We want to thank architects Mimi Sadler and Camden Whitehead who graciously opened their home to Modern Richmond for May's event. Together with Chris Chase, they described the history of the house and the collaborative nature of the renovation process. It was a lovely spring evening in the woods by Forest Hill Park.
Built in the late 1800's, the original raised cottage has undergone a series of almost continuous interventions - evolving from a small five-room house supported on brick piers to its current configuration. Mimi and Camden purchased the home in 1998 and - in a process familiar to many architects - spent a number of years sorting out a viable approach to the floor plan. During this time, a geo-thermal system was installed and the rear addition reframed and reclad in copper. These years also saw the addition of a new roof, following the observation that the patches on the old one were "all gooped out."
Camden described "listening" to the home over many years, and a measured process comprising "acts of emergency, acts of infrastructure, and acts of joy." A major milestone was reached in 2011, when a whirlwind renovation was completed. Mimi wondered aloud whether 10 years could really be described as a "whirlwind," and spoke about their collaboration with Chris Chase.
Chris spoke with passion about working with Mimi and Camden to craft a vision for the renovation. He noted that the timeline - which was not continuous - allowed for room to think and the development of numerous happy, constructive accidents. For Chris, the most compelling part of the project is the tactile quality of the materials and details, which invite touching.
In addition to the tactility and craft, a rich history is written into the details of the home. The oak in the bathrooms is resawn lumber from the Whitehead family farm. In the kitchen, the poplar came from a long-ago Pittsylvania County auction of a coffin maker's supplies. The backsplashes are salvaged blackboards from an old school. On a Dairy Queen napkin, Mimi and Camden sketched the cabinet pulls - repurposed hinges from doors removed during renovation. The final material palette was worked out in the sand on a trip to Virginia Beach. On the ground floor, you will find a pair of tiny galleries with carefully curated exhibits of Playmobil sculpture.
MRT thanks everyone who came out for an outstanding evening in Woodland Heights. This month's tour offers numerous lessons for combining historic character with modern, sustainable design. A very special thanks to Mimi, Camden and Chris for sharing their story.
(Photos are courtesy of Sadler and Whitehead and © Ansel Olson)