The little cabin was truly “the tail that wagged the dog.” That’s how BarnesVanze Architects describes a storybook log cabin, built in the 1800s, that was a hair’s breadth away from demolition. Then firm principal Steve Vanze and his team—Melanie Giordano and Sydney Katz—came to its rescue. “You don’t run into many of these,” says Vanze. “We had to save it.”
Clients Neada and Brian Onufrychuk, new to country life in Virginia, were so focused on the five acres of land (“It’s magical,” sighs Neada), that they hadn’t really noticed the squat, chinked-wall structure attached to a nondescript 1925 house ready for the wrecking ball. As soon as they did, however, they instantly recognized its value. Now a favorite part of the house, the restored cabin initially gave her pause, Neada admits. She worried the rustic cabin might not meld with the new design, a modern country house inspired by architect C.F.A. Voysey, an icon of the English Arts & Crafts movement.
Fortunately, the design and construction challenges fell into the right hands. Along with the homeowners, both of them history buffs and avid collectors, the classically inclined architects headed up a team that included designer Lauren Liess, known for sense-of-place interiors, and contractor Michael Carr, whose meticulous craftsmanship included burning and chipping new wood to age it. Landscape designer Jennifer Horn introduced a homey “Remnant Garden,” along with other landscaping she says is “what we imagine was once on site.” In terms of vision, talent, and integrity, this was a dream collaboration of professionals.
Designed in a meandering fashion, the house is organized around axial views to the woods, with the cabin at one end and a three-bay garage with an upstairs office at the other. Glass hallways, set at an angle, link these two volumes to the house’s central vaulted great room, where the parents enjoy casual living and eating with their two young children. Other spaces—kitchen, bedrooms, formal dining room, covered porch, and library—surround the central space and look into it from the main level or from balconies above. Open and airy from the foyer, the mood shifts to cozy once you step into the dark-wood paneled library. It changes again in the kitchen, a sunlit room with a white-oak island, white quartz countertops, and floors of light grey slate.
The house looks smaller from the outside than it actually is. Its sweeping roof and the gently curved stucco rolling out over windows and into wooden door openings recall the white roughcast houses with slate roofs typical of Voysey. “Our aim was to reflect his ideas in a more modern way,” observes Vanze. “We made the design a little crisper, and added slightly simpler details.” While there is a ribbon of horizontal windows à la Voysey in the shed dormer, there are also large expanses of glass.
To Neada’s delight, the house, she says, is shaped like a hug that embraces arriving guests. The welcoming spirit carries through once you step inside. “The bends and turns create mystery,” she suggests. “You wonder where every little section leads to.” Like the property marked by rolling hills, forest and a stream, the house is an assemblage of wonderful moments waiting to happen, the culmination of which is the log cabin.
At first, an idea was to have the cabin serve as a pool house, sited as it is near the pool and sports court. Once the original ceiling was raised, however, the space clearly had more potential. Newly insulated, the cabin became a family room, as well as space for dinner guests: A long table seats 20 in front of the original fireplace back in working order. “We pulled in simple, comfortable furnishings,” says Lauren Liess; she chose “primitive, rustic-feeling materials” for the cabin, from which she transitioned to the rest of the home.
“I could see that Neada was drawn to romantic, dramatic spaces that had a bit of quiet soul to them,” says Liess. (She has incorporated pieces she designed for the Onufrychuks into her most recent custom furnishings line, Woodbridge.) “This being a new build, my goal was to try to add some patina.” Elements such as a soft, tea-stained palette, tone-on-tone patterns, and vintage and vintage-inspired textiles and rugs create an old curiosity shop-type backdrop. “I wanted it to be a little bit dusty, but not too much,” says Neada, implying that she loves antiques but appreciates the trappings of more modern eras. “I’m all about old, new, and earthy, mixed with some moody dark moments.”
The owner’s style range is apparent in the extensive and eclectic art collection, which she’d begun to amass before Liess encouraged her to keep going. One piece, hanging on a wall in the main stairway, was part of the property long ago: it’s the original door of the cabin.