Anticipation is one of the pleasures of visiting Lisa and Robert Bailey’s waterfront home near the Canadian border in Washington State.
Through antique gates, the private driveway winds its way through 66 acres of park-like property alongside a pond stocked with rainbow trout, past an orchard where Asian pears ripen in the summer sun. Stone maidens inspired by the 16th-century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo suggest that this peaceful path, perfumed with lavender, is leading to something magnificent.
Heralded by a tiered Italian fountain, a baronial estate of ambitious proportions is before us, amplified by a backdrop of the Georgia Strait. Faced in granite and limestone, the almost 12,000-square-foot home exudes the strength of an English Tudor, embellished with copper downspouts and an English knot garden imparting rare beauty.
“My inspiration came from Versailles and the Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg,” says Lisa Bailey, a self-taught designer with a penchant for touring 17th-century European castles. Even the Vatican in Rome was a catalyst to igniting her creative spirit, giving her perspective as she designed her Renaissance-style garden with a labyrinth as its crucial element. Formal in design with blocks of geometric patterns, Bailey strategically planted perennials for an all-season display of colour.
“As I tour castles, I take mental notes and copy them in my own house,” she says, moving indoors between the Corinthian columns. Decorative parquet flooring in a herringbone pattern echoes that found in the entrance to the Palace of Versailles, suggesting we’re in the company of kings and queens.
The Renaissance-themed interiors imbue a European grace, furnished with curated antiques that once lived in Italian castles or formal homes of French nobility. Getting these relics into place was no easy feat. It took a crane and six workers to lift the 200-year-old Carrara fireplace into the upstairs guestroom, where its intricate detail beautifully complements a vanity from Indonesia, as well as ceiling murals with an Old World finish executed by artist Valerie Skemp.
The owner’s vision for bespoke, fitted joinery came to life thanks to Lyle Dueck of Westwerk Built-Interiors in Vancouver. From the impressive chef’s kitchen, made of American cherry, to the solid crotch and burled mahogany that line the walls of the home theatre, exotic wood was artistically purposed overseas, then shipped to Canada and assembled onsite by a local carpenter.
Most striking in the home is a set of elaborately hand-carved caryatids (sculpted ladies that serve as an architectural support), reclaimed from the parlour of the RMS Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic, and now framing the entrance to the billiards room.
“Every piece she has in her home is a piece of history,” says Bianca Fusco Zanatta, one of Bailey’s dear friends. “The home was built around these antiques so that when you’re in the basement, you actually feel like you’re in a ship — the height of the ceilings, the lustrous walnut carvings and Italian leather all adding to the grandeur.”
The ladies met for the first time on a plane to Palm Springs — two strangers seated next to each other, leaving as lifelong friends after discovering a mutual affinity for the patina of Old World decor. As Bailey began the adventure of building her first home, Fusco Zanatta, a seasoned home designer, joined in Bailey’s excitement at discovering things like rare French silk to be sewn into curtains and charming 17th-century beds with Wedgwood cameos echoed in Rococo-style lighting for an upstairs bedroom.
For over a decade, guests and family have been swept away by the air of a bygone century. The estate has been a fully immersive experience, a place where friends are well taken care of, dreaming of the time they will return.
Text by Janine Mackie Translated by Rui Chen Produced by Brett Price Photography by Seattle Home Photography