Just 90 minutes away from his Bethesda home, architect Jordan Goldstein’s new weekend retreat might as well be a world apart. Nestled on 23 acres of pristine farmland in Virginia’s Rappahannock County, it’s far removed from city congestion without a neighbor in sight.
Isolation is exactly what Goldstein was after, in more ways than one.
“I’ve always wanted to do a modern house on a blank canvas for our family, a getaway that would allow us to be together and also connect to the land,” explains the architect, a managing director at Gensler.
After visiting friends in the area and falling in love with its natural beauty, he and his wife Laurie decided to find a spot for their vacation home there. Jordan took a daylong scouting trip with a real estate agent to get the lay of the land. The first three lots were ruled out for existing buildings, the lack of a view and the presence of a bear, respectively. But the fourth property on their tour—a sweeping parcel with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains—seemed like a good match.
When he brought Laurie, a public relations specialist, and their daughters Sari and Alexa to the site, Goldstein’s hunch was confirmed. As he recalls, “The freedom we immediately felt there was liberating.”
They acquired the land and the architect got busy designing their new getaway, hoping to foster the same sense of togetherness that he experienced on boyhood ski trips spent at his parents’ Pennsylvania vacation condo. But he also wanted to create a dialog between the home and its environment.
Another goal was to involve the whole family in the process. To that end, he designed three different homes and presented models to Laurie and the girls as though they were clients. “Our daughters were actively engaged and that was wonderful,” he says.
The scheme the family ultimately chose met Goldstein’s original criteria. In the heart of its simple and efficient layout lies an open great room where lounging, cooking and dining take place. It is flanked by the master suite on one side and bedrooms for each daughter on the other. The lower level includes a rec room, a guest room and a small home theater.
Making the home a reality on the “blank canvas” of its site posed more than a few challenges. There was no road, no power and no sewer or water lines. Builder Erwin Opitz helped drill a 290-foot well for water and install a septic field and propane tank. The Goldsteins extended power lines a mile from the closest source.
The finished home offers the family a cozy embrace while inviting them to contemplate far-reaching vistas through abundant windows. The west-facing great room showcases dramatic sunset views. “In this particular canvas,” Goldstein explains, “the rolling topography, the mountains, the vast blue sky all work into the space like art.”
Reflecting the home’s elemental nature is a simple exterior palette of stucco, mahogany and stone. In a nod to old barns in the area, the master suite is cantilevered over a stone retaining wall. “The idea of a stone base and a form above it is a modern interpretation of those old barns,” says the architect. “I wanted to echo that inside using old-barn cladding on some of the walls.”
In contrast to barn-wood walls in the master bedroom and rec room, the interior finishes reflect a modern aesthetic. Goldstein relied on Porcelanosa as a “one-stop shop” where he purchased everything from the slate-like porcelain flooring for the entryway to kitchen and bath cabinetry, tile, appliances and plumbing fixtures.
Since its late-2014 completion, the Goldsteins have enjoyed their rural retreat in all seasons. Although the house is equipped with the latest in smart-home technology, being there is more about unplugging from busy schedules. “I find it very hard to let go and relax in my Bethesda home,” Jordan Goldstein admits. “Yet when we’re in Virginia and there’s that separation, it is therapeutic.”
After sunset, they often gather around the pool or their new fire pit. “It’s dead quiet and when you’re under the stars with no light pollution,” he marvels, “it’s unbelievable.”