Home & Design

The home’s glassed-in rear façade reflects a modern sensibility.

eparated from the living room via sliding panels, the kitchen features a LaCornue range a heated-concrete floor.

A dining patio boasts an outdoor fireplace built into the side of the house.

A hyphen links the home’s volumes; it houses a stone fireplace and flows into the study.

The master suite features a custom mahogany bedstead, built-ins framing a fireplace and mahogany-framed doors opening out to a balcony.

An industrial-style, steel-and-wood staircase in the front hall complements mahogany ceiling panels and a matching front door.

A wall of windows in the expansive living/dining room celebrates water views.

Waterfront Aerie

Architect Joanna Schmickel designs a modern stone farmhouse to embrace stunning Potomac River views

Captivated by an Alexandria property perched above the Potomac River, a couple bought the lot and tapped Joanna Schmickel of cox graae + spack architects to renovate the house already on the site. As often happens, the redesign morphed into a decision to raze the dwelling and start fresh. The owners envisioned an abode that would do justice to the panoramic views while harkening back to an old stone house they had lived in—and loved—previously. “The husband likes rustic while the wife is crisp and modern,” Schmickel relates. “The goal was to blend their styles and make the house about the way they live.”

Working with Horizon Builders, the architect created a simple, 5,000-square-foot gabled structure clad in stone and infused with a modern aesthetic. “A mahogany hyphen links the two stone volumes, reappearing as a single-story mahogany box at one end that houses the breakfast room,” explains Schmickel. The main floor encompasses a luxe kitchen as the wife loves to cook and entertain; a dining/living area with a custom stone fireplace; a foyer featuring sculptural steel stairs; a spacious study; and a guest suite. The second floor houses the master suite while a home gym, additional guest quarters and a catering pantry are on the lower level.

Expansive window walls take in views from the back of the house, while oversized windows sound a modern note on the traditional front façade.

Seven outdoor living spaces bring the homeowners even closer to nature, including several stone terraces, a dining patio off the breakfast room, a balcony off the master suite and a rooftop terrace above the breakfast room.


Architecture: Joanna Schmickel, AIA, LEED AP, principal, cox graae + spack architects, Washington, DC. Contractor: Horizon Builders, Annapolis, Maryland. Kitchen Design: St. Charles New York, New York, New York. Landscape Architecture: Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture LLC, Washington, DC. Photography: Christopher Ambridge.

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