By Linda E. Clopton
George Washington never slept here, but he did sleep nearby. Indeed, Mount Vernon is just a coin’s throw up the Potomac from the elegant home of retired Maj. Gen. Guy L. and Frances L. Hecker.
When the couple bought the property, it ended in a cliff that dropped steeply to the river. They graded the land, moving the dirt to build up the front of the house, brought in huge rocks and landscaped right down to the water.
“This is one of Washington’s original farms,” Frances explains. “There were a lot of American Indians in this area, so there had to be an archeological dig before we could get permission to make the changes. We’re literally right on the river. We can see five miles down the Potomac.”
The Heckers started looking for a decorator before they broke ground on the house. “I didn’t realize how smart that was at the time,” she says. They were referred to Lascaris Design Group in McLean, Virginia, and Carol Lascaris proved to be invaluable as construction proceeded. “Carol designed a lot of the architectural things into the house that wouldn’t be there if we hadn’t had her.”
Lascaris did all the interior architectural drawings, creating a hallway with barrel-vault ceiling between foyer and living room, both of which soar upward twenty-two feet. She extended the house outward by about fifteen feet to allow more space for a graceful stairway in the entrance hall. It’s a Georgian design with wonderful volutes at the bottom,” she explains. “We didn’t want to crowd it.” Lines that lift the eye skyward and a motif of griffins, mythological creatures with eagles wings, relate to the career of the Air Force general. What may surprise, however, is the pervasive sense of comfort, even to the point of coziness. “I think if anything was important to them, it was comfort,” Lascaris adds. “To have lofty spaces but make you feel comfortable in them was a nice challenge.”
A challenge she met. “It’s a big house, but it’s not isolated and cold,” Guy Hecker says. “‘Comfortable’ and ‘warm’ are the comments we get most often from people who see it. everything flows from one space to another, including the color schemes.”
“It was exciting to work with people who enjoyed color as much as I did,” Lascaris adds. “Color is my thing. I don’t have a favorite;I just love color. The Heckers had the confidence to go forward with some very sunny, beautiful accents and allowed me to use strength in color.” The resulting warmth adds to the sense of comfort.
One thing Lascaris did not have to do was find accessories. “”It’s the only project I can think of where my clients had every accessory years before they had the house.” As the Heckers traveled, both for his career and for pleasure, they loved to search for paintings and collectibles. One year, on o six-week tri[ to the Orient, the filled a ship’s container with their finds. They chose wisely, amassing objects with stories to tell as well as beauty. Lascaris avoided using Chinese furniture or antiques that might compete, selecting instead comfortable seating, rich fabrics and, of course, color to accent and showcase the collected treasures. “The symmetry and the warmth of color reflect the owners’ personalities,” she adds. That spirit sort of embraces you.”
I’ve never had a place for everything like I do in this house,” says Frances. “Our other house was very dark, so I wanted these bright yellows. Everybody walks in and says how cheery it is. And Looking out at the river makes it even more so.”
Her husband adds, “Wherever you are is a favorite room.”
High praise indeed.