MRT Recap: Marcellus Wright & Partners // May Residence / by Modern Richmond

For anyone who missed this month's tour (and given the stellar turnout, that can't be many of you) we are excited to offer one last look at this wonderful home nestled into a hillside in Wilton.  We sincerely thank the Maley's for rolling out the welcome mat and opening their home for Modern Richmond.  Many thanks to Bill Moseley and Cary Sweat for sharing two generations worth of history and stories behind the architecture.

© Ansel Olson

Mr. Moseley, who presided over the design for the Mays as Partner-in-Charge with Marcellus Wright + Partners, cited the work of Frank Lloyd Wright as inspiration for the architecture of the house.  While walking the site with noted Richmond landscape architect Kenneth Higgins, the two discussed Falling Water and how Wright was able to skillfully interweave building and landscape.  For this steep plot along the Kanawha Canal, the architect’s description tells the story:  "the plan was devised for three levels which fit the existing land contours.  The house is designed to be integrated with the slope in order to become a part of the hill itself.”

© Kent Eanes

The entry foyer features tall ceilings and is lit from windows above.  The living room and dining room are separated by a partial wall once home to an indoor grill – a special request of the home’s original owners.  During construction, Mrs. May insisted that the dining room be made larger by several feet, against the preference of the architect.  Mr. May chose to accept his wife’s design request, noting to Mr. Moseley that his opinion was appreciated but “after construction was complete, he would be living with his wife, not his architect.”

© Kent Eanes

© Kent Eanes

Employing another classic motif utilized by Wright and others, the house is anchored by a massive stone fireplace.  The chimney stands tall above the house and provides an essential vertical counterpoint to the horizontal expanse of the bedroom wing.

© Kent Eanes

Inside, the stone of the hearth adds rich character to the upstairs living room and downstairs rec room while framing expansive views of the landscape.  Architecturally, the fireplace provides a break point separating the public spaces of the home from the more private bedroom wing.

© Kent Eanes

© Marcellus Wright + Partners, Courtesy Bill Moseley // Kent Eanes

The sleeping quarters are nestled into the hillside and reached via an open stair with classic mid-century details.  Evenly lit with north light from a continuous wall of windows, the hall is generous and features key pieces of the Maley’s art collection.  The bedrooms are modest with ample daylight, and the bathrooms are well appointed.  The original sunken shower was a hit with the tour and the subject of much discussion.  A stone terrace off the Master bedroom anchors the end of the house and boasts fantastic views of the James River and a cozy fire pit.

© Kent Eanes

© Kent Eanes

© Kent Eanes

© Kent Eanes

Prior to the Maley’s, the home was purchased by a Mr. Wallace who worked with architects Sandy Bond, Cary Sweat and others at 3North to envision extensive modifications to the house ahead of his pending relocation to Richmond.  Plans included a new higher roof over the master suite, a new office and porch addition, and a new entry hall with a mother-in-law suite.  Just prior to permitting, a change in career path took Mr. Wallace elsewhere and the design plans were scaled back.

© 3North, courtesy Cary Sweat

© 3North, courtesy Cary Sweat

The kitchen was completely renovated and the former maid’s quarters expanded into an office.  Outside, the original carport was removed and replaced.  A new stone wall and trellis create a new entry sequence from the driveway.  Upon purchasing the home, Mr. Maley took up the cause and the final renovations are well executed and in harmony with the existing architecture.  He described the herculean task of stripping 50 years worth of Mop-n-Glow from the stone floors, which were fondly referred to as “the skating rink.”

© Kent Eanes

© Kent Eanes

© Kent Eanes

© Kent Eanes

During the evening’s discussion, someone asked Mr. Moseley if there was any negative reaction to the modern architecture of the home when it was completed in 1957.  With a grin, he noted that it was the only house on the block at the time and there wasn’t really any reaction – good or bad.  We are pleased to report that the reaction in 2012 was unanimously positive.  As you wandered seamlessly between the home and the natural landscape, and in and out of conversations, one theme was overheard again and again.  “You almost forget that you’re in Richmond.”

© Ansel Olson

We would like to thank the Maley family for opening their home to Modern Richmond.  Also, many thanks to architects Bill Moseley, AIA and Cary Sweat (formerly of 3North) for sharing their time and stories with the capacity crowd.  The event was generously sponsored by Andrea Levine at One South Realty and Shane Maley, President, MEDINC.  Photography graciously provided by Kent Eanes and Ansel Olson.

Cary Sweat, Shane Maley, Bill Moseley

We are taking the month of August off and are looking forward to a full slate of events in the fall.  Stay tuned to Facebook, Twitter, and our website for updates on September’s event.

-KWJ