You might not expect a house brimming with woodland-inspired whimsy to be located just outside of the Virginia headquarters of the CIA. You also might not expect such a playful home to be owned by two lawyers. But Atlanta, Georgia-based interior designer Gina Sims created just that with her client’s McLean, Virginia home, which is charmingly dubbed the House of Whimsy.
The whimsy-evident in everything from the formal living room’s cockatoo chairs to the crocodile print tile in the kitchen-was an aesthetic specifically requested by Sims’s clients.
“I think everything that they saw there was kind of buttoned up, way more traditional,” says Sims of the hoemowners, who previously lived in a townhouse. “Really simple, very stately, which is beautiful and wonderful. But it just wasn’t them, which is interesting because they’re attorneys, so you think that would kind of fall in line with that kind of thing. But she’s very artistic. She paints. Her family paints. So, a lot of the art in the house was stuff that her family had done.”
Having begun work on the House of Whimsy fall of last year, Sims and her team were struck with an unexpected hurdle: a pandemic. Thankfully, the seemingly gargantuan feat was overcome thanks to a few FaceTimes and a handful of 11-hour workdays on site.
“When it was time to come check on things we couldn’t because COVID happened,” Sims divulges. “So, we just had to do a lot of FaceTime…It was a lot of crazy logistics we were learning on the fly. But at the end we were so organized. It went great.”
Tour the wonderfully whimsical residence below.
The home's sunroom blends indoors and out, while a pair of matching rugs keep the space flowing. “There’s a living space on one side and the dining space on the other,” says Sims. “They're tied together by these rugs, the outdoor rugs. We wanted it to feel like a living space, but also a little bit of an outdoor space, so we used some rattan and some outdoor rugs.”
Described by Sims as “the most dramatic” change to the home, the kitchen is vibrant and unusual. The most noticeable change in the kitchen is due to the removal of a large hood that rested directly above the island.
“They reoriented the entire island. And we took the hood [off],” Sims explains. “Before it was this giant thing that was kind of oppressive.”
In addition to opening up the space by removing the hood, cabinet doors that were once covered with dark millwork now flaunt a sparkling white hue. Giving the whole space a certain element of je ne sais quoi is the crocodile print tile that adds subtle flair to the backsplash.
Formal Dining Room
Given that the House of Whimsy was a near gut renovation, few vestiges of the original home remain. Fortunately, the light fixture that hangs elegantly above the dining room table was one item salvaged by Sims and crew.
Adorning the wall adjacent to the curved dining room table is a Brianza round mirror from Uttermost. Behind the large mirror, a textured, iridescent wallpaper lends a soft glow to the space.
Formal Living Room
Similar to the bedroom and a handful of other spaces in the House of Whimsy, the formal living room easily balances sophistication and whimsy, blending classics like a navy sofa with unique accents such as a cockatoo chair comprised of wood and lacquer.
Meanwhile, some creative design solutions make for another interesting accent in the space. "We had the lamp color matched to the wall, but then I felt like it was still kind of flat,” Sims divulges. “So, one of our folks was like ‘Hey, what if we tie these beads around it?’ I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, it really changes it.’”
"She’s always said, ‘I have always loved green bedrooms for some reason,'" recalls Sims of her client's color request for the bedroom. "We didn’t want to do a ton of saturated color in the wall because we wanted to keep it really light and airy. We took the really light color on the walls."
To balance the pale pink and other, softer colors, Sims added a flock of gold and black birds that appear to take flight over the bed’s headboard.
One of the more uniquely shaped rooms, the guest bedroom proved somewhat difficult regarding the placement of lighting. With the bed placed directly below a dramatically slanted ceiling, Sims installed adjustable lights to flank it.
A true guest bedroom, Sims ensured that this space was equipped with all the necessities for an ideal guest stay.
“These are kind of things that I think every guest room should have,” she says. “Storage. I want to be able to put my stuff away. I’m one of those people who wants to unpack. A fan if you get hot. Here’s a carafe with a glass on top that you can fill it up for your guests and then they have a glass of water. And a little tray and a lamp. And that kind of stuff I think is so nice to have.”
Another dramatic change made to the home was in the office, where a wall of wooden paneling and shelves was turned into a large window.
“The whole point of buying this house is so that they can have a great view and see outside,” says Sims. “And she was like ‘So, why not be able to see outside?’”
Of the handful of furniture pieces the homeowners brought from their townhouse was a dining room hutch that was given new life in the office.
“We took this hutch, that’s obviously a dining piece, and then put it in the office, so that it’s more of a book storage,” she reveals. “And it totally changes the look and feel of that piece. Because there wasn’t a place for it and it wasn’t right for the dining room, but it’s still a really pretty piece." Sometimes reinvention is the best creativity!