Photographs by Francesco Lagnese
Written by Krissa Rossbund
Produced by Eileen A. Deymier
At their home near Washington, D.C., every morning zooms from zero to 60 within seconds for Trish and Gene Scalia and their household. Six children, five schools in two different states, sports, and family gatherings test Trish’s efficiency and organizational skills, which pass with flying colors. So when the Scalias moved into their home in 2005, Trish—who serves as wife, mom, and family field marshal—planned a realistic renovation schedule that would accommodate her brood plus allow time to contemplate the changes she and Gene wanted to make.
“We lived in the house for three years before starting the renovation process,” says Trish. “By living in it for so long, we were able to really pinpoint what the house was missing.”
To rework the structure into an updated haven, Trish used her managerial prowess to assemble a renovation team that included designer Whitney Stewart and architect Donald Lococo. The two joined forces to create a design happily reflecting the tastes of both Trish and Gene, a modern couple with classic sensibilities.
“The house initially featured dark colors,” says Stewart. “The Scalias are traditionalists, and wanted their home to have a fresh, youthful look, and much of that is dependent on color choices.” Stewart began her part of the redo with a face-lift in the foyer, including new striped wallpaper plus a pair of graphic étagères standing on either side of an arch. But not everything was so symmetrical. A round table was charmingly draped to the floor in shimmery silk topped with a square of taupe-and-ivory damask.
The living room’s major change resulted in a new term that would become part of the Scalias’ renovation lexicon—“Donald Doors.” Lococo’s solution for providing easier access to the large yard was to replace existing windows in both the living and family rooms with French doors. In the living room, the doors are set on either side of the marble fireplace and lead to a new side porch fitted with a clever wall of painted shutters that control light and provide privacy. The addition of the porch not only pleasingly alters the home’s exterior but also supplies an architectural reference to Trish’s native New Orleans. Putting a porch on the side of the house greatly improved the traffic pattern, says Lococo. “Exchanging the windows for full-height French doors started that journey.”
Traffic flow is important in any home, but Trish had a particular reason for hassle-free circulation. Every year, in honor of her hometown tradition, she and Gene host a large Mardi Gras party, and Trish didn’t want any of what she describes as “dead ends.”
The dining room, where fundamentals of geometry guide the design, glows in natural light. Understanding that Trish and Gene didn’t want the room cluttered by walls loaded with paintings, Stewart had oversized circles stenciled in gold onto the raffia-covered walls, giving the traditional space a contemporary lift.
As one might imagine, an avid cook with six kids puts a great kitchen at the top of her renovation list. But unlike other couples who opt for an open kitchen/family room space, Trish chose a kitchen that stands on its own.
“We have a lot of togetherness, so separation of spaces was important,” she explains. “I wanted to be able to be in my kitchen and have the opportunity to talk with one of my children without everyone else being privy to the conversation.”
Trish employed a tactic from which many could profit: She photographed every item in the cabinets and drawers of her old kitchen and presented the photos to kitchen designer Nancy Thornett so she could accommodate Trish’s work style in the room’s redo.
Walls dividing the existing pantry from the kitchen were knocked down and replaced with glass cabinets to create an airy transition into the workspace. Two islands allow for handy figure-8 circulation and eliminate unusable space that often
accompanies oversized islands. Since the Scalias do not allow computers in the children’s rooms, a pair of computer desks flanks the opening to the breakfast area.
The lengthy renovation process required a lot of patience from everyone, but, insists Trish, “The finished product was worth the wait. We changed the house by observing our entire family in action. It’s a home created for our needs and layered with memories.”
See living room details on the following slide.
Architect: Donald Lococo, Donald Lococo Architects, 202/337-4422, donaldlococoarchitects.com.
Interior designer: Whitney Stewart, Whitney Stewart Interior Design, 5129 Linnean Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20008; 202/537-0050, whitneystewartinteriordesign.com.
Kitchen designer: Nancy Thornett, Nancy Thornett Assoc. Inc./Thornett Kitchens, 4833 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda. MD 20814; 301/718-0155, thornettkitchens.com. Builder: Simon Ley, The Ley Group, 3704 Macomb St. N.W., Suite 4, Washington, DC 20016; 202/237-0334, theleygroup.com.
Decorative painter in dining room: Christa Mensch, 703/280-9208, firstname.lastname@example.org.