding countryside,” she says.
The owners had moved to Chateau Country from an expansive rococo-style home in New Jersey so they could be closer to family. Their vision of a home that would embrace multiple generations was infused with memories of their visits to the south of France. “They loved the light, the brightness, the feeling of tradition,” McCoy says.
The lady of the house was intent on having something both luxurious and inviting, a place that would hold up to traffic from grandchildren and dogs. She and the designer had worked together successfully on her home at the Jersey Shore, so McCoy was a natural choice for the makeover of the Centreville house.
A fabulous, functional kitchen was at the top of the wish list. That space is grounded in premium porcelain tile with the look of European limestone. A quartzite countertop looks like marble but is impervious to stains. With its laurel-leaf detailing, the large island is reminiscent of carved furniture. The sink is outfitted with an American-made Waterstone gooseneck faucet, and the creamy custom cabinets are beautiful inside and out. “They’re lined in walnut and illuminated,” the designer notes. “They light up when you open a drawer so you can see what’s inside.
The owner is an accomplished cook, who enjoys preparing meals for five children and 14 grandkids. A full-size refrigerator paired with a full-size freezer assist with frequent entertaining. Spice cubbies are artfully placed in the hood above the professional-grade range. An adjoining breakfast room overlooks a creek and rolling hills. While the view is spectacular, the original finishes were not. Now, new millwork and paneling adds architectural interest to the vaulted ceiling above the table.
The formal dining room reflects the owners’ love of antiques. The Italian end chairs were handed down through the family of the lady of the house, while the upholstered side chairs are artful reproductions. “They are building a legacy for their family, so antiques are an important element in the design,” says McCoy.
It’s an elegant space with antique blue-and-white Aubusson carpets. The windows are dressed in solid silk panels with heavy silk tassel trim. The owners brought the opulent brass and crystal chandelier with them from New Jersey. The mural of birds above the wainscoting was painted by artist David Posey. “It’s inspired by Gracie and other fine handpainted wallpapers that take eight months to make by hand,” McCoy says.
For less formal gatherings, friends and relatives gather in the family room. Beams and shiplap on the ceiling and a massive wrought-iron chandelier give the large room a sense of intimacy.
The mantel on the stone fireplace is an antique walnut beam. Originally outfitted for natural gas, the fireplace now burns wood, with an option for gas.
Upholstered pieces are covered in Crypton, a durable yet sumptuous stain-repellant fabric. A whimsical mix of fabrics personalizes a small chair, its seat done in a muted cheetah print. The back of the chair is upholstered in toile with a depiction of two golden retrievers, a nod to the owners’ pets. “It’s definitely their personality to have a bit of fun,” says McCoy. The master bath is large, but it was in dire need of an update—“like a disco dancefloor that had a huge ’80s Jacuzzi tub with an airline deck around it you had to climb up and over,” she says.
After the renovation, the elements of are now as timeless as a chateau in Provençe. The whirlpool was replaced with large soaking tub, stationed in a sunny bay window with potted lemon trees. Marble in the shower was laid to look like raised paneling. A seamless glass shower door promotes a sense of openness. There are polished nickel faucets, a toto toilet with a seat warmer, and an inset rug of mother of pearl.
A powder room shimmers with glamorous accents, including antique gold faucets, blue floral wallpaper, and a custom vanity crafted to fit a triangular niche. “It takes away some of the angles and softens the space,” the designer says.
A marble floor in the home’s grand foyer establishes a European ambience. Ross Hellings of Hellings Builders was commissioned to create and install an oak bannister with wrought-iron spindles on the sweeping, curved staircase. A niche in the raised paneling on the staircase wall displays sculpture.
Almost 40 years after it was first built, the house finally reflects its Chateau Country roots. “This is what it was always meant to be,” says McCoy.