Rill Architects' Retreat in the Woods

Rill’s contextual design was based on traditional massing in a modern form. The main living spaces, just beyond the bridge that leads to the front door, are open to one another, giving the owners the one-room living they desired. Windows are unadorned and furnishings are spare so that views are unobstructed, leading the owners and guests to the outdoors.

The galley kitchen, which features granite counters with patterns reminiscent of tree branches, is open to the entire first floor including the rear glass tower.

From the rooftop deck for stargazing to the third floor office and bird sanctuary for the owners’ cockatiels to the second floor retreat with master bedroom and art studio, the home complements the natural setting. The lower level includes an indoor exercise pool overlooking a koi pond and the path to the C&O Canal National Park. The shape of the house even changed at one point to save a large beech tree. 

In the third floor office that doubles as a bird sanctuary, the owners share the magnificent views with their cockatiels. Interior designer Jodi Macklin kept the decor spare and windows unadorned for a clear look at the outdoor setting.

The energy efficient home includes Argon-filled windows, icynene insulation, geothermal system with four wells for heating and cooling, and a fifth well for outdoor ponds, water features and irrigation. Two 25,000-gallon cisterns collect rainwater runoff from the driveway and roofs to augment the outdoor supply.

Third floor dormers with suspended branches create indoor habitats for feathered friends.

Lead architect Jim Rill and project manager James Murray of Rill Architects devised an open stairway plan leading from the foyer to the third floor.

By opening the sliding glass doors, the ground level indoor exercise pool becomes one with nature.

Bartlett Tree Service mapped out the property and architects Rill and Murray sited the custom home, saving as many trees as possible.

A stream runs under the orange entry bridge of the custom home built by Potomac Valley Builders.

To accommodate Natural Park Service’s height restrictions, the architects designed a roof deck for stargazing, accessible from the third floor office.

The rear glass tower glows at night and provides multiple spots to watch sunsets and the flow of the Potomac River.

Western Maryland fieldstone outlines the patio and columns surrounding the koi pond.

A bridge overlooking a stream leads from the main house’s kitchen to the garage. Landscape architect Cynthia Ferranto added native species to enhance the habitat.

When designing the home, architects Rill and Murray carefully placed the home in the woods to invite wildlife.

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