On the edge of Dalton's Haig Mill Lake, distinctive French Normandy architecture and a majestic circular drive immerse Dr. Azid and Mona Ahmads' nine-yearold home in Old World elegance. Guillotine limestone and fieldstone blend for a precise yet aged façade that complements the style's hallmark cylindrical tower with a conical roof and porte cochere of a bygone era.
Given the lakeside location, the Ahmads shaped their home insightfully. "We wanted to make the most of the view, so we made the house narrow and long," says Mona Ahmad. Two master suites and the family living spaces make up the main floor, which has a modern, open floor plan and luxury amenities, though nearly every room is rich with ancient influences.
For many years before the couple built their home, Mona and Azid collected antique furnishings with the vision of building a lake home that would incorporate them. Now, their French exterior conceals a surprise, an eclectic interior sculpted by traditional Pakistani architectural elements and embellished with other foreign antiques.
At the main entrance, double glass doors shelter a second pair of more elaborate doors and an outer foyer with framed antique Pakistani tiles, the guest's first hints that something remarkable and unexpected awaits. Dated to 1752, the heavily carved, rosewood doors come from the exterior of a Hindu temple and depict ancient deities. Farther inside, three teak arches, also ornately carved, divide the grand foyer from the formal living room. Mona explains that these, and others in the home, are very traditional in Pakistan's older houses. The living room's limestone fireplace is flanked by two one-of-a-kind armoires created out of old Pakistani bedroom doors inlaid with poplar, rosewood and ivory.
While flooding the interior with opulent character, the home's plentiful Pakistani elements also represent the family's heritage. "We wanted to sort of blend the culture here with our culture and ethnicity," says Mona. Nearly every piece of furniture or art is meaningful, but they are not all Middle Eastern.
Paintings by some of Pakistan's most illustrious artists dot the walls of the foyer along with Louis XVI gold sconces and an Egyptian painting on papyrus. Overhead is a gothic, ring-style chandelier, hung from a carved ceiling panel out of a mosque. Now-extinct black rosewood was used for the antique carved frame of a wall mirror and the round pedestal table near the stairs.
Though this combination of Western European and Pakistani styles seems unique, Azid says that in his native country, seeing Portugese or British architecture blended with traditional Pakistani is less uncommon.
Inspired by the chandelier that descends through the middle of a staircase at the Biltmore house, the Ahmads commissioned one for a similar effect. Hung from a hand-painted dome, the circles of pillar lights are embraced by the wrought-iron spiral of the staircase that leads from the foyer to the bedrooms on the second floor.
Along a softly lit hall with a barrel-vaulted ceiling, each child's room is beautifully personalized, often with Mona's own hand-painted walls. On the upstairs landing is her favorite of their two swing beds, which are traditional in a Pakistani home. This one is more than 120 years old and elaborately inlaid with imported woods in patterns of flowers and angels. Among the rooms on the home's lower level is an impeccable home theater with mosque-shaped silhouettes on the walls.
Mona had a modern wish list for her kitchen - a custom desk area for homework, glazed cabinets, even a scullery - tempered with Old World traces, like a honed finish on her granite countertops, an apron front sink and a scagliola hood over her gas cooktop. Near the kitchen is a breakfast nook with a hexagonal domed ceiling and a view of Mona's English garden. Bordering the dining and keeping rooms, an exquisite outdoor living space includes a covered dining area with Pakistani arches and a terrace that overlooks an infinity pool stretching out toward the lake.
"We enjoyed designing and building this house tremendously, always learning in the process," says Mona, who was inspired meanwhile to begin a degree in interior design. "And we built it at a time when our children would get the most out of it." The Ahmads' have created a home where their three children have the privilege of experiencing the artistic and architectural contributions of an array of nations, not the least of which is their parents' native land, removed by thousands of miles.