Artisan Builders In The Press

Skip Sroka has mastered the art of creating a new house that you’d swear was an expert renovation of a very old one.

With attention to details like newel posts, leaded glass, and the kinds of recesses and niches that distinguish last-century style, he gives clients a residence that has all the functionality of a new house but with old-school charms. When clients approached Sroka about building a house in McLean, Virginia, they asked him if he could recommend an architect. He suggested George Myers, with whom he had collaborated on previous projects and who specialized in houses moored in tradition.

A New Old House


Together, the duo took inspiration from the wife’s love of New England architecture and design and created a house that reminds her of her Boston roots and vacations on the northeastern coastline. “She sent me images of houses she liked,” says Myers. “They were all shingle style with double gables and a big front porch. Once I knew that, the only challenge was fitting it on the lot.” Sroka took on the interior finishes. A visitor to the home is greeted by a front door with leaded glass side panels, with glass in shades of turquoise, pale green, and ivory. “We had to get the colors exactly right,” says Sroka. “It’s a detail that screams ‘old house’.” Inside the foyer, a graceful Old-World bannister curves at the bottom steps as the stair widens. “The newel post intentionally feels like an old house,” he says. Pretty paneling, built-in bookshelves, and antique mantels reinforce the illusion.  “I took my mother through the house, and she kept saying, ‘This isn’t a renovation, right?’ ” says Sroka.

The master suite features comfortable seating and notes of glamour from reflective surfaces.

Sroka lowered the ceiling over the bed to lend a cocooned feeling and covered it in shiplap paneling. The fireplace surround is made of mirrored tiles. “It’s heatproof,” says Sroka. “In the master bath, the floor tile was a splurge.” The jewel box of a room also got a shiplap ceiling treatment, connecting the two spaces.

Sroka took cues from the multi-colored pendant lights over the dining table for the kitchen’s lively fabrics. A stone wall around the range lends the sense of age, as do small zinc cabinets set over the cooktop. A screened porch overlooks the pool through arched openings similar to those inside the house. “It’s a nice place to come home to,” says Sroka. A large landing connects the children’s rooms and the guest room. A built-in banquette gives visiting grandparents a place to hang out with grandchildren. A mudroom holds the children’s athletic gear. “With four children, the mudroom cannot be too large,” says Myers.

Photo Courtesy of Erik Kvalsvik

Calm Vibe

Designer Tracy Morris fashions tranquil spaces for working and unwinding in her newly constructed McLean home
Photo Courtesy of Greg Powers

This house is calm and down-to-earth, with touches of extravagance.


The Post-Pandemic House

“This kind of event has a cathartic effect; you start thinking about the totality of all that you’re doing, it’s going to be more about what types of spaces do you need and where do you want them, rather than ‘I just want to build a big house.’” says Stephen Yeonas Jr., a partner at Artisan Builders in McLean.
Photo Courtesy of Angela Newton Roy
The ASPIRE House library by Nestor Santa-Cruz.

The era of quarantine has proved that many people can work from home quite successfully—maybe even for good. “Workspace at home is definitely going to be more desirable,” says Theo Adamstein, an architect-turned-real-estate-broker with TTR Sotheby’s in Georgetown, “and designed to be separated from family space, with more than one office.” With commutes no longer an issue, even far-flung second homes can become primary residences, he says.

The inaugural ASPIRE House, a designer showcase home in McLean built by Artisan Builders, illustrates the work-from-home concept with a library/office on the main level designed by interior designer Nestor Santa-Cruz, and a teen hangout and workspace upstairs designed by Jodi Macklin. The show home was open for tours (both on-site and virtual) in August.

Falls Church architect Seth Ballard says he’s taken the idea a step further, designing separate, soundproof office wings so families aren’t subjected to every member’s Zoom calls.

“For the foreseeable future, everyone’s working from home, on conference calls. The kids are online, too. Internet connectivity—usually wired, not wireless—is the simplest low-cost, high-value add,” Sauri says. “You’ll see a huge difference on video calls.”

The ASPIRE House kitchen concept by Jonas Carnemark

Jonas Carnemark, who designed the ASPIRE showhouse kitchen, included smart appliances such as a fridge with ingredient-tracking cameras that make grocery shopping more efficient. His concept also features a large, flat-panel TV in the wall, which can display online recipes and allow for Zoom happy hours with friends. These features were planned before the pandemic, Carnemark says, “but [quarantine] put a big exclamation point on them.”