Though architects Joseph Boggs and Bob Steele graduated from Virginia Tech many years apart, they left school sharing more than just an affinity for maroon. Both had a passion for modern design fostered by renowned Swiss designer Olivio Ferrari, the man responsible for creating Tech's celebrated architecture school in the '60s. Years after graduating, Steele found himself working for his fellow alum at Boggs' Washington, D.C., studio. It was there that he first learned about Boggs' labor of love: a 1979 home for his parents on a one-acre wooded lot in Richmond. Boggs partially cleared the site and set the home's footprint on a southwest/northeast axis to allow the morning sun to light the kitchen and bedroom areas, and then brighten other parts of the home during times of peak usage. At 4,600 square feet, the contemporary home was no small retirement cottage, but Boggs' careful design meshed seamlessly with its natural surroundings.
Fast-forward nearly 30 years — Steele, now a prominent Richmond architect, is called upon to renovate a geometric dwelling on a generous wooded lot in the Bexley neighborhood on Richmond's South Side. He barely recognized the home he had visited often: "The house skin had been neglected, and the skylights were badly in need of repair. It just hadn't been maintained well these last few years, yet it was still an award-winning design."
A family with two young children had purchased the home. In the process of restoration, they discovered a way to add additional space. "In the initial design, the living room was a long, enclosed room, covered, in part, with custom-made Plexiglas cut-outs," says new owner Blair Bunting. "After 30 years, the wood around the Plexiglas had begun to leak. The porch outside the room was rotting and leaking as well, so we decided with Bob to solve a number of problems at once by enclosing the porch, removing the Plexiglas wall and creating a living room twice the size of the old one. Now we have a space that's great for weekend entertaining and major Lego constructions."
- Bob Steele doubled the size of the traditional living room, creating space for two busy boys and their parents without changing the integrity of the original design. "What I am most proud of is that we did not have to increase the size of the footprint," says Steele. "Both additions were added on top of foundations that were part of the existing deck."
- The additions are spatially different from the rest of the house. The living room addition was approximately six feet taller. "We added volume," says Steele. "They wanted the space to be uplifting and bright, so we literally lifted the space upward."
- Light was a priority. Thirty years ago, the trees and bushes were at a different scale. Though the house had originally been designed with movement of the sun in mind, the exterior had matured significantly, so to maximize the advantages of the site, a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows ensures the play of light inside.
- New Douglas fir panels and beams along the ceiling reach outdoors. The structure was originally sheathed in tongue-and-groove cypress heartwood, decay- and insect-resistant due to its natural preservative cypressine. But 30 years took its toll on the softwood. The owners wanted a more durable and low-maintenance solution, so they did some research and came up with fiber cement HardiPlank horizontal siding. This siding as well as coated stainless steel now make the new and improved skin of their home.