After a busy week, NBC4 anchor Wendy Rieger prefers to get out of Dodge. For 20 years, she headed east to unwind in a bungalow on the Chesapeake. But now, she heads west to her pristine retreat in Rappahannock County.
Completed last year in time for Thanksgiving, her new home enjoys panoramic views of rolling pastures, shimmering ponds and the Blue Ridge beyond. “The water has its own peace and its own grace, but to be in the mountains and see the land unfolding before you is a totally different head,” she says. “It is so peaceful and yet so powerful here.”
For Rieger, the time was ripe not only for a change in locale, but also in architectural style from both her “cottagey” bay-area bungalow and her ultra-modern apartment in CityCenterDC. “I wanted my new home to be everything they were not,” she vows, adding, “I didn’t want a farmhouse.”
After putting her other properties on the market, Rieger tapped Flint Hill, Virginia, architect Jay Monroe to design her country escape. She envisioned a home modest in size yet large enough to host guests in comfort. She pictured airy interiors that would capitalize on the grandeur of the views but still feel cozy and intimate.
The 30-acre site consists of woodland sloping down to a former pasture. “It made sense to tuck the house up against the woods rather than place it in the field below, to give it a sense of protection,” Monroe says.
To kick-start the design phase, Rieger shared photos gathered on Pinterest and in magazines with Monroe and her builder, Joseph Keyser. They developed a plan for a two-story, modern cottage that nods to Scandinavian style. It contains an open kitchen and dining area, living room and guest suite on the first floor; the second floor harbors the master suite and a second guest suite. The architect clad the home in stucco and added Western red cedar pergolas for texture. Dormers on the second floor break up the lines of the standing-seam metal roof.
“In Rappahannock County, we pride ourselves on letting the landscape be the art,” says Monroe. “We keep houses fairly simple and clean.”
More than 60 windows, their wood frames painted black, strike an industrial note. “They speak to the area without getting too ‘white board-and-batten,’” quips Rieger. She took interior design inspiration from spare, Nordic style and authentic local art. “I really want to support local artists out here,” says the journalist, whose collection includes a sculpture by noted blacksmith Nol Putnam and what she calls an “explosive” painting of a night garden by Ruthie Windsor Mann.
The living room and kitchen span the rear of the home with a dining nook and built-in bar between them. During construction, Rieger made an unusual request for windows behind the range hood. “I cook a lot when I’m here and wanted to look out at the woods,” she explains.
Upstairs, dormers were put to good use. The master suite and guest room are furnished with custom daybeds. “On a rainy day, who doesn’t want to curl up with a book on a daybed?” Rieger reflects. A wooden desk inset in the center dormer serves as a home office where she writes, a photo of NBC4’s late Jim Vance by her side.
When in Rappahannock, Rieger (who stays in an apartment in DC during the week), checks headlines every morning but eludes nonstop news cycles. “I have two TVs in this house—and they’re not plugged in,” she admits. She and her boyfriend, who visits often, enjoy biking on Skyline Drive and hiking on nearby trails.
Now 64, Rieger surmises that escaping from the Washington scene on weekends has kept her grounded during nearly 40 years in broadcasting—32 spent at NBC4. “I joke that it’s the only successful relationship I’ve ever had,” she remarks. “I wouldn’t be in this house if I hadn’t worked for Channel 4. They’ve been very good to me and I’ve been good for them.” The three-time Emmy winner currently anchors News4 at 5, DC’s top newscast in its time slot. In 2005 she pioneered a “Going Green” segment that aired around the country and later inspired a series on NBC Nightly News.
Rieger also took her new home in a sustainable direction. “I wanted to live what I’ve espoused and kept the footprint as small as possible,” she explains. “The house is heavily sealed and the way it’s oriented on the land, I barely have to run the heat even on the coldest nights.”
Rieger looks forward to giving back to the community near her new country home and remains awestruck by the beauty surrounding it. “I think I have one of the best views in the county,” she muses. “I was drawn here by the enormity of it.”
Architecture: Jay Monroe, AIA, ASLA, Monroe and Crocker, PC, Flint Hill, Virginia. Builder: Joseph Keyser, Joseph Keyser Construction, Washington, Virginia.