"We had actually never lived in a new home," Randy Hagan says. He and his wife, Nita, had always lived in homes that they fixed up. From Brandermill, where they moved in 1979 from Italy to Virginia Gov. James Pleasants Jr.'s circa 1898 estate, Contention, renovation was paramount. He explains that when they bought 31 acres in Crozier in 2000 and moved into the old farmhouse on the front of the property, they intended to build new home at the back on the bluff overlooking Buffalo Creek.
After building a barn for their horses and planting willow trees alongside the creek, they asked fox-hunting companion and longtime friend Rich Napier, president and co-founder of Napier Signature Homes, to build their new house. The project took two years and in 2005, the 6,200-square-foot house they named Willowbrook was complete.
On the front, the hipped roof that extends over a large, deep front porch and dormers speaks to Low Country design. The steep pitch of the roof and the first-floor windows with multiple small panes is reminiscent of a Cape Cod design. The two combine to create what Randy refers to a "Low Country Cape" verna-cular style.
"This was in the country and so we wanted a house that would fit in, so that's where we came up with the Low Country Cape [design]. Then we ended up superimposing that Low Country Cape on a house that had a very dramatic New Orleans style in the back," says Randy. "The back of the house and the front of the house are clearly not from the same plan."
They doubled the window sizes on the front dormers and put a 42-foot chimney on the south end and a 39-foot chimney on the north end. "The chimneys are totally fake and are intended to push the house down to make it look smaller — otherwise it would not fit in this area," Randy says.
The design inside combines different elements as well. The huge Georgian foyer gives you a view from the front to the back of the house and includes a variety of door styles and trim. If you walk into the living room and turn around, the upstairs balcony looks like the outside of a New Orleans home, with a wrought iron railing, lights that look like old gas lamps and French doors that lead to a den. And unlike a segmented Cape Cod, the house has flow. "You can circulate in various ways around the house both inside and outside," Randy says. "All the public rooms are very well connected."
The first floor has everything the Hagans need if they decide to live only on that floor — a master bedroom and master bath with closets and dressing areas, a kitchen with a den, dining room, living room, utility room, office and an attached two-car garage. "We realized that the kitchen becomes a social area, and by putting in the second island, you have an island to work on where people generally won't crowd you while you are cooking," Randy says.
The terrace off the back of the house is the one thing Nita requested. "I wanted to walk out of my bedroom into the outside world. And my garden is out there," she says.
But putting a terrace on a down-sloping lot was quite a challenge. Napier says, "We had a wall that was built up [14 feet] and had to get it engineered with this big concrete footing in the center with rebar that went out like spokes on a Ferris wheel. All the spokes are tied into the walls to give [them] strength." The terrace, complete with gardens and a fountain with bronze horses, overlooks the meadow and the creek.
Further plans include modifying part of the back deck into a sunroom, adding another deck and building a gazebo in the woods. But for right now, the Hagans are pleased with their home. "This is the most comfortable house to live in," Randy says. "We designed it that way, and it works."