Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Housetour: Blue Ridge Farm

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of touring Blue Ridge Farm, outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, with the ICAA. The tour was led by the talented architect Madison Spencer who had recently completed an extensive restoration to the property along with the landscape architect Rachel Lilly. The bulk of the structure was built in 1850 but was not the house it is today. In 1920 the architect William Bottomley was hired to renovate the house into the Neo-Georgian design you see today. The well known landcape architect, Charles Gillette, was brought on to design the beautiful gardens which Lilly restored and expanded. The back of the house features a large terrace and expansive lawn.The original wood screen doors were found in a barn and restored; aren't they unique?To the side of the terrace, Spencer created an informal living area for modern living, just outside of the family room.The terrace is actually set a story above ground, so that in the past servants could get around the property without being seen presumably.Facing the new garages, Spencer added an additional covered porch off the kitchens and family room.Lets move in for peak inside. The view from the front terrace is what this house is all about!The front hall goes through the house, connecting the front and rear terraces. The unique center column near the stair works in actuality, but as Spencer said, would look strange in a floorplan. Spencer added this unique plaster detail in the dining room, just off the front hall. This was a typical detail from Bottomley.Behind the dining room is the map room, a cozy study, which opens to the rear terrace. It retains an original wood fireplace mantel and beautifully inlaid floors.

The ceiling is really stunning.The living room flanks the dining room across the hall. It retained many of the original details which had to be restored . The homeowners have accumulated a lot of period furnishings which fit the house.A study off the living room featured a Bottomley fireplace and beautiful paneling with the original owner's intials.Located a few steps down from the living room is the paneled library from the Bottomley renovation. As Spencer said, the wood is basically 'junk' wood but detailed so beautifully that it could rival any finer species of wood paneling.I loved the detail at the window jamb, which allows blinds or shutters to fit down these reveals.Located a few more steps down from the library is the garden room.Spencer added these decorative grilles to hide the needed heating and AC ducts.The garden room naturally opens into the expansive gardens. Designed as a series of rooms, one comes across many little surprises such as this water garden. The rear lawn features 1 large stone pillar and low wall, part of an unrealized master plan? Spencer and Lilly had it restored, including the incredibly enormous stone ball.Adjacent tothe house is the adorable guest cottage which I loved; I could move right in! The back of the cottage is where the kitchen gardens lay.Off to the other side of the rear lawn is a gate to the new pool and poolhouse, designed by Spencer.I love the regency styling here, leaving one to wonder when it was built. Stone walls throughout the estate help create separate spaces and create usable areas in the hilly landscape.This looks ideal for this hot weather we've had lately! The interior walls of the poolhouse are thick, allowing for clever storage but also help insulate the temperature.Further from the house was found an old ruined stone building on a picturesque pond. Spencer restored it as a fishing cottage.What a perfect little getaway! The views of the pond are incredible. And of course, I wouldn't be the nerdy architect without a few little detail shots. I loved the way Spencer integrated these downspouts between an addition and the house so that they are inset and protected from the driveway.To hide the exhaust for the range in the newly renovated kitchen, Spencer added a cute little dormer between two existing dormers. Many thanks to the ICAA for arranging this great outing and to Madison Spencer and Rachel Lilly for being such entertaining tour guides of their fantastic project!