A Midlothian-area community known for its collection of primarily Craftsman-style homes is looking to introduce an architectural style not typically seen in metro Richmond’s outermost suburban rings.
The 900-acre RounTrey development, by father-and-son team Doug and Danny Sowers, is preparing to set aside a 17-lot section that will be designated specifically for modern-design homes.
Danny Sowers, who is about to start building a modern-style house as his personal residence, said he’d been thinking of bringing the design to RounTrey but figured the market was out of reach, and that the typically higher price point put such homes out of reach of RounTrey’s traditional homebuyer.
“I didn’t think Richmond was really ready for it: modern homes in the suburbs,” Sowers said. “But we’ve done a lot of research – focus groups, builder meetings, meetings with architects, the realty community – and there’s been an overwhelming amount of support and positivity.”
Sowers said he was further encouraged when local architects Chris Snowden and Walter Parks Architects designed a modern home on Swift Creek Reservoir in Brandermill, though its cost – $1.4 million, Sowers said – added to his reservations.
“That told me that modern architecture in Richmond is too expensive, that the reason why it’s not taking off is because everything that people see is over $1 million,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is introduce modern architecture in a more palatable form that is more attainable to the normal, above-average consumer.”
To accomplish that, Sowers is working with Snowden and fellow architect Trey Tyler on designs and floor plans that he said would feature modern-design elements but limit expenses through materials used, finishes, construction techniques and size.
Each of the 17 homes would remain within the footprint of an average RounTrey house – about 3,000 square feet, Sowers said – with prices in the $600,000 range.
Wrapped around a cul de sac beside Woolridge Road, the section would serve as a showcase of sorts, with models built next year and the section aimed to be built out by April 2020, when Sowers said he plans to host a home showcase event. The concept would be similar to the model home court RounTrey opened last year.
Builders on board for the modern-home section include Chesterfield-based Covenant Building & Design and Henrico-based LeGault Homes, though Sowers said all of RounTrey’s preferred builders would be eligible for the section, with Snowden and Tyler consulting on designs. Sowers said six builders have signed on to construct homes that will be featured in the showcase.
Style gaining popularity
Tyler, who serves on the board of Modern Richmond, a local nonprofit that promotes modern architecture in the region, said the project follows a trend and growing popularity for the style locally.
The owner of Richmond-based RenderSphere LLC, whose portfolio includes a modern rebuild near Carytown, Tyler describes the style of modernism he’s seeing – and what the RounTrey homes would feature – as emphasizing open floor plans, abundant glass and natural light, low-sloped or flat roofs with large overhangs, minimal detailing, and a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces.
“We’ve seen a great resurgence of modernism, particularly new-construction modernism, in the city, and that is now extending out into the suburbs,” Tyler said. “There’s a lot of interest in it, and there’s not a lot of product available, so you’re seeing more custom-built modern homes, but also there’s a few spec houses that have been built.”
Tyler said when Snowden’s and Walter Parks’ Brandermill house was opened up for tours for this year’s Modern Richmond Week, tickets sold out in three days.
“That told me: wow, things have turned around,” he said. “We’re seeing this resurgence of an interest in modernism in the city, but it’s also spreading out into the suburbs.”
Richmond’s modern-home examples
Snowden, who studied architecture at the Savannah College of Arts and Design, described the RounTrey section as the first of its kind in the Richmond area.
“Modern houses are becoming increasingly sought-after,” Snowden said in an email. “People love the simplicity, detail and natural light associated with modern design. Our aim is to create a more affordable modern house while maintaining wonderful materials, large glass windows, etc.”
Modern home design has picked up in popularity in Richmond’s urban core, with examples including two rectangular-shaped houses built this year in North Highland Park, Carter Snipes’ Meridian townhomes in the Museum District and Dallan Development’s A2 infill project near the Fan.
Andrea Levine, a local real estate agent who chairs the Modern Richmond board, said she sees the style continuing to catch on in the suburbs, where she noted it has proven popular in the past.
“When you look at Hillcrest/Hillwood (in the city’s West End, just west of Windsor Farms), there’s a high concentration of midcentury modern,” Levine said. “Another high concentration would be Westham (in Henrico), so it’s been happening historically.”
Correction: The modern-home section will be located on a cul-de-sac beside Woolridge Road. An earlier version of the story incorrectly named a different road.