French Country Home Defines Balance and Beauty
This blended family makes it work
The de Jong home offers a true representation of a family who is dedicated to hard work, high standards and notable achievement. The 8,400-square-foot residence houses Brent and Mariella de Jong and their blended family—his two daughters, Madeline and Grace; her daughter, Gabriella Mahan, and her son, Brandon Mahan; and their daughter, Keira. Obviously, they need a big house and a lot of balance to make their busy lives work. The beauty of the French country home comes in the form of the aesthetic of the place and the aura permeating its walls.
The spirit of the home is unmistakable. These are folks who work hard in order to enjoy fulfilling and interesting lives. There is evidence everywhere: global art, significant souvenirs and fascinating furniture attest to the travel and cultural diversity this family affords. The art is simply amazing.
Every room downstairs features attention-grabbing work collected from the exotic destinations this family’s lifestyle allows them to visit—whether for business or pleasure. From the Dutch seal prominently centered on the huge antique Indonesian shutter in the formal living room—his family is Dutch—to the Peruvian art tiles and the Aymara Indian portrait by a friend of the family—she is Peruvian—in the study, or the red Chinese vases in the master suite that were collected during business trips—both of them work in energy infrastructure in the Emerging Markets—the details of the home easily speak a museum-like quality. Even the rugs are remarkable. The floor in each room is covered with an exquisite piece of textural, fabric art.
The size of the home speaks to the balance required to manage the number of people who inhabit the dwelling. Due to the merging of the two families, there are seven.
Mariella says, “It was very important to us when we got married and began looking at homes that everyone would feel equal—ownership, belongings, space and activities are most definitely equally divided in this home.”
Each child has their own bedroom, private bathroom and walk-in closet. The size of each is ample and uniform. Brent adds, “There is an over-riding feeling of mutual respect between all of us, and our private and shared spaces underscore that respect.”
Aesthetically speaking, the home’s exterior is beautifully balanced. A stunning, stucco façade is softened by textured paint, the curving driveway, a wrought-iron gate and elegant landscaping.
Just inside the foyer and front room are two hand-painted French 18th century chandeliers with flickering light that offers the perfect ambiance for welcoming guests. Then, the stairs with their wonderfully wrought-iron rails pour at once, fluidly and splendidly, from the second floor, landing gracefully amid an equally fluid front room. In fact, nowhere in this house will you find sharp corners. Soft corners, soft colors and soft touches rampantly refine the space.
Throughout the abode, spacious and comfy family rooms provide more than enough area for family and friends to gather. The most obvious place, the kitchen, is large and welcoming. The sleek, blond finish of the cabinets, the creamy shine of the travertine floor and the glossy Viking appliances are a few of the reasons why this room (along with the wine grotto) is Brent’s favorite room. “I love to cook for all of us.”
Mariella admits, “He has a passion for cooking, and when Brent cooks, we always get the best ingredients and the best recipes. Everyone admires his culinary skills.”
An expansive French country table with a long bench on one side defines the breakfast room. “The kids love the bench,” says Mariella. Proportionately overlooking the table is an antique European hotel dish rack where ancient plates are situated between the slats. Even Keira’s wooden high chair matches the other furniture in era. The flow of the room remains uninterrupted down to the last detail, and because of the weathered finishes on the furniture, none of the rustic charm of a French country kitchen is lost.
The formal living features the home’s most prized rug—a Persian, rare due to its peach color. The large contemporary furniture is inviting and the smaller random antique pieces make for interesting conversation. Two antique Indian boat masts suspended from the walls on either side of the fireplace are just one example of the note-worthy details. More details include the wooden folding chairs and Indonesian antiques.
A couple of sentimental details, accentuating the heart of the home, are the beautiful wedding and pregnancy albums featured prominently in their own special nooks.
“The formal dining room was the last room we finished because we couldn’t agree on the chandelier. At the dealer’s shop, we had narrowed down our choice to one style—a 17th century French chandelier, but I was insisting on the larger version,” Brent confides.
Grinning, Mariella admits, “He won that argument. Once we situated all of the furniture, art and accessories, the smaller chandelier would’ve been lost in the golden, domed ceiling among all the big furniture.” He’s right. Behind the enormous Indian dining table and custom handmade chairs hangs a colossal headboard from an Indonesian wedding bed with a distressed mirror insert. Beneath it is another extraordinary rug—this one Turkish and unusual due to its predominantly green hue.
The media room sports multiple over-sized, over-stuffed recliners and is equipped with theatre-quality video and audio, as well as a concession area (which even features an authentic, old-fashioned popcorn machine). The family room downstairs and the upstairs den both offer comfortable, generous furniture and proportionate flat-screens where a couple of different groups of teens might gather well within their parents’ jurisdiction.
The only bedroom downstairs is the master, and its style remains refined and perhaps more serene than the other rooms. The tranquility is punctuated by the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the backyard pool area. The outdoor setting with its magnificent landscaping is picture perfect to match the art, furniture and bedding in the room.
A handmade, delicately hand-painted coverlet complements the 18th century Indian bed. A huge Spanish mirror carved from one piece of wood hangs superbly on one wall adjacent to an antique Chinese armoire, equivalent to the mirror in its majesty.
“We love our bedroom,” confesses Mariella. “Like most married couples with children, we view our private space as a sanctuary, so when we were planning it together, we selected things that would enhance that concept.”
The kids’ rooms echo that idea. Their rooms are personalized spaces, each with a mural and accessories that reflect the child’s interests. Whether it be horses, dolls, fashion, elaborate Lego architecture or bunny rabbits and fairies, each child in this family can feel at home in their private space.
Brent asserts, “A lot of the success of any blended family comes from time spent together, but each of our kids also knows that they have their own retreat within the bigger picture where they can express themselves individually.”
One place where they all come together is in the study. Much of the work Brent and Mariella do in their businesses is accomplished here, and the kids love to work alongside their parents doing homework or art. The gigantic desk in the study was originally an Italian dining table and was delivered to the house to be considered as the de Jong’s formal dining table. It is most definitely long enough; however, they decided that their dining table needed to be much wider, so they returned it.
“We could not get the beauty of the piece out of our heads,” Mariella says, “so it eventually dawned on us that it would make a great two-sided desk.” Brent’s desk chair is another stunning European antique, this one from Germany.
Behind the desk is a built-in wall of bookshelves where books and photographs of friends and family are artfully displayed. The other wall displays another reflection of this family’s heart. There, beneath the Ugalde portrait, sits the framed eulogy that Mariella wrote for her father, alongside the wedding bouquets that she and Gabriella, her daughter, carried when she and Brent got married. Both are in their own delicate glass box, preserved forever as a memento of the union of the families, which may very well be why this is Mariella’s favorite room in the house.
The balance and beauty the de Jong’s have achieved in their lives is reflected in their residence, and their
family blend inspires everyone who knows them. Evidence exudes from the architecture, the aesthetic and the aura of this magnificent home and will no doubt continue to unify and ground this amazing couple and their children.
TEXT BY CHERYL ALEXANDER • PHOTOS BY J PAMELA PHOTOGRAPHY
INTERIORS BY TAYLOR AND TAYLOR DESIGNS
Top image: The formal living room, which opens fluidly to the outdoor entertaining space, offers this family more than ample room to gather comfortably with friends. Remarkable details like the antique Indian boat masts, which seem to float from the walls, the wooden folding chairs or the Indonesian shutter panel with the authentic Dutch seal in the middle can be found throughout the home. The rug is the de Jong’s most prized—a Persian, peach in hue. Furnishings from Noel.