Wesley Heights, Washington, DC

Surrounded by Battery Kemble Park, this spectacular site offered a rare opportunity for glass architecture to be created in a city context with the feel of a country setting.

Designed simultaneously, these two modern day villas balance each other in layout and detail to take full advantage of park views while retaining openness of site. Simple elegant proportions shape the exterior. Openings are carefully placed to take in views. Clarity of design is found by allowing functions of the plan to direct form.

The spatial layout is a play of transparency between inside and outside, allowing the exterior views to flow through the interior. Floor to ceiling glass, limestone floors, African mahogany and plaster walls create rich, generous spaces that allow grandeur and simplicity to gracefully coexist.

Photography by Maxwell MacKenzie

St. Michaels, MD

Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a unique and picturesque landscape, where gentle river tributaries, creeks, and the waters of the Chesapeake Bay intermingle to create a folded jigsaw puzzle of peninsulas and inlets. Located at the tip of one such peninsula, this home’s site features sweeping views of San Domingo Creek and wooded shoreline beyond.

The four-acre property came with a restricted buildable area defined by an existing tennis court, an existing septic field, a one hundred foot buffer from high water’s edge, flood zones and multiple overlapping critical root zones of the protected mature oak trees scattered throughout the property. The program called for a auto court for guest parking, a garage with property manager’s building, a pool and pool shed, and generous outdoor terrace areas supporting a house sized to accommodate frequent guests and visiting family. Of course, all rooms should have views of the water.

The house is organized into a U-shaped, five-part plan. This plan parti achieved the sought-after water views for each room and also broke down the massing of the building into more manageable parts, making it possible to site the house comfortably within the restricted envelope. The traditional five-part plan was re-interpreted with glass hyphens, allowing for water views from the front entry hall, auto court and approaching drive. The entry hall, dining room, kitchen, family room, master bedroom, terrace and pool were all sited on axis with a distant water view of San Domingo Creek.

The interior is entirely focused toward exterior views. Trim is nonexistent and rooms are painted a pure white. Furniture is sparse and subdued, and spaces are punctuated by a few prominent pieces of art. Shiplap siding runs through the interior hyphens, tying together the interior and exterior and further opening up these spaces. Their large panes of glass are treated with concealed blinds to avoid glare and provide privacy as necessary.

On the exterior, large true divided lite windows scale openings with one another and create an underlying proportioning scheme for the house. Twelve inch wide deep-groove shiplap siding, deep projecting window casing and eaves with built-in gutters create strong shadow lines to delineate the facades with horizontal and vertical patterns. Columns are elongated to accentuate their slenderness, and to further abstract the traditional model.

Photography by Maxwell MacKenzie

Cape Cod, MA

The site is located within the protected Cape Cod National Seashore, not far from where the Mayflower first landed. Behind the dunes and one hundred fifty feet below the site’s sandy bluff lies the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean side is windswept and bears the brunt of powerful storms. Inland, undulating lowlands thick with brush extend uninterrupted to the horizon.

This new cottage replaces a decaying 1940s house, which had been visited for over thirty years by its Washington owners.

The cottage is held back from the shifting dunes and arrayed linearly along the edge of the protected lowlands. Inspired by the utilitarian forms of vernacular New England seaside cottages, it is arranged as a series of three linked, shingled buildings. Smaller double-hung windows on the windward side frame views and protect against powerful wind-driven sand. Large expanses of glass on the calm, leeward side offer sweeping views of the inland horizon.

Photography by Peter Vanderwarker

Wesley Heights, Washington, DC

This new house is sited on a steep Wesley Heights lot which overlooks Glover Archbold Park and backs to a wooded lot adjoining the Krueger Museum.

The in-town site offered a unique opportunity to build a home that was both glassy and private at the same time. The plan of the house is defined by two solid walls placed on the side lot lines, and open glass walls on the long sides facing Glover Archbold Park and the open wooded lot to the rear.

