When Americans David and Carolyn Stump returned in the mid-1980s from Leuven, Belgium, they brought back more than T-shirts. After living in one of the centuries-old houses that line that city's cobblestone streets, the Stumps came home with ambitious plans to someday re-create much of its architecture here. The result is a grand and gracious house in Potomac that looks as if it belongs on the pages of an Old World art book.
"We lived in an old beguinage in Belgium," says David Stump, 55, referring to the collection of houses built in Belgium, Holland and Germany in the 12th century for religious communities of lay women. "We loved the towering roofs inside the buildings, the leaded glass and the wonderful beamed ceilings. That style of architecture looked so wonderful with so many of the pieces of furniture that we had."
Having relocated four years ago from another beloved home in Northern California, the Stumps figured it was finally time to combine all the design elements they loved -- Arts and Crafts furniture, large-scale watercolor paintings and family heirlooms -- inside the perfect house. With its many Craftsman influences, their home in the high-end Merry-Go-Round Farm community in Potomac manages to combine the easy informality of a bungalow with the stateliness of a European manse.
Swinging open the heavy wooden front door, the Stumps usher visitors into their intricately trimmed quarter-sawn oak-paneled foyer. A quick turn to the left across the Jerusalem limestone floors leads past the dining room, which sits in the house's curved turret. Beyond a nearby hallway is the wood-beamed kitchen, which Carolyn Stump designed after attending an Arts and Crafts fair in San Francisco. Porcelain pots, ceramic jugs and weights that were used in David's childhood home in Indiana are tucked under granite-topped shelves; oak panels with finely wrought brass handles hide everyday kitchen appliances.
A worn wooden Arts and Crafts hutch also sits in the corner, the first piece of furniture the couple inherited nearly 30 years ago, this one from David's Aunt Olive. "We wanted all of the kitchen to follow the style of that hutch," says Carolyn, 56, a native of Washington, and an avid craftswoman who insisted that an upstairs room be earmarked for basket-making and other creative tasks.
The treasured family pieces placed throughout the house give the couple "a real sense of being connected to the past," says David Stump, who works as executive vice president of drug development for Human Genome Sciences in Rockville.
"We wanted more than anything to feel a real sense of warmth where we live," he adds.
Jim Rill, a partner at Bethesda-based Rill & Decker Architects, worked with the Stumps to build a home that could showcase and complement their heirloom pieces and reflect their design philosophy.
"Carolyn and David came to us with a lot of words to describe their house: French, quality not quantity, private," says Rill. With the help of pictures from books and magazines, the couple's 7,500-square-foot dream house began to take shape, and the focus turned quickly to "a house that was woody, well-crafted and light," Rill says.
"They wanted something that fit in with the landscape and wasn't ostentatious. I really admire people who go for subtly elegant instead of over-the-top, which you often find in Potomac."
The couple's Mediterranean-style home in San Carlos, Calif., served as inspiration for the Maryland home's wraparound deck facing the Potomac River. "We realized that we'd adapted to the California view of living, which is that a house is a place to sleep, but the outdoors is as important to your everyday life," David Stump says.
Several rooms in the house are dominated by windows, with a continuous view of the wooded property. The light that comes in through the windows "gives the house a real sense of warmth," says David Stump. "It can be a cold winter evening, and we can build a fire and look outside. It's a real haven."
The upper floor contains the couple's favorite rooms, as well as a number of their favorite pieces of furniture. A signed original Stickley daybed sits proudly in the hallway, an acquisition from an antiques dealer in Shreveport, La., where the couple has found many Mission-style pieces.
The basement covers 2,500 square feet and functions as a large and fully appointed apartment for the couple's many out-of-town guests, "who really use that floor as their home away from home," says Carolyn Stump, who continued the Arts and Crafts furniture scheme in the guest bedrooms. "We designed that part of the house so that they could walk outside and take a hike along the river trails, or leave without feeling like they were bothering us."
The couple's 25-year-old daughter, Shana, is a frequent visitor with her husband, Brian. The newlyweds live in Bloomington, Ind., where she studies law at Indiana University and he teaches. Earlier this summer, the Stumps hosted the couple's evening wedding at the house, turning the cobblestone motor court into a tent-covered party space for 120 guests. Carolyn Stump says the house "is absolutely dynamite at Christmas with all the decorations, but it was an even better house to have a wedding. We had a garden theme and put calla lilies and purple hydrangea everywhere.
"The only little issue we had was with the cicadas," she adds with a laugh. "We heard them singing throughout the night -- nothing too bad -- but, luckily, the jazz band kind of drowned them out."
Jill Hudson Neal is the Magazine's design editor. She will be fielding questions and comments about this Fall Home & Design Issue on Monday at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com/liveonline.