Old Virginia farmhouse gets Park Avenue treatment

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Real Estate,Merlisa Lawrence Corbett

Cosmopolitan career woman and newlywed Tara Briggs moved to a 40-acre farm in Waterford, Va., in June, but unlike the character in the old TV sitcom "Green Acres" who kissed Park Avenue style goodbye, she hired a designer to transform a farmhouse into a glamorous country estate.

The nearly 10,000-square-foot fieldstone house sits on a sprawling property with two ponds, streams and a barn. When Tara and her husband, Jerry Briggs, purchased the home in November, they knew they would gut the place, leaving no signs of the country interior.

It is a huge project, and designer Niki VanEch of VanEch Studio is guiding the couple through a process that will apply their style to fixtures, furniture, paint and finishes for six bedrooms, six and half baths and a completely new kitchen. She said it is important not to rush into decisions.

"Major renovations are like running a marathon, and often the contractor is pushing the client to make major decisions quickly so that everyone can reach the finish line," VanEch said. "However, quick decisions that are not methodically thought out can lead to costly mistakes and disastrous results."

With a home in a small historic town, Tara Briggs wanted to inject her tastes into the new interior without clashing with the traditional exterior. But more than anything, she wanted the home to feel glamorous.

VanEch is focusing the design process on a style called Hollywood glam. "When I think of glamour, I think of Hollywood 1930s, lots of drama and big statements," VanEch said.

So far, Briggs has replaced brass light fixtures with crystal chandeliers. "I just love crystal," she said. "It's like jewelry."

The kitchen and master bathroom are to make the boldest statements. "From my first meeting with Tara, I knew that bringing the right balance of sparkle, sheen and class would be the ticket to showcase her style," VanEch added.

The kitchen features a large oblong caged crystal pendant that hangs over the island. The island and all the countertops are Carrara Italian marble.

The gold wall covering in the first-floor powder room gives it a gilded look that wasn't part of the original plan.

"The powder room is perhaps the one room where we deviated from the color palette and it wasn't initially by choice," VanEch said. The vanity that was delivered was not what was ordered and had an antique glaze finish and a beige countertop. "Rather than returning the piece, we decided to go with it," she said. "The results -- a space that pops with an element of surprise."

The master bath captures the European elegance found in grand luxury hotels, with marble floors, walls and tub surround. Glitzy damask wallpaper complements a crystal chandelier that hangs in the middle of the bathroom. "My husband joked that he felt like there should be a dining table under it," Briggs said.

In an extra bedroom Briggs unleashed her inner glamour girl. "Where else can I have purple walls?" She chose Hollywood regency-style mirrored-glass bedside tables and a zebralike-print bed cover.

When faced with decorating a large home, VanEch recommends starting with spaces used most often. "Don't sacrifice a well-thought-out design plan by filling a room with pieces that don't speak to that plan," she advised. "And, take some time to live in the home to really get an understanding of how you might like to use the spaces. "

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