Home & Design

A series of connected pavilions, Randall Kipp’s design comprises a two-story wing housing a caregiver’s suite with a children’s bunkhouse above, and a main pavilion where open seating, dining and cooking areas are distinct yet connected.

The main pavilion is home to multiple gathering areas featuring comfortable sofas and chairs from W.F. Booth & Son Furniture in Kilmarnock, Virginia.

Interior steel beams are wrapped in white cedar. The screened porch is equipped with a double-sided fireplace.

A tray ceiling edged with a thin line of lights delineates the dining area.

A glass-enclosed sitting room connects to the primary suite and boasts creek and bay views.

A view from the back shows shou sugi ban cedar cladding from reSAWN TIMBER framing the windows.

A deck off the primary suite was designed to float above ground; it overlooks a willow oak and beyond it, the Chesapeake Bay.

To the right of the stair, the front door pivots into the foyer, where a Varaluz ceiling fixture hangs high so as not to obstruct the view through insulated Weather Shield windows.

The bunkhouse sleeps eight thanks to two trundle beds, and enjoys coveted views of Mosquito Creek and the Rappahannock River.

A sunken fire pit is flanked by built-in seating with cushions from McKinnon and Harris.

The approach to the home slopes gently upward, thanks to a foundational plinth that raised the building area seven feet.

Heaven on Earth

A dramatic dwelling in Virginia’s Northern Neck provides a welcome haven for three generations

If you build it, surely they will come.

That was the thinking behind Dede and Bobby Hunter’s plan to create an alluring gathering spot for their expanding family. With the couple’s three adult children now settled in Richmond and having kids of their own, the Hunters realized their primary residence nearly 300 miles away in Tazewell, Virginia, was not ideally situated for frequent meet-ups.

“We knew we wanted to be on the water and wanted a place our children could get to easily,” Dede says. “A place where we could all get together and enjoy being with one another.”

The Hunters now have that home in White Stone, Virginia, located at the end of a point with 270-degree views of Mosquito Creek, the Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay. When their son found the property’s online listing, they moved quickly. “We loved the lot immediately,” Dede recalls. “Bobby wanted a wide-open view of the bay and this property has water on all three sides.”

The design of their new, nearly 8,000-square-foot structure belies its size, thanks to a modern approach envisioned by architect Randall Kipp, who was hired for the job. Abundant windows provide views of the water from every room while distinct gathering spaces flow together in a seamless whole.

Before construction began, however, the architect had to overcome the challenge presented by the low-lying site. “We agreed we couldn’t build a house only four to five feet above sea level,” Kipp says. To provide a safeguard against flooding and maximize views, he constructed a plinth that would  form a new, elevated foundation for the eventual home. Made of engineered fill soil and close to an acre in size, it rises nearly seven feet above the original grade and is held in place by a combination of riprap and indigenous plantings. “Now, rather than a pancake level of topography,” Kipp muses, “you have a lovely undulation and great views.”

Before the Hunters could build the house of their dreams, they removed an existing home on site that was more than a century old. “It had low ceilings and didn’t have the windows and space we wanted,” Dede recalls.

When the time came to design the new structure, the couple had clear goals in mind, but gave Kipp the freedom to envision something dramatic. “We’re not really ‘modern’ people, but we wanted lots of windows so we knew we probably needed a modern design,” Dede explains. “We wanted it to be comfortable for everybody and didn’t care about spaces being formal.”

They also asked for high ceilings, easy circulation, plenty of fireplaces and “a private area for us,” Bobby adds.

Kipp set out to make their dreams a reality. “We worked really hard at composing this group of buildings, all connected, where each one has its own purpose,” the architect says, noting the influence of an old Tidewater aesthetic that embodies “a firm, stout hold on the earth,” with clean lines and spare details.

“We twisted and turned and bent [the design] to get the proper alignment of views,” he adds. “There are as few walls as we could muster. The goal was to create spaces, not rooms.”

The heart of the home contains the kitchen and an adjacent dining area that leads to a vaulted-ceiling great room with a television and a fireplace. A screened porch—with its own two-sided fireplace, sitting and eating areas and an outdoor kitchen—is accessed via a 60-foot-long wall of La Cantina sliding doors. A second 40-foot-long wall of sliding doors leads to the pool and deck.

Ensuite bedrooms are thoughtfully placed throughout the home’s three connected pavilions, as Kipp calls them, designed at various levels to create visual interest and signal hierarchy. Three bedrooms are located above the kitchen, reached via an open staircase in the foyer. The primary suite occupies the first level, separate from the hustle and bustle of river life, and has its own study and private porch. “The primary suite is the one space in the house that is quiet and private,” Kipp says.

Adjacent to the great room, the bunkhouse pavilion boasts a caregiver suite on the main level while upstairs, a children’s zone comes complete with six built-in beds, two trundles, sitting and play areas, a mini-kitchen and a full bath. (When the design process began in 2018, there were two grandchildren; now there are six.)

The home’s modern design is softened by deliberate touches. Steel interior beams are wrapped in white cedar for warmth. Outside the many windows, native grasses and plantings around the exterior perimeter sound an organic note.

Reflecting on the completed home’s 21st-century take on local vernacular, Kipp remarks, “Modern architecture is alive and well in rural America. I think people are genuinely tired of living in boring, nondescript, center-hall Colonials. This is a very livable house.”

The Hunters describe their new escape as “heaven on earth,” noting that the transitional interiors and comfortable furniture, envisioned by Kipp Architecture in-house designer Lauren Davenport, are just what they requested.

Meanwhile, the house is such a hit that the couple has an occupancy schedule for their adult children, who each visit one weekend per month. Of course, the elder Hunters have visiting rights whenever they like. Their favorite time? That’s easy, says Dede Hunter. “In the winter, we can sit in our study, have the fireplace going and look both ways at the water. It’s our happy place.”

Architecture & Landscape Architecture: Randall Kipp, AIA, NCARB; Interior Design: Lauren Davenport, Randall Kipp Architecture, Inc., Irvington, Virginia. Landscape Contractor: Green Planters Landscape & Garden Center, Hayes, Virginia. Builder: The Allen Group, Inc., Urbanna, Virginia.  

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