Friday, July 21, 2017  

Vacation Cottage Designed to Fit the Neighborhood Context


Written by Jonathan Moore
Images courtesy of Jessica Crabill, photographer

Situated between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, Virginia’s Northern Neck is filled with three centuries of history and charm. Today, its tidal shores and undulating meadows retain remnants of a colonial past with towns that once thrived on farming and maritime commerce. Its present-day features still offer an economic mix of light industry, agriculture, and more recently, a bucolic destination for second homes for many in the MidAtlantic region. John Cole, an architect from Alexandria, Virginia, discovered this area with his wife about eight years ago. It wasn’t long before they were hooked. In 2008, Cole purchased 1.3 acres in West Irvington (Lancaster Co.) and designed his own home — a clapboard cottage overlooking Bridge Cove off Carter’s Creek.

Cole and his wife Jane choose Irvington for its small town character and local amenities. Their two-level home on King Carter Drive is within easy walking distance of The Tides Inn and Hope & Glory Inn, as well as Irvington Commons. “We wanted to take part in the life of a small town,” says Cole, a principal for Alexandria-based Cole & Denny Architects. “Irvington offers a balance of neighborhood atmosphere, and a variety of activities and events drawing from all the Northern Neck has to offer.” Creating a design in context with its site, the exterior echoes the vernacular of early 20th Century Tidewater architecture, but inside, the feel is open and contemporary. His cottage has 1500 sq. ft. with two bedrooms, one bath, a large living room / kitchen area, and a small loft and second level screen porch. Turning conventional planning on its head, bedrooms, bath, and laundry closet are situated on the first floor, with main living areas above. The upper level is a “treehouse” 16 ft. above the surrounding grade, and offers unique perspectives of the surrounding landscape. It imparts what Cole describes as a “generous sense of volume for a remarkably simple living space.”

It took The James Company of Irvington about five months to build this home in 2008. Cole and his wife plan to make this their retirement home in the future, with eventual plans for an addition following the same design theme. For now, they enjoy this peaceful haven just a few hours drive from their home near Washington, DC, whenever the opportunity arises.