Coming Home

Dad is a peacock, Mom a flower. One family’s mural history.

By: Sherri Dalphonse

If Sheri Gorsen stands in her foyer and closes her eyes, she can still smell her mother’s gardenias.

The blooms filled the gardens of her childhood home near Philadelphia. In the foyer of her McLean house, a mural Gorsen painted features white gardenias. They represent her mother, who died when Gorsen was in her twenties.

“My foyer is a symbol of my life and my past and all the people in my life,” says Gorsen, 47, who co-owns a decorative-arts business called Grant Dawson.

A peacock in the mural is her dad, who died when she was in her thirties. In mythology, a peacock’s tail is full of eyes that see all. “It’s his watching over me,” she says.

Gorsen’s husband, Robert, a neurosurgeon at Inova Fairfax Hospital, is a lion. “He’s my rock,” she says. Their 13-year-old son—whom she calls a unique, fascinating creature—is a hummingbird.

A horse beside a pool of water stands for her 15-year-old daughter. Gorsen painted the horse’s reflection as a unicorn, a symbol of healing. “You learn so much from your kids,” Gorsen says. “She’s been an amazing healer for me.”

The foyer has become a favorite backdrop for photos: “It sets the tone for the house—peaceful and filled with passion.”