Modern design meets camping life
With a desire to escape the confines of New York City, Danny and Katie MacNelly, set off to find their own slice of nature.
18 September, 2016
“There was something poetic about the fact that we were upstream from the same river that passes not too far from our city house,” Katie tells Dwell.
Finding a narrow 40-acre site near James River in Virginia, the architects began designing a countryside retreat to enjoy with their sons. The result, three distinct cabins housing three bedrooms and plenty of space for family living, both inside and out.
“Siting the house was pretty easy,” says Katie. “There’s a bluff, which is at the highest point overlooking the river, so we decided to position the house there.”
The three cedar clad modules were precisely placed to frame views of the forested river valley. The main living zones, where the family spends the majority of the time, are sited in the central cabin. The eastern module includes the master bedroom, bathrooms and bunk room, while the western module houses a media room and guest wing.
To avoid tainting their country experience with parked cars, they cleverly positioned the garage a short walk away. “We liked the idea of having to walk around to it,” says Danny and adds, the kids feel as though they’re hiking into the property.
Perhaps one of the most successful aspects of the build in our minds is their focus on the outdoor social spaces. The architects have successfully captured the feeling of camping, yet catered for modern living and design.
Sheltered on the southern orientation is an intimate, stone paved outdoor space. The central feature of the area is a large open fireplace which has been built into the building’s façade.
“It’s like a campsite in the woods that really opens up to the forest and the sky,” says Katie.
“In the summer, we live in the front of the house,” adds Danny, “but, in the winter, we spend more time on that protected side.” The northern-side, connecting the guest cabin with the main living area, is an expansive deck with views of the property’s stunning landscape.
The garage is stocked full of kayaks and inner tubes, perfect for floating and playing down in the river. At the end of a day spent riverside, the family huddle around an enormous fire pit before making their way back to the house.
“There’s a lot of burning that happens—a lot of wood chopping” mentions Danny. “The fireplaces are as big as we could build them without having to make expensive custom pieces.”
The outdoor spaces carve their way between the modules and beyond, offering all the amenities one could desire from a country family retreat.
“It’s an architect’s dream to have a place like this, with all this land. It will allow us to experiment for a long time.”
Original story appeared in Dwell with photographs by James Ewing.
Render by the homeowner’s architect practice, ARCHITECTUREFRIM.