Living in an Architect’s House

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It is a first for me. To live in a house that was designed with a story in mind. With a vision and a purpose.

This house is all about the view and functionality. Angles and sharp turns. Thought and style.

I wanted to know the story of the man who built it. And while I couldn’t find an Internet record of Ernie Rose, I found a stack of articles about him in the archives at the newspaper.

He was a well-known Richmond architect with a rich history.

He designed Innsbrook, a local office park, and other buildings like the former Heilig-Meyers headquarters which is now used by the Federal Reserve Bank.

He was known for his quality work and attention to cost. According to his obituary in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“He almost had a monopoly on office work in town. It became a chase for developers. Whoever could call him first got his services.”

He built this house for his family in 1974 in the Frank Lloyd Wright style.

Then he built another one, a Victorian, that was featured in Southern Living twice. The style was totally different but incorporated many of the elements from this one: copper gutters, built-in cabinets, Corian counters and a working studio.

The paper described this house as:

“[P]rivate, in the woods on a lake. The style was contemporary of the early 1970s…with gray-stained siding, sloped ceilings and glass across the back overlooking the lake. Its interior was designed with young children in mind.”

Which makes me very happy, having two young children and trying to find a good home for them. I lived in an urban home, then a suburban one, but neither one seemed like a good fit.

Until now.

The house was built on three lots, all facing the lake. The driveway is long and sloping, like a courtyard with a slate patio and a garage that has been turned into a studio.

The house is all glass, facing the lake. It has two decks, facing the water. And 1.6 acres, all waterfront, for the kids to run and play.

There are built-ins throughout the house: for china and dishes, linens and clothes. A window-seat in the master bedroom. An office just off the master raised off the ground.

It is a house that speaks to the body and the mind. And it endlessly functional.

In college as an undergrad, I wrote my senior thesis on houses as symbols in major women’s novels. And I sourced heavily from Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space.” Something I remember being chastised for.

But the book made a huge impression and I find myself thinking of it often since we moved into this house.

Bachelard wrote about the house as a metaphor for self. He said:

“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”

And I think of that often when I climb the stairs to the study, it’s like climbing inside my mind.

I think about Ernie Rose and how he thought about all these details. How he wanted to make a house that is functional and beautiful.

At night, the house glows. From the skylights and the windows. It is like a living thing.

Downstairs, the electrical box is signed. Simply, in strong black letters: Rose.

Like an artist signing a painting. A work of art. That we get to live in.

6 Comments

  1. Pretty cool. I worked for Ernie in the late 80’s and until the market tanked. I learned a ton working there in my early 20’s.

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  2. I love this piece. Beautifully written and a joy to read. My husband and I live in a mid-century modern home (built in early 50’s) overlooking the James, on Riverside Dr.
    Your quote that included living a dream spoke to me – and my experience – and expressed the thoughts I’ve never been able to articulate, much less think through, about living in this incredible home.

    Like

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