photographs by Brittany Ambridge text by Brittany S. Chevalier interior design by LAUREN LIESS
Designer Lauren Liess invites us into her family’s Virginia home, where nature and simplicity rule.
The living room
curtains are made from
a textile of Lauren
Liess’s own design.
love at first sight
While browsing the real estate section of her local
newspaper in July 2012, designer Lauren Liess
happened upon a house that she knew, at once,
would be perfect for her growing family. She and
her husband, David, weren’t looking to move at the
time, but since the birth of their third child, their
split-level residence in the Washington, DC,
suburbs had begun to feel cramped. Attracted to
the unrenovated 1970s home’s lush, green
surroundings and abundant natural light, Lauren
spent three hours at the open house envisioning
the changes she would make to its floor plan. “I
didn’t want to put an offer in until I knew it was
livable for my family,” she says.
An antique hall
tree adds a
to the newly
In the kitchen, Lauren
mixed metals—brass, iron,
chrome, galvanized steel,
and stainless steel—to
achieve a “collected and
After the family’s offer was accepted, they moved
into the home’s upstairs and embarked on a
six-month renovation to the main floor. With three
young sons, Lauren wanted to keep the interiors
modern, comfortable, and kid-friendly, mixing her
own style with a refined European sensibility.
Redesigning the layout to suit their lifestyle, she
increased the size of the kitchen by removing
one wall and relocating another, which provided
the space for a large island. Instead of installing
new upper cabinets, Lauren chose a pair of
custom iron racks to hold the family’s everyday
tableware. “I appreciate the beauty of simplicity,”
she says. “The open shelving in the kitchen felt
like a perfect touch.”
The designer displays a grouping of her
favorite oil paintings, scored at flea markets
and garage sales, above the kitchen sink.
Aiming to increase the amount of natural light in
the home’s common spaces, Lauren and David
installed windows in the living and breakfast
rooms, as well as in the master bedroom. “When
we moved in, the breakfast room had one window;
adding another helped balance the room’s
composition,” Lauren explains. “In the fall, the
house has a golden glow, and in the spring, the
leaves provide shade.”
Lauren installed this window to give
the room a sense of symmetry.
In the breakfast room, an oversize
harvest table combines style and
function for this growing family.
The hutch is stocked with
serving pieces Lauren has
collected over the years.
To quickly achieve a
vintage, tarnished look,
the ironworker left this
railing out in the rain.
“My favorite part of the renovation was picking out the different architectural pieces,”
says Lauren, who enlisted a local ironworker to help her design the stair railing.
The dining room gave Lauren her
greatest challenge. A slight overhang
obstructs a portion of the window,
making it the darkest room in the
house. Choosing to emphasize what
she would usually consider a negative,
she added a cedar ceiling and hung a
vintage brass-and-capiz-shell pendant
fixture above the dining table. “Now it
feels really special,” she says. “It’s small
and cozy, and the paneled ceiling gives
it an intimate, moody feeling.”
The loft serves as a library, Lauren’s evening work area, and a media room.
The master bedroom required reconfiguring as
well as a clever disguising act. “The room had
three entrances,” Lauren explains, “which made
it feel like Grand Central station. Also, the view
from the windows was the side of the garage
and the driveway.” To provide more privacy, she
designed a steel wall to block the driveway and
added an outdoor shower, creating a secret
oasis that is now one of her favorite areas of
the home. “In the spring and summer, my
husband and I love sitting out there at night.”
A vintage dresser stands
in for a bathroom vanity.
“My husband found the brass bed on the side of the road a few years
ago,” says Lauren. “It’s probably my favorite thing in the house.”