A rainy spring night couldn’t keep away a stellar crowd for May’s Exchange Event. We were treated to a thoroughly modern and sustainable renovation project secreted away down a narrow drive in the woods of Westover Hills. Joshua and Carrie were gracious hosts and we appreciate their willingness to open their home to Modern Richmond. Special thanks to architect Henry Tenser, Eric Schensky with Maize Remodeling, and landscape designer* Steven Koprowski for sharing their perspectives on the project. Large-scale renovation projects rely on a strong vision and collaborative effort for success. With a balanced yet distinct relationship between the architecture and the landscape, quality craftsmanship, and a full roster of sustainable technologies, this project delivers on that vision.
© Jay Huggins
When he purchased the property in 2007, Josh Rogers was already familiar with the c. 1950 house on a ridge above the James, having grown up just two blocks away. From the beginning, the house was envisioned as a sustainable retreat, composed of modern forms and materials but rendered in a palette that harmonized with the natural beauty and character of the property. What followed were several years of research into green technologies and a 1-1/2 year design process with architect Henry Tenser.
© Joshua Rogers + Jay Huggins
Mr. Tenser, who also lives and works near the property, described the commission as a “dream come true.” He welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with Josh - who happens to be his stepson – and was thrilled at the chance to do modern design. With the benefit of a small cardboard model, the two worked and reworked the design until the proper balance of architecture, landscape, and technology was realized.
© Henry Tenser
© Henry Tenser
Composed of simple geometric forms, the exterior features materials that simultaneously contrast and complement the surroundings: stucco, wood rain-screen, and Corten steel.
As the design process was proceeding, Eric Schensky with Maize Remodeling was brought in early to share his insights into the construction process. His first official meeting with Josh took place on an old couch in front of the original fireplace. Mr. Schensky noted that his client had the proper mix of vision and flexibility, which helped in dealing with the inevitable challenges. Josh met Carrie during construction and they ended up getting married along the way. Mr. Schensky complimented Carrie for adding “a new perspective that melded the young couple together in the details of the home.” When asked about the biggest challenge on the project – he replied that hoisting the large, triple-paned windows into place was “a particularly long day.”
In addition to its crisp, modern forms and materials, the Rogers house boasts numerous features designed to minimize its environmental impact. The envelope was made as airtight as possible and includes 4” of rigid insulation, significantly reducing the heating and cooling requirements. The windows are low-E, triple-paned glass like the sort used in residences designed to the Passivehaus standard. Buried in the backyard is a 5,000 gallon cistern which collects water from the roof for use in irrigation. Upstairs, the roofs off the bedrooms have been designed as terraces, and in the future will be planted out with low-maintenance vegetation.
Beyond its obvious technological and environmental merits, Josh and Carrie’s house succeeds on a more personal level. Downstairs, much of the old bungalow remains, but the renovated spaces flow together with the new addition. Transitions between old and new are handled in a thoughtful, straightforward manner. A modest change in elevation between the dining room and the new living room below allows for extra height and larger windows. Views towards the landscape and the James River are afforded from the living room, a new covered porch, and the deck which runs the length of the house.
The materials in the home are a pleasing mix of classic and modern. What was once a narrow entry hall is now a spacious double height volume with a stair of steel and warm timber. Beneath the stair, the family dog is treated to a prime seat with excellent sightlines.
Upstairs, views to the natural landscape are privileged and access is afforded to the roof terraces from the master bedroom. The rooms are warm and inviting, and are outfitted with simple trim and casework. The house is modern, but comfortable, and feels like it is well lived-in thanks to numerous personal touches by Josh and Carrie. Indeed, the development of their relationship is written into the details of the home. In the master bathroom is a collection of ornamental tiles and river rocks that the two collected on a vacation to Japan.
But above all, the driving force behind the project was the site itself. Here was a property on Riverside Drive, but tucked away down a long narrow drive with minimal competition from other houses. This allowed for the careful development of the relationship between the house and the land. Landscape designer* Steven Koprowski – whose design was in the midst of construction during our tour – described a straightforward approach to shaping the outdoor spaces of the home: "Don’t compete with the architecture...and don’t compete with nature." His design balances the mass of the house with carefully located trees and plantings, and offers material continuity thanks to large Corten planters that reference the exterior materials. The result of the owner's leadership and the collaborative efforts of the team is a sustainable, modern home that complements and harmonizes with the natural landscape.
Modern Richmond extends our thanks to Josh and Carrie Rogers for inviting us in from the rain – hopefully there wasn’t too much mess. Thanks to Henry Tenser, Eric Schensky, and Steven Koprowski for sharing their thoughts on the design and construction process. The opportunity to hear multiple viewpoints is invaluable and helps spread the word about what it takes to realize modern design in our historic city.
© KWJ - Steven Koprowski, Eric Schensky, Henry Tenser, Carrie & Josh Rogers
We look forward to perhaps revisiting with Josh and Carrie as the project draws to a close. Especially since it was mentioned that – thanks to their growing family and Carrie’s urging – there is already talk of a kitchen expansion.
© KWJ + Christopher Friday
June's tour will feature a tour of VCU's Rice Education Center located SE of Richmond on the James River. We hope to see you there.
(Special thanks to Christopher Friday for lending his photographic talents to this tour, and to Henry Tenser for hand-delivering a set of architectural plans.)
* We inadvertedly used the term "landscape architect" when we should have used the term "landscape designer" in this context. Apologies for any confusion.