Many of us have a pretty good idea of what our dream house would look like. For some, it might be a Tudor Revival mansion. For others, a French chateau. For Cheryl Angus, it was a Midcentury Modern home, built on a waterfront property. And it wasn’t an idle dream. “I’ve been building a house in my head for decades,” she said.
Angus had grown up in a Midcentury Modern house in South Richmond, and the style’s elegant minimalism had a lasting impact on her. Others might dream of crystal chandeliers or cozy inglenooks. Angus’s ideal home was made of steel, glass and concrete – the building blocks of Modernism.
Her husband, Frank Angus, shared her enthusiasm for the Modern aesthetic.
“We talked about building a Modern house for years,” Cheryl Angus said. “I’d draw things out and play with the designs.” The problem was finding the waterfront property. “You can’t find riverfront property in Richmond,” Cheryl Angus said.
Then, nearly three years ago, one of the patients in Frank Angus’s dental practice mentioned that a 4.2-acre parcel of land was for sale near him, along the northwestern edge of the Swift Creek Reservoir in Chesterfield County. The seller had removed trees on the site, but otherwise, it had stood untouched for years. The Anguses visited the site and bought it a month later.
“I had an odd inspiration when I saw the property,” Cheryl Angus said. “It made me think of historic houses where you walk in the front door and see down the slope to the river.”
Soon after buying the parcel, the Anguses met with Walter Parks and Christian Snowden, architects with Richmond-based Walter Parks Architects, and they hired the firm to design their home. “Walter allowed me to be the project lead” for the Angus residence, Snowden said. “At 26 years old, I was thrilled.” For her part, Cheryl Angus enjoyed “working with someone younger,” she said. “Chris is a detail-oriented person, and the communication went well.”
Among their topics of conversation was how to soften Modern interiors and make them less cold and more inviting, she added.
Snowden’s design for the Anguses’ 2,500-square-foot, single-story house, which he completed in late 2016, is deceptively complex, with a central, open space for dining, entertaining and relaxing, and large bedroom suites at either end. Three floating roof planes, which rise above two sections of lower roofs, allow for 13-foot ceilings in the main living area and the bedrooms. “The lower roof lines offer a break with more intimate ceiling heights for the dining room, office and hallways,” said Snowden, who left Walter Parks Architects last year to create his own residential firm, Christian Snowden Design. An attached, two-car garage sits under another elevated roof plane. Exposed steel columns support the roofs, and the rear elevation of the house, which faces the reservoir, has approximately 100 feet of floor-to-ceiling glass windows and sliding glass doors that open onto a covered veranda.
“Entertaining is a core principle of the design, and the ability to have multiple spaces, both inside and out, makes the house versatile,” Snowden said. “The covered veranda leads to the terrace and saltwater pool that run parallel to the residence.”
At Cheryl Angus’s request, Snowden set the house on an on-grade concrete slab, and workers polished the concrete floors. “I wanted it to feel as if the furniture floats on the floor, as if it were water,” she said. “I think it makes you feel comfortable.”
Likewise, the kitchen design reflects an Industrial aesthetic, with stainless-steel countertops that are softened by floating shelves made from walnut.
While the house’s interior color palette is primarily white and light gray, dark tiles dominate one wall of the main living area, with a walnut-trimmed, inset box framing a large TV. “It took me a year to find that tile,” Cheryl Angus said.
Leipertz Construction was the general contractor for the house project, and Method Woodworking built the house’s walnut paneling, cabinets and trimwork.
The Anguses moved into the house in April 2017. They weren’t simply starting over with a new house, either. The couple got rid of all their furniture and only kept a few accessories, including sculptures from Cheryl Angus’s childhood home.
The Anguses still have a few landscaping projects to complete, and it will take another year for the wildflowers they planted around the property to reach full maturity. But the vision they had for their dream house has been realized.
“When my husband comes home, he says, ‘I feel like I’m on vacation,’” Cheryl Angus said.
Want to visit the house?
The Angus residence will be featured as part of the second annual Modern Richmond Week, and visitors can tour the house on Sept. 22. The weeklong series of events, which opens with a symposium on Richmond architect Haigh Jamgochian, will be presented by Modern Richmond, a nonprofit group that organizes tours of the city’s Modern-style residential and commercial buildings. For more information, visit ModernRichmond.org.