This 2,600-square-foot modern cottage overlooks the Corrotoman River in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Situated on a waterfront lot with steep wooded topography, this house was designed to be in harmony with the landscape. In addition, we wanted to create a comfortable home with incredible views.

A Cottage to Fit the Land

When owners George Gates and Lincoln Boykin came to Randall Kipp Architecture with their vision, they asked for a home that felt like a natural extension of its environment. In fact, they wanted to do as little excavation as possible, designing the house to fit the land – not the other way around.

“We really wanted the house to disappear in the woods, and it does! We hear the comment all the time that our house is invisible from the river. This is exactly what we were going for,” said Boykin.

There is a meandering stream running under the house. As a result, this required us to design and build the home as two independent slab-on-grade buildings. Notice that the “bridge” that connects the two volumes is wood framed and built on pilings, allowing the water of the stream to run underneath. The entryway and foyer rest on the bridge.

A “Tree House Deck” sits atop the foyer, in the rooftop space between the two buildings. The deck is accessible from the second story and spans the width of the home. There’s plenty of room on this rooftop platform to dine and host gatherings. And it’s the perfect place to catch a vibrant sunset.

Blend into the Surroundings

The siding you see pictured isn’t really siding at all; it’s roofing material. As mentioned, the homeowners found it very important for the home to blend into the surroundings. And as architects and designers, we had to make sure we created a design that stands out while simultaneously granting the owners’ wish.  So, we came up with the idea to completely encompass the home with the same bronze standing seam metal panels.

Accordingly, the vertical lines of the siding parallel the verticality of the trees.  Plus, the lustrous coloring blends in beautifully with the surroundings.

To decide on the color of the siding and roofing material, the homeowners literally held samples against the trees and picked the one they felt most closely matched.

The massive windows are arguably the most important feature about this home. “Why live on the river if you don’t take advantage of the jaw-dropping views?” said Gates. 

Also, he told us his favorite thing about their home is the vast windows. They allow the couple to view the incredible sunsets from every room in the house – including the master shower!

A Dog-Friendly Cottage Design 

“We have a Chesapeake Bay Retriever that we can’t keep out of the river, so we knew we would need a dog-friendly design as well. Concrete floors, an outdoor shower and mudroom entrance have proven invaluable” said Boykin. 

In fact, the notion of using an organic floor material to bring the building and site together led us to choose waxed concrete floors. This type of flooring allowed us to run hydronic heating tubes throughout the slab, providing radiant heat for the home.


Walnut veneer was used for the cabinets and wall paneling in the kitchen and great room. The horizontal grain lines were chosen intentionally to provide contrast to all of the vertical lines in the space. We added a special touch with a custom cherry dining table that is recessed in the kitchen island.

This modern cottage was designed and built with intention from the very beginning. We incorporated the requests of the homeowners and fusing those requests with our love of modern architecture. 

Photography by Maxwell MacKenzie