Shawn Stanley photo
Christopher Hildebrand and Sara Moriarty could never be said
A Colorado native, Hildebrand was attracted to the land, which comprises a bluff overlooking Church Hill, the river and the city in the distance. At night, the city lights up the horizon.
Since termites had gotten the better of the original house, Hilde-brand and Moriarty saved what they could, which turned out to be the porch columns and front door.
to lack vision. While others saw a boarded-up Montrose Heights eyesore, they saw an
opportunity to snatch up 1.3 acres with a view of the city, and the chance to incorporate some of the materials Hildebrand works with as a partner in architectural and industrial design firm Tektonics Design Group.
Hildebrand and Moriarty originally thought they'd try to save the long-abandoned 1930s bungalow but soon discovered it wasn't structurally sound. They also toyed with the idea of building a modern structure
but concluded that it wouldn't suit them. Instead, they decided to "focus on saving the idea of the house," says Hildebrand.
The final design, a collaboration with Tektonics architect Damon Pearson, reflects the original structure's scale and architectural style, but opens up to modern living spaces.
"We have a lot of respect for the consistency and context of the neighborhood," Moriarty says. "I feel good that our house isn't jarring as you're passing through the neighborhood.
Traditional materials were used for the core of the house, which echoes the original structure. The additions are where the couple added modern touches. Corrugated steel covers the wings, and steel sheathing, which will patina with age, envelops the basement's exterior. Railroad ties set in the hill create steps to the patio.
In the kitchen, Ikea cabinets give a clean modern aesthetic. The flooring is "cabin-grade" cherry installed for half of what most flooring runs. Countertops are butcher block that Hildebrand made in his shop. Sinks are all vintage, some found on eBay. The stair treads are heart-pine tongue-and-groove decking salvaged from a factory in Atlanta, a material discovered while working on a Tektonics job.
Moriarty, who is working on her doctorate in art history, has a discerning eye and a love of vintage pieces. Her collection of amateur portraits (including one of her great-grandmother, at top) covers a corner in the living area. An antique screen-door painting (on red wall at left) pays homage to her roots in Baltimore, where the tradition offered privacy to townhouses on the street.
The 2,600-square-foot house has just one, 10-foot hallway. Pearson designed a wide-open great-room feel, with intimate nooks for kitchen, living and dining. The house was constructed of prefabricated Structural Insulated Panels, which arrived on a truck and were put together "like a house of cards" by contractor Michael Binns of Binns Pavie. The energy-efficient panels allowed for minimal waste and quick installation since they fit together perfectly on site — the house was up in three weeks.
Hildebrand began metalsmithing at age 16 and later studied sculpture. Today he builds large-scale work with his firm Tektonics Design Group. Currently he's working on a water feature and light sculpture for downtown's Richmond Marriott. He designed the exposed-steel support beams and staircase in his home, which highlight the dramatic vaulted space. He also designed the birch panels clad to the walls and ceiling, cut for minimal waste.