By Barbara Karth
“I love going to Athens and seeing all the antiquities and I love the architectural elements, but I had never been asked to do a home with so much Greek accent,” says interior designer Carol Lascaris, who describes herself as “Greek by marriage.” As a partner with her husband in the Lascaris Design Group, she has designed numerous palaces and estates throughout the world, many around the Mediterranean. Now, drawing from the birthplace of classical architecture, she has created an abode of understated opulence in a sophisticated European style for her clients, Bill Skaltsas and his wife, Effie.
When Skaltsas bought 14 pastoral acres in Maryland, he knew he would meld memories from his birthplace of Greece into his new home in this adopted country. Childhood recollections of old homes, both gracious and humble, have been incorporated into the architecture. “When I moved to this country, I was not used to having houses with small windows. We had big windows that opened to see the sun, and always high ceilings,” Skaltsas explains. He consulted books on architectural plans of old homes in Greece. “I said, ‘If I am going to build a house, I am going to do it the right way.’”
But Skaltsas didn’t want a typical Greek home, says Lascaris. “He just wanted the undertones there to make him happy.” The end result is rich with historical references, architectural elements and ornamental motifs, but Hellenic and other European influences unfold with subtlety. They are not overbearing.
When Lascaris entered the project the house was under construction, but “no interior detailing had been established. So when we did out drawings, we established every molding, every baseboard, every, feature.” she says. “The elements of the wall moldings are very classical.”
The grand foyer is flanked by a formal living room on the right and a formal dining room on the left; at an intersecting axis, the gallery leads to the kitchen and family room at one end and the master-bedroom suite and library at the other. From the columned gallery, three steps descend to the conservatory that encompasses a seating area at one end and a casual dining area at the other. It was Skaltsas who insisted the conservatory be stepped down from the remainder of the house—a memory from a home in Greece.
Lascaris added even more detailing, from the cast stone fireplace to the limestone medallions that punctuate the porous stone tiles in the conservatory. With infinite attention to detail, the designer even installed custom grilles for the air returns.
Architectural embellishments are augmented by the faux application of columns, moldings and wall paneling by Lascaris Design Group’s in-house artist, Ming Ming Lam. Motifs from the Parthenon decorate the foyer. In the dining room, four walls became eight for an octagonal room incorporating niches, faux columns and decorative architraves. In the conservatory, a rhythmical decorative border replicates the motif of Ionic capitals.
In addition to his affinity for architecture emanating from Greece, Skaltsas has a highly developed aesthetic sense honed as a color separator, the person in the printing industry who creates a range of tints and shades from just four colors. Working first in black and white and developing his skills in grayscale while in Greece, he then came to the United States and eventually opened his own full-service graphic art business. So Lascaris recognized from the beginning that color would be crucial in the creation of a home for her client.
It is said that it was the incredible blue of the sea that inspired the colors in the Greek flag, which is blue and white and occasionally adorned with gold. Lascaris utilized the blue and gold, tweaking them for variations from room to room as she maintained flow and consistency. Sapphire mutates to azure and sea foam green as golden yellows mellow into butter and apricot. These soft tinctures flow through the rooms, and soothingly cool colors are enlivened by warm golden tones that impart lightness and energy for a palette balanced in mood and hue.
Living and dining areas range from formal, to casual, to curl-up comfortable. Furniture is arranged for several conversation groupings in the living room. form and line are carried form grouping to grouping. “When you have sofas in the middle of the room, I think it is very important that they be sculptural and not just a bi barrier. You want them to be beautiful from every direction, but you want them to be comfortable,” Lascaris explains. The sofas’ curved backs echo the lines of the Empire -style sofa upholstered in the silken brocade at the far end of the room. Rolled backs on the slipper chairs repeat the shape of the arms on this sofa. Lascaris judiciously mixes stripes, prominent prints and tone-on-tone waves, combining them with velvety and silken textures. She designed the custom rug to assimilate motifs used in the 18th-century palaces of Frances.
In the dining room, she has infused a regal French flavor with a table and sideboard reflecting the Empire period. Ormolu ornamentation lends a restrained air of opulence, referencing a French neoclassical style. The rolled back of the chairs and the curves rounding the rectangular table keep the room soft and inviting.
Living is more casual in the conservatory—a light and airy garden room with porous stone floors contrasting with the polished marble in the adjacent gallery and foyer. Club chairs and an iron and stone coffee table convey a comfortable and intimate informality despite the large scale of the space. An urn-shaped lamp base alludes to the surrounding classical elements. At the opposite en, Greek key borders embellish a skirted table surrounded by four upholstered chars.
Abundant in soft chenille, the family room is for gathering with friends and family, curling up with a book or even chatting with the cook in the adjacent kitchen. Again, Lascaris has emphasized the backs of the furnishings as curves undulate around the seating area. Throughout the home she has thwarted the hard edges of architectural elements with soft flowing forms, giving strength to the curvaceous French influences while modifying the more angular classical references. “Sometimes the classical elements are had-lined, so I think it is important to soften them,” says Lascaris.
Gold turns t apricot in the master bedroom where luxurious luminescent silks play off one another against a wall alluding to stone and stamped with a fleur-de-lis. Furnishing are minimal yet proportionate to this high-ceilinged room. A chest, “simple but grand in scale” as Lascaris notes, is a prefect foil to the ornate mirror above, French doors open to the back terrace and expansive views of the landscape beyond.
Throughout the home, says Lascaris,”we have interpreted a unique look and yet reflected what the homeowners wanted.” It is home to a blend of formality and casual living, of old and new, of the past and of the present, but most of all, it gives pleasure and contentment to its owners. Which, ultimately, is the purpose of good design.