Nestled into the rolling hills in rural Virginia lies Tilt House, a 3,400 sf country retreat for a DC-based client. This young family wanted to build a legacy house that could be passed down through future generations. They desired a utilitarian building, akin to a shed, that would suit this pastoral setting and require little maintenance. Inspired by the vernacular farm structures found dotting the nearby landscape, this house reinterprets a rustic ethos into a dwelling that accommodates their modern lifestyle. 

As a second residence, the client required an efficient house, one imbued with a casual environment that fosters ease of use. This desire/requirement resulted in a simple, linear bar arrangement on two stacked levels. Sited with its narrow end facing the approach from the road on this sloping site, the house presented an unassuming appearance from the street while providing maximum exposure to the seven-acre wooded site from along its full length. A concrete vessel containing the sleeping spaces is tucked into a hill, taking advantage of the natural, rolling topography. A tilting roof plane sits atop the wood framed upper level, manifesting the idea of the shed. This tilted element, from which the house gets its name, slopes in two directions to a single low point, draining water runoff to a cistern.

The roof’s continuous four-foot overhang protects the interior from the direct southern summer sun and provides rain protection over the continuous raised balcony on the north. In addition to its performative features, the roof form was inspired by the client’s desire for differing volumetric experiences. The resulting tilted ceiling offers changing heights and shapes from the low end in the primary bedroom to the soaring high point in the indoor-outdoor porch.

As the heart of the home, the upper level houses all primary living spaces, while the lower level accommodates multiple bedrooms and the highly flexible family gathering area. With efficiency in mind, the kitchen, bathrooms, and service spaces are stacked along the south perimeter. The living spaces array themselves along the north perimeter, taking in the expansive views through large areas of floor-to-ceiling glass. Overlooking the living area, tucked in under the high ceiling and behind a series of wood slats, is a loft space for children of all ages to hang out, read, and play games. The interior experience is one of an informal nature; upon entering one is welcomed into the high-ceilinged living and dining spaces, engulfed in natural light, built for gathering and building community amongst family and friends.

Material selection was critical to evoke the shed narrative while assuring simplicity in its care and longevity. Having a direct lineage to the farm structures that inspired this house, but in a modern reinterpretation, low-maintenance, black-painted corrugated and standing seam metal sheathe the façade and roof, providing a bold silhouette against the natural backdrop. Engineered wood products, fiber cement panels and fly ash trim make this project essentially impervious to rot and insects.

Awards & Publications

AIA Baltimore – Excellence in Design Award Residential, Honorable Mention, 2023

AIA Baltimore – Excellence in Design Award, Honorable Mention, 2023

massing studies

architect • Place Architecture:Design.

contractor • Phoenix Construction.

photography • Tom Holdsworth Photography.