Yoga takes on deeper meaning when practiced in a sustainably designed guesthouse overlooking Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. This idyll in the woods with an arced wall of glass was built by the owners of a DC yoga studio as an offshoot of their vacation home on the same five-acre property.
Architect Jim Burton built the main house as an “early try at sustainable design” 17 years ago. When its current owners approached him about adding another bedroom onto the home, they discovered that zoning laws would not permit an addition, but building a separate, freestanding structure was okay. So they asked Burton to design a guesthouse where they could accommodate friends and family and enjoy yoga sessions with views of the surrounding wilderness.
With the project confined by regulations to a mere 600 square feet, the architect had to make the most of every inch. Compact in form yet graceful in line, the completed structure embraces nature in its design as well as its modest carbon footprint. In fact, the yoga studio became the first LEED for Homes Gold Certified House in the southeastern U.S.
The clients requested that Burton and interior designer Michelle Timberlake get inventive with their use of materials—and they happily complied. The studio’s exterior walls and roof are constructed of curved, prefabricated SIPs (structural insulated panels). Its base is clad in TX Active pollution abatement cement, a product that actually cleans the air, in its first-ever usage in the U.S. In lieu of drywall and paint, interior walls are sheathed in stretched canvas and coated with a beeswax and resin finish.
The curved window wall takes advantage of passive solar energy and also creates wider volume in the main living space, while Burton “pinched” the ends of the structure to conserve precious square footage in secondary spaces such as the doorways, mudroom and bath. “Not only is the arc tracking the passive solar quality of the sun moving across the sky,” says Burton, “but it also reveals panoramic views towards the valley and the rock ledge and the trees. It all works in harmony.”
Panels in the reclaimed poplar floor open to reveal three built-in beds in the main living space. Moveable furnishings have organic lines that mimic the curves of the architecture. Wool upholstery adds punches of color, but there is otherwise no superfluous ornamentation.
“We talked about the idea of not having any artwork in the project so that there are no metaphysical distractions in the space,” says Burton. “It’s all about the nature, the light, the material, the detailing of the building and the people.”
ARCHITECTURE: JIM BURTON, AIA, Carter + Burton Architecture & Interior Design, Berryville, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: MICHELLE TIMBERLAKE, ASID, IIDA, Carter + Burton Architecture & Interior Design. CONTRACTOR: CHARLES SNEAD, Boyce, Virginia. Photography: DANIEL AFZAL, Alexandria, Virginia.