With its green pastures, horse farms and picturesque towns, rural Virginia reminds many travelers of the English countryside. That was the impression British hotelier Simon Lowe and his wife Tanya had when they visited the area in search of a vacation property a few years ago. Intent on building a home where they could spend time near their two grown daughters who live in Bethesda and Brooklyn, the Lowes found the ideal setting in the gated community of Creighton Farms near Leesburg. “We didn’t want to live in suburbia or in the city, so we looked farther out,” Tanya explains. “This was the perfect combination of the country and being near enough to our children.”
They purchased a double lot (six-plus acres) overlooking Creighton’s Jack Nicklaus golf course. “The idea,” says Simon, “was that we’d be here for spring, fall and Christmas.” The couple splits the rest of the year between their residence in Surrey, England, and their villa on the Caribbean isle of Nevis.
Though he’s had no formal training, Lowe has been designing his own restaurants, hotels—and homes—for decades. The couple’s former residences, including a 14th-century estate in Sussex, have been featured in British shelter magazines. Simon even helped close friend Susie Westmacott redecorate the principal guest suite in the British Embassy residence during the recent tenure of Sir Peter Westmacott as ambassador in Washington. So there was no question that Lowe would design the new Virginia abode.
Lowe’s country house, however, would not be a “Downton Abbey” throwback. “I didn’t want anything to do with homes in England,” he says. “I think houses have to fit in with their natural topography. Whereas some Americans want to have English Tudor houses or French chateaux, I thought ‘We’re in Virginia,’ so we looked around at Virginia farmhouses.”