Beth and Juan Astruc have been on a long journey.
The pursuit of the vision, in fact, has spanned decades and faced epic obstacles, not the least of which have been a pandemic and an economic crisis or two. The twists and turns in the couple’s lifelong quest for a home that truly represents them and provides for the needs of their family of six are something out of a storybook, complete with a very happy ending.
The nearly century-old classic Georgian house on Monument Avenue recently transformed from its previous incarnation as office and residential space into a home far removed from what they originally planned. In 2005, when the Astrucs first approached architect Dan Ensminger about designing a new home located on a lot they had purchased at Mooreland Commons in Richmond’s West End, they asked for a modern Spanish-style twist similar to the homes Juan knew from his home. The family’s roots go back to the Andalusia region of Spain.
“We started looking at other possibilities,” Beth says. “We knew we still wanted modern Spanish style, but it wasn’t until we traveled to Spain that we saw what we wanted. We were in Granada and staying in an old house that was still very traditional on the outside, but when we got inside it had been completely changed for a “Clean and modern interior. We immediately said, ‘This is us! This is what we want!'”
Their search in Richmond opened up to include older homes they could convert, and in 2017 they purchased the Monument Avenue home, which will offer a traditional exterior and a four-story interior that can accommodate a modern, open interpretation of Juan’s Spanish heritage. The spacious property also offers the potential to host large extended family gatherings for the couple ranging from weekly dinners to wedding receptions. Juan is one of seven children, and Beth is one of three. Add their four adult children, plus friends and cousins in the US who are visiting Spain.
Ensminger notes that, unlike other Monument Avenue projects he worked on, the house did not offer much grace or luxury inside. The ground floor, originally designed by noted architect Duncan Leigh as a doctor’s office and more recently housing an advertising agency, had ceilings only 8 feet high and was carved into a honeycomb of desks. A modest L-shaped staircase leads from the eastern entrance to the upper dwelling.
“I knew I had to dig in to achieve what Astrox needed,” Ensminger says. “It wasn’t your typical home on Monument Avenue. It was depressing.”
He began with the staircase, removing existing stairs and walls and opening the entryway up enough to install a Carrara marble floor with copper inlay in the foyer and a sweeping nautilus staircase up to the third floor. A staircase and dramatic cascading light fixtures provide a sculptural counterpoint to the square lines of the house and flood three floors with light.
The Astrucs selected interior designers Amy Beaty and Carter Brown Williams of Beaty & Brown in Richmond to design the home’s interiors. “There were a lot of demos, and we had almost a blank slate to translate the spaces into the modern, clean, almost sculptural Mediterranean style they wanted,” Beatty says.
The family’s main living and entertaining spaces are located on the first floor, where creamy white, tan and gray convey the monochromatic effect the couple wanted. Curvy furniture covered in rich white fabrics draws on the character’s textures. The expansive space flows from the cozy living room and its balcony overlooking Monument Avenue to the dining room furnished with a round white table that seats six and a family living area at the back.
This is us, after all.
Ensminger opened the space above the kitchen to the second floor. A raised white plaster fireplace mantle reaches the second level, centering the space and providing a dramatic focal point for the room. A modern brass and glass pendant designed by Betty runs the length of the marble kitchen island.
Large, entertainment-friendly living spaces present their own challenges. “Everything is so open that every aspect of the plan had to overlap with everything else,” Beatty says.
The icing on the cake is the home’s state-of-the-art sound system with speakers built into the walls and ceilings. A true “smart” home, it’s hard to name a feature that isn’t controlled by the couple’s cell phones, including the sound system. Even the large windows that run the length of the shower area and bathtub in the primary bathroom can change from transparent to opaque to provide privacy with the click of a button.
Successful relationships require give and take. It is the essence of finding balance that applies not only to people’s sphere, but also to their homes. The Astrox family’s long quest to find the right place for themselves, their family and their friends seems to be nothing if not successful.
“This is us, after all,” Beth says.