Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Where We Live: Contemporary home in Yorktown a true labor of love

Keith and Mary Henry’s home in the Marlbank Cove neighborhood of Yorktown is a quintessential contemporary masterpiece. Though it took many years — and a lot of patience — to come to fruition, the end result is something the Henrys dearly love.

The story goes like this: In 1985, the Henrys decided they were done with townhouse living and wanted to build their forever home. After attending an open house for a planned development called Marlbank Cove, they fell in love with a heavily treed lot on a point in the very back of the neighborhood.

“It was perfect because I wanted a lot that was at least an acre and had privacy, and Mary wanted a lot no bigger than an acre, so we could have neighbors and enjoy the social aspect of the community,” recalled Keith.

Building did not happen right away. Though, per the development rules, they were supposed to break ground within 12 months of purchase, the Henrys requested extensions because of some very specific wants and desires for their “forever” home.

Keith, who worked for NASA’s Langley Research Center at the time, was fascinated with smart-house technology, an integrated wiring and communication system for homes, which back then was way advanced for the time and was often compared to the futuristic cartoon lifestyle of “The Jetsons.”

“I liked the idea of automation and having my coffee always be ready for me each morning,” said Keith, who freely admits his NASA nerdiness influenced his smart-house fascination.

So while they waited for the technology to progress, Keith and Mary began putting together a list of what they wanted in their forever home. They were very thorough and forward-thinking for first-time home builders, even taking into consideration the need for handicapped-accessible features, efficient energy-saving heating and air systems, water filtration, and even a fire-suppression system. Other specifications included a recreation room, a sunroom, a gazebo, an oversized garage big enough to store a plane or RV, and the request for every room in the house to have a nice view of the woods surrounding the property, among others.

“We wanted to design a house that would have everything we could possibly want for the rest of our lives — we at least wanted it to be capable of offering that,” said Keith.

The Henrys worked with Jim Pociluyko of ARCI Architects in Yorktown over the course of several years designing and incorporating their wish list into an aesthetically pleasing contemporary home that was progressive in functionality. Finally, in 1992, the lot was cleared and building began on the 4,300-square-foot, two-story home.

This is the point where if Keith could go back in time and give himself a few pointers, he definitely would.

“Looking back it probably would have been better for Mary and I to have built a small or medium size home first, so that we better understood the process,” said Keith.

Needless to say, there were a lot of hiccups due to the complexity of the home both in design and function. Ultimately, the Henrys became the co-general contractors and also did their fair share of the work, including painting, wallpapering and removing debris and trash from the work site. But in December 1995, fully 10 years after purchasing the lot, the Henrys and their daughter, Jessica, moved into their home.

The final product was worth the wait. The brick exterior features dramatic angles and is castle-like in appearance. The outdoor space is enhanced by decking that surrounds both the first and second floor of the home. Instead of wood or iron railings, the architect suggested a cable railing, to give a “through-post” look, which doesn’t impede the view. Off the deck and fully 15-20 feet off the sloping rear of the lot, sits a gazebo with high ceilings that looks like a treehouse. It’s one of Keith’s favorite spots.

“It’s very quiet and serene back here,” he said. “I remember going to the gazebo and sitting on a concrete block and eating lunch while they were building the house. It’s a great memory.”

The interior is just as unique. High pitched ceilings show off yellow-pine wood panels and exposed beams. The angular theme continues inside with dozens of windows in the shapes of squares and triangles. Small glass block accents also appear throughout.

“The glass lets in the light as it changes throughout the day, and the view changes through the seasons,” said Keith.

More recently, the house underwent a renovation — or “re-imaging” as Keith likes to call it. The Henrys worked with designer Ann Fitch of Unusual Designs and landscape architect Jo Louise Harding to update the home and tweak a few things. The five-year renovation included redoing the kitchen, fresh new wallpaper, new lighting, a fireplace facelift, and installing a stamped concrete driveway along with extensive landscaping and outdoor lighting.

This time the process went much smoother, and the Henrys once again find themselves enjoying the fruits of their labor.

“We really put our heart and soul into this house,” said Keith. “Mary and I and even our daughter, Jessica. And, today, and every day, it’s a joy to live in.”

Related Articles