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GREAT ROOM:: The room's 20-foot ceiling highlights the cast-stone fireplace.
Nestled at the end of a curving, mile-long driveway deep in the woods of rural Powhatan, the Stinsons' newly built, brick Georgian home rises from the earth like something sprung from a modern American fairytale. Ruby and Pearl, the two floppy-eared basset hounds bounding around the massive foyer — with reproduction bird cages, planters and old French doors — do little to break the spell.
Bill Stinson, the owner of W.L. Stinson Custom Homes, and Les Stinson, the owner of the design firm Hunt and Gather, built their home from scratch
, like a choose-your-own-adventure novel but with bricks, mortar and molding. After clearing the land in 2006, they moved into their new home in Powhatan in October 2008 from South Side's Reed's Landing and haven't looked back since. The house is perched on the banks of the James River on 10 pristine acres of woodland, and Les says they don't miss city living one bit: "Friends still come out, the dogs love it, there's walking; it's just a breath of fresh air."
SUNROOM: Reproduction planters on an antique chest of drawers soften its formal lines.
Married for 23 years, Les says that she and Bill worked well together — and quickly — from the blueprints on. "One day there's a hole, then concrete's poured, then it's framed. It takes shape right before your eyes," she says. And while Bill concentrated on the big picture architecturally, she kept an eye on the details. "He kind of lets me get my way," she laughs, surveying the layout of her French-inspired, modern interior. "He would love a La-Z-Boy in every room. There is one in his office upstairs. As long as there's a flat-screen TV and a big couch in most of the rooms, he's happy."
But with 8,000 square feet of house, five bedrooms, six-and-a-half baths, an unfinished basement, a covered porch and a pool beckoning from an island of broken travertine marble, the devil is in the details.
BEDROOM: The master bedroom's double-hung windows flood the room with light and offer a stunning view of the river.
With seven to eight different shades of white on the walls of her home, Les chose to decorate with a subtle schematic. "I always like using neutrals and textures and then popping in color with the art, pillows and accessories. As a designer, it's easier to show things in a more neutral environment." The kitchen, designed to be airy and open, was crafted by several different companies: Wood and Tile built the cabinets, Mosaic designed the backsplash, and Marva created the marble countertops.
And the many other rooms, from the foyer to the butler's pantry, display a surprising juxtaposition of old and new. Chandeliers, French grandfather clocks, statues and pub-style benches blend new art and antiques. Covered sisal, a durable natural fiber, lines the bedroom floors wall-to-wall upstairs, while a scattering of zebra-stenciled cowhides accent the hardwoods on the first floor. The great room, boasting 20-foot ceilings, a cast-stone fireplace and several columns from Caravati's, creates the illusion of a French chateau. The master bedroom, with its 15-foot ceilings and double-hung windows, offers a view of the river that is at once spectacular and intimate.
KITCHEN: The most popular room in the house, the kitchen, displays the work of local craftsmen.
The Stinsons love to entertain, and although their home appears picture-perfect to guests, Les says that for her it will always be a work in progress. "I think that's what decorating is. You do a few things, sit back and then start again. I'm always moving things around." Originally from the Midwest, Les attributes her love of design to her mother. "She was so out-of-the-box. She was doing shabby-chic in the '60s. Turning a table leg into a candlestick. She was a real junker. She loved antique malls, thrift stores and flea markets. She was always doing something unusual that you don't often see."
Gently teasing Les about her love of antiques, Bill jokes, "Why can't we have real furniture like everyone else?" But Les has decorated their home in a fashion both eclectic and elegant that seems like an extension of both their personalities. "We're very casual, very laid-back, but I wanted the house a little more modern and open, old mixed with new. I think it's welcoming. It is what it is and not to be taken too seriously at all."
Is this the Stinsons' forever house? "I hope so," says Les. "Until we're too old to do anything. I feel like I'm on vacation. Right now, I don't want to go anywhere."