The Modern Bucolic

A backcountry house gets the modern treatment with bold vistas and exceptional energy efficiency.

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Architect Greg Wiedemann, who completed the project with his firm Wiedemann Architects, describes the house as “a modern interpretation of the traditional white clapboard farmhouse and red barn that populate the neighboring countryside.” In his take on the old standard, he proposed an exterior clad with high-performing, insulated glass. The residence features windows and doors by Marvin, which maximize thermal protection and interior ventilation. The result is an open and modern residence with state of the art amenities: an update to a traditional country style.

The property boasts privileged access to the community’s open spaces. With its many broad windows, the house enjoys views of a rolling meadow and a lake, as well as a shared farmhouse and barn where co-housing residents can get together. “It’s a bucolic rural community that enjoys the character of the Virginia countryside,” Wiedemann says.

Initially, however, the site presented difficulties—the residence was built on a narrow plot upon a steep landscape. “It was challenging, but we turned the disadvantage to an advantage,” Wiedemann recalls. The architect designed the house to benefit from the sharp slope, allowing each of the two storeys access to the exterior. “The front of the house has beautiful views of the meadow, whereas the back of the house has mountain views.”

The house’s tall, slender layout also worked in favor of energy efficiency, a key parameter in the project, says Wiedemann. “The house has very thick exterior walls that are super insulated.” Wiedemann used materials intelligently, using Marvin’s selection of highly insulated glass French doors and windows. Wiedemann has worked with Marvin products for over 30 years, and in this case, the company “provided the best package in terms of cost, materials, hardware options and different operations,” he explains. The architects were also able to maintain a traditional farmhouse material palette by utilizing two color options from Marvin Windows.

The orientation and elongated frame of the residence maximizes breezes, so windows were generously placed to optimize ventilation. “Particularly, Marvin’s venting picture window afforded us the ability to have cross-ventilation and substantial size.” This effect is further amplified with a ventilation system built into a cupola that tops the house.

For the interior, Wiedemann opted for an open plan, with a flexible space on the lower level that can be transformed to fit multiple uses. “The client wanted a house where she could age in place,” said Wiedemann. While the lower level compliments the upper home as a living area, it also has a separate entrance which activates it as an independent residence that could be rented out, used for visitors, or ultimately turned into a caregiver’s apartment.

Ultimately, the task for Wiedemann, as he puts it, was to “design a modern home on sloped site, and still have it be connected to the natural views.” Rows of large windows and glass doors by Marvin, coupled with its open layout ensured that the house gets plenty of access to the landscape. “This was a particularly challenging site,” Wiedemann explains, “but the narrowness allowed for cross-ventilation and panoramic views from all the spaces to the mountains beyond.”

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