The glass walls facing the street open to a 5 foot deep terrace running the length of the house. This serves to open up the house during parties and to block the view of the road from inside the house. A low retaining wall in the rear defines a pea gravel open court which is used for outdoor dining. When the glass doors of the first floor are opened the front terrace and rear pea gravel court become outdoor rooms, making the first floor feel expansive and open to nature.

A minimal material palette was carefully selected throughout the house. The goal was to highlight the separation of vertical elements (stained wood walls) from horizontal planes (travertine floors and plaster ceilings). Stressing the floor and roof plane heightens the horizontal experience; the effect is a floating sensation above Glover Archbold Park. The open first floor plan is defined by cabinetry rather than walls, a sense of freedom is felt living in the house.

Photography by Maxwell MacKenzie

Blue Ridge Mountains, VA

Perched 2700 feet above sea level on the very top of a mountain and with sweeping 360 degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley below this mountain retreat is designed as the ultimate viewing machine.

Situated on a 1000 acres, The Mountain House is the tallest man made structure in the area and is accessed by a long winding private road that climbs its way up the mountain. A massive stone plinth extends out of the mountain forming a protective wall against wildlife such as bears, cougars and rattlesnakes while creating a plateau to which the first floor living spaces can extend onto.

The first floor is defined as a glassy pavilion reminiscent of Mies Van Der Rohes ‘Neue Nationalgalerie’ located in Berlin, the plan type allows 360 degree views and is designed with a minimal structural layout to maximize views. A water filled moat and pool extend around the stone plinths perimeter acting as an invisible ‘guard rail’ and further heightening the sensation of hovering above the valley floor. An exterior pea gravel courtyard located between the pavilion and guest bedroom shelters an outdoor dining and fire pit area from the prevailing wind.

Small cabin like bedrooms articulated with warm stained wood interiors are arrayed on the 2nd floor and take full advantage of the valley views below. A third floor with unbelievable views completes the stacked composition and houses an office and adjoining sitting room with roof top terrace.

This is the mountain house James Bond ordered.


Chain Bridge Road, Washington, DC

This property became available when the former house on the site were lost to a fire. With a blank slate, the developer wanted to build a new speculative house that would rival the beauty and grandeur of the city’s great 1910s and 1920s mansions. It would stand as a testament to the local construction industry; that beauty, craftsmanship, quality, and a sense of timelessness are still valued and achievable in today’s real estate market. A full program was written by an experienced real estate agent, envisioning a house that could accommodate major DC fundraising events.

We took advantage of the site’s long street frontage with a five-part plan for the main house, and a lower one-story garage and service wing. Local mansions, in particular the work of John Russell Pope, were studied for their scale, proportions, and details. Palladio’s Doric Order was chosen as the proportioning system for the exterior details. Porticoes, blind arches, sills and terrace paving were all carved from Indiana Limestone.

The interior is bright and airy, and take advantage of the views afforded by the site’s high ground. Moulding profiles throughout the interior were custom designed to match the grand scale of the house itself.

One of the developer’s goals was to utilize as much of the one acre lot as possible. With this in mind we arranged the house, hardscape, pool house and other features to create a sense of an urban villa.

Photography by Maxwell MacKenzie

West River, MD

The homeowners lead a busy Washington life, and sought a relaxed weekend retreat. As an avid sailor who grew up on a farm, he was drawn to this property along the West River, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay.

The composition of windows and doors on the elevation fronting the farm presents the plan’s true spatial arrangement, while on the water side a long porch with symmetrically placed second floor windows breaks the plan’s dominance. These two elevations attempt to give the house both a formal side from the water approach and a more agrarian feel when viewed from the farm.

On the water side, doors open onto a shaded porch with a deep overhang, allowing breezes off the river to passively cool the main living areas. This, combined with a geothermal heating and cooling system, makes the house very energy efficient. In pleasant weather, a bank of doors folds away to open the interior to the porch and water view.

A pool and storage outbuilding flank the house. A guest dependency, a restored and refurbished existing structure, completes the site composition.

Photography by Maxwell MacKenzie