My clients were looking for someone who could design a second home in the vernacular style of the Virginia Piedmont,” says architect David Neumann, the man who ultimately created a new “old” house for homeowners Karen Hulebak and Joseph Rodricks amid 86 flora-and-fauna-filled rural acres in Virginia. The resulting structure blends in beautifully with the region’s 18th- and 19th-century farms, and shares similar features: two stories with cut-in dormers, clapboard siding, steep gables, standing seam roofs, columned porches and stone chimneys.
Inside, reclaimed heart pine floors, 10-foot-high ceilings and quality millwork further support the concept the homeowners desired for their weekend retreat. They also intended to move in full-time upon retirement, so they wanted a floor plan that supported one-story living with modern amenities. “We had a clear idea about the focus of the home,” says Karen. “We wanted a continuous space in which our favorite activities would take place: cooking, reading, entertaining and listening to music.”
Neumann made the first-floor kitchen the hub, from which the living and breakfast rooms emerge through cased openings. The dining room also connects to the kitchen through a butler’s pantry. “This inner core still fits the vocabulary of regional farms, with informal spaces, not many hallways and few aligned doors, yet possesses an interconnectedness and circulation that goes from room to room,” says the architect.
From the core of the house, topped by the guest quarters upstairs, the remaining lower spaces branch out in three wings, rendering the home T-shaped. These respectively encompass the office and master suite; the library; and the mudroom, laundry room and garage. “We made the one-story appendages look organic,” says Neumann, “as if not realized at one moment, but rather occurring over time.”
Another feature is the abundance of natural light. This was created by a winning combination of double-hung windows and sash-and-panel doors—which illuminate rooms on several sides—coupled with an open flowing floor plan. “The goal was always to be a part of the landscape,” says Neumann. “The windows and doors allow the eye to extend outward, but a lot of the living spaces are also physically connected to the outside via porches and terraces.”
Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that when it came to the interiors, the homeowners endeavored to create a home that reflected the serenity of their surroundings. “We wanted the natural world to be a part of our interior world,” says Karen. She found the ideal decorating partner in Jan Roden, a designer whose furnishings store, And George, carries the old-world yet nature-inspired pieces Karen loves.
Roden set about combining her clients’ existing furnishings with items that she custom-designed, such as the leather-and-wood kitchen stools with nailhead trim. “We wanted to create a farmhouse with worldly influence expressed by the owners’ travels and put an upscale spin on things, yet have it be comfortable and functional,” adds the designer.
Antique tables nestle alongside traditional seating upholstered in user-friendly luxe fabrics, such as Ultrasuede, linen and mohair. Roden also integrated the homeowners’ collection of natural found objects, such as bird’s nests, into the de´cor, because Karen insisted that nothing be too precious. She wanted the house outfitted for country living with contemporary conveniences and imbued with a forever feel.
And project manager Donna Stewart, who worked with site supervisor William Holmes on the build, completely understood the directive. “A top-of-the-line sound system, for example, is perfectly concealed behind period-style millwork in the living room,” she says.
In the end, what was a weekend retreat quickly became a primary residence for the homeowners, who rearranged their professional schedules to suit their chosen lifestyle much sooner than expected. And it was a change they eagerly embraced. “The team didn’t just build a home for us,” explains Karen. “They built us into a community.”