When the previous owner lived at this site, her house was down by the river, situated within the flood plain. After her house was destroyed by a flood, she hauled in a modular, double-wide structure. She positioned the house just beyond the flood plain, and built a flat-roofed, nondescript, concrete block garage behind it, towards the river.

Our clients bought the house with the intention of using it as a weekend house but wanted to eventually live in it permanently. The house lacked any spatial qualities; the rooms were dark, small, eight-foot-high ceiling boxes without views. The clients’ primary programmatic requirements were to add a great room and an isolated study and to better appreciate their site and the river.

The addition is composed of three distinct pieces: a three-story tower, a low- roofed link piece, and a pier.

The new, three-story tower is set above, and askew from, the existing garage. It contains a potting room on the lower level, a great room oriented to the river on the main level, and a study with views to the river and mountains on the top level. The tower addition is an intentional vertical counterpoint to the existing modular house while incorporating the roof pitch and exterior materials of the existing.

The link, which contains an informal eating area, connects the kitchen of the existing modular house to the new great room. In massing, the link structure matches the eight- foot high ceiling and roofline of the existing modular house. Within the link, a new staircase to the basement provides a direct connection to a new basement billiards room.

The new deck was conceived of as a pier that connects the existing kitchen to the river and sky, and as a “street” that accesses the breakfast room, great room, and auto court below. These new exterior elements change the house’s relationship to the outdoors— they provide a way to enter the house, give a strong connection to the outdoors, act as a pier extending towards the river, and give the house a treehouse-like quality.


  • Builder: James O’Donoghue, Amissville, Virginia
  • Structural Engineer: Structural Concepts, Inc., Winchester, Virginia
  • Photographer: Hoachlander Davis Photography, Washington, D.C.