Empty nesters upsize into a chic Alexandria home designed for gracious entertaining
There comes a time when only so much can be done to a house without starting over. “It was a never-ending ‘How do we make this house right?’” says designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey, who oversaw eight years of improvements to Craig and Kari Shapero’s former abode in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Alexandria. In 2016, in the midst of yet another renovation, a home with a more open floor plan, better suited for entertaining, presented itself just a couple of blocks away.
Originally built in 1935, the center-hall colonial had undergone extensive renovations in 2009 and checked nearly every box on the Shaperos’ wish list: There was a large dining room, a bright kitchen, space for a formal library—and an enormous gun safe downstairs that could be converted into a wine cellar. A bonus was the airy foyer that intersects with all the public spaces on the main level; one of the Shaperos’ neighbors aptly dubbed it “the lobby” after Cavin-Winfrey installed an inviting corner sofa and accent chairs. “Shazalynn’s design draws guests in as soon as they step through the door,” Kari says.
And that was the point, adds Craig, the chairman and CEO of Megin U.S., a brain-imaging device manufacturer. The couple, now empty nesters, “wanted a formal, grown-up house” that could accommodate parties and receptions of all sizes.
“We love dinner parties, having family for the holidays and hosting fundraisers,” says Kari, who sits on the board of Alexandria’s Child & Family Network Centers. “It’s nice to be the center of the action.”
Cavin-Winfrey started from scratch with nearly all the furnishings and art, adopting Kari’s favorite hues of teal and blue. “She’s a redhead and has beautiful teal eyes,” the designer observes. “It’s a color she really looks good against, so it was a jumping-off point.” Notes of teal crop up everywhere, but perhaps most dramatically in the dining room, where Cavin-Winfrey introduced a delicate, hand-painted wall covering by de Gournay depicting flowering branches and birds; it holds special appeal for Kari, an avid gardener.
The drama continues around the corner in the scullery—a space that’s part pantry, part china storage and part cleanup station, intended to keep the main kitchen free of dirty dishes during parties. Cavin-Winfrey selected teal cabinetry with antiqued-mirror panels to lighten the space—then clad the rest of the walls in identical mirrored tile. “It felt natural to continue the mirrored surface; it makes the space feel bigger and more reflective,” she explains.
In the adjacent kitchen—upgraded and improved for entertaining—custom wall tile with mother-of-pearl quatrefoils and gilded-glass accents is a showstopper. “I am a Van Cleef & Arpels fan. This is my kitchen jewelry,” says Kari, who during this writer’s visit sported the French luxury brand’s signature Alhambra clover-shaped earrings, a nearly identical complement to the backsplash tile. “When Shazalynn showed me this pattern, I loved it immediately. It’s so different, people often mistake it for wallpaper.” She adds that the kitchen’s gold-hued hardware and fixtures impart a special note of elegance to the space.
The kitchen is designed for cooking and hosting. A stemware cabinet and bar tray—where the Shaperos pour wines chosen from their 2,500-bottle cellar—greet guests as they enter from the foyer. Across the room, two refrigerator/freezer units flank a wall lined with drawers, shelving and a counter area, offering additional storage and work space outside the main cooking-and-prep zone.
An adjacent breakfast room flows easily into the family room, which boasts two daybeds that allow guests to face any direction, depending on the party flow. And not only that, Cavin-Winfrey says: “The criteria for the coffee tables was that Kari wanted to be able to dance on top of them.”
The homeowner notes that they’ve been put to the test many times. “We love to dance on the tables during parties!” she says.
The volume goes down in the library—formerly the living room—where a calm, sophisticated vibe prevails. Cavin-Winfrey transformed the space with paneled walls, shelving and cabinetry showcasing books, art and collectibles. Overhead, she installed a custom pendant light with a mirrored shade that references the tile in the scullery. Kari remembers when she and Craig first saw the room while touring the house. “We had this beautiful library in the other house, and I thought it could work here,” she says. “Shazalynn did an amazing job making it so cozy.”
The mood changes yet again on the enormous lower level, which Cavin-Winfrey separated into two seating areas with a flat-screen TV on one end and a drop-down movie screen on the other. A bar with six beer taps flows during sports-viewing parties and movie nights, or when the couple’s grown sons bring buddies home.
Friends often ask why the Shaperos chose to start anew in such an expansive home rather than downsize. “But we use every room in this house,” Craig avers. He frequently works from his home office, and points out that there are several guest rooms upstairs for visiting family, friends and future grandchildren. “Everything we’ve done is for the long term.”
Interior & Kitchen Design: Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey, SCW Interiors, Alexandria, Virginia.
Wallpaper: degournay.com. Table: davidiatesta.com. Chairs: wisteria.com. Chair Fabric: grovesbros.com. Host Chairs: elkgroupinternational.com. Chandelier: circalighting.com. Buffet: formationsuasa.com. Rug: starkcarpet.com. Drapery Fabric: colefax.com. Drapery Trim: samuelandsons.com. Drapery Fabrication: Potomac Draperies, LLC
Round Rug: fibreworks.com. Rug Fabrication: carpetcreationsandflooring.com. Sofa: Custom. Sofa Fabric: lewisandwood.co.uk. Wood-Framed Chairs: Vintage. Chair Fabric: colefax.com. Art over Fireplace: Eduardo Cardozo through artful-living.org. Sconces: urbanelectric.com. Wall Covering: thibaut.com. Three-Tiered Table by Sofa: Owners’ collection. Stair Runner: Custom. Installation: prismcarpets.com.
Chandelier: Owners’ collection. Table: mrbrownhome.com. Chairs: cb2.com. Chair Upholstery: kravet.com. Wallpaper: phillipjeffries.com.
Built-In & Millwork Fabrication: builtincabinet.com. Loveseat: Owners’ collection. Fabric: cowtan.com. Coffee Table: tritterfeefer.com. Pair of Chairs by Built-Ins: leeindustries.com. Chair Fabric: colefax.com. Chandelier: urbanelectric.com. Rug: fibreworks.com. Painting between Windows: ramonvilanova.com.
Day Beds: Custom. Day Bed Fabric: duralee.com. Coffee Tables: bernhardt.com. Swivel Chairs: Custom. Chair Fabric: janechurchill.com. Club Chairs: Owners’ collection. Botanical Fabric: fschumacher.com. Rug: Custom by fibreworks.com. Rug Fabrication: carpetcreationsandflooring.com. Art over Mantel: Eduardo Cardozo through artful-living.org.
Tiles: renaissancetileandbath.com. Countertop: quartzite. Fabrication: rbratti.com. Cabinetry: christianacabinetry.com through scwinteriors.com. Shelving: Custom by akmetalfab.com. Sink: signaturehardware.com.
Countertop: quartzite. Fabrication: rbratti.com. Cabinetry: christianacabinetry.com through scwinteriors.com. Tiles: renaissancetileandbath.com. Range Hood: Custom by akmetalfab.com. Bar Stools: thibaut.com. Stool Fabric: grovesbros.com. Island Pendants: circalighting.com. Hardware: emtek.com, alliedbrass.com.