Sometimes a house is just a house, well-built, perfectly situated, but without character or personality: a perfect description of a spec house. It takes someone with a keen eye for design and a vision of what a house needs to turn it into something special. In this case that would be interior designer Karen Raines Davis.

The owners, who live in New York with their two young daughters during the week, had been renting a house in Washington when they decided it was time to buy one of their own. Their realtor showed them various houses and then took them to a spec house built in 2006. A prospective buyer had walked away from it and it sat uninhabited for several years.

“We’d been living in an old-fashioned period house and that’s what we thought we wanted,” says the wife of the couple. “When we first saw this house we immediately thought that at 6700 square feet it was way too big for us, but the setting was beautiful and since it was mostly done and furnished we were able to see its possibilities.” The spacious main floor features a living room, master bedroom and sitting area, office, dining room, and a kitchen/family room. “The kitchen is what I fell in love with immediately,” she admits. “A tremendous space with an open floor plan where I could entertain company and cook at the same time. Invariably when we have guests we congregate around the island and it’s not unusual for me to ask for help with the chopping and cooking.”

Hilary Adorno