By Betsy DiJulio
At the end of a long, oyster shell drive on the shore of Lake Christine, modernism has collaborated with nature to create Chip and Christy Rudolf’s spectacular residence. Dramatic yet tranquil, its design owes as much to the modernist principles of clean lines, basic shapes and geometric forms as it does to the inspiration of bright sky, shimmering water and mature trees.
Surrounded on three sides by water and nestled into protected forest in Virginia Beach’s Croatan neighborhood, this “uncompromisingly modern” home is oriented toward the lake, its facades inspired by the natural setting. All of the bedrooms offer lake views, while the first-level master suite features a private deck and a master bath with a shower that makes such extensive use of windows it appears to be suspended in the woods.
Christy Rudolf says the couple wanted to build a unique home for their family of five, something that “would age well and be a solid structure with low maintenance.” And she says she and Chip – respectively, the vice president and president of Rudolf Construction Partners – were enthusiastic about experimenting with residential applications for a number of commercial materials and finishes.
“We would go to home shows and immediately gravitate to the unique, low-profile, contemporary booths and products,” she says. She jokes that entering the project, the couple wanted two things: “lots of windows and concrete floors.”
They got both and a whole lot more, thanks to architect Kerry G. Finley, president of Finley Design in Durham, and Cindy Pennybacker, a Virginia Beach-based designer who chose, among other things, colors and furnishings. She also designed the dining table and created two signature paintings for the home. Overall, Rudolf credits Pennybacker with keeping the spaces “warm and inviting.”
Built in 2015, the entire structure, including the adjacent 1,200-square-foot-garage, is a study in rectangular planes. Complex but subtle geometric configurations of bands, borders, and flat and folded planes counterbalance one another. Constructed of both glass and opaque cladding, they perform a contrasting duet that mimics the dance of sun and shadow across the natural setting.
Depending on weather and time of day, interior surfaces of the home are animated by light reflecting off the lake in the back and a reflecting pool in the front. There, water spills from a trio of wall-mounted steel tube fountains into a recessed pool that wraps around the corner of the front entrance where the home’s geometric theme is dramatically introduced.
Sections of vertical shiplap made of stained cypress contrast with an expanse of light-colored cement board panels, set off by aluminum trim. In material, color and surface, the structure echoes the bark of the trees, the brilliance of the sky and the silvery reflections off the water.
There are unique variations on this theme throughout the home, from the floating LED cube chandeliers made by the couple to the bi-level bunk beds made by Christy Rudolf for their sons’ rooms. The sophisticated, clean-lined white cubes are softened especially in the younger boy’s room by two walls of rock climbing holds and three cocoon-like chairs suspended from the ceiling.
Polished concrete floors throughout the lower level of the 4,500-square-foot home and large driftwood-look vinyl tiles throughout the second level stand up to the wear and tear of three children and a pair of white English golden retrievers.
Abundant light and wood soften the home. A double fireplace adds warmth: It is accessible from both the two-story living room and the porch, which opens up to the house through folding storefront windows. Brazilian redwood decking and concrete planes extend from the porch, and along with the oyster shell walkways, provide a handsome transition from the man-made spaces to the natural setting.
In both the dining room and downstairs master bedroom, the folded-plane motif, with inset lighting, is repeated but with a more cubelike dimension to define these spaces and lend a hint of intimacy that still maintains the home’s openness and clean lines. In the dining room, the combination accent wall and awning is a geometric composition of dark oak panels and aluminum trim. In the bedroom, the cubic element is constructed from panels of rich, honey-toned wood, and houses built-in shelving. In the kitchen, a wall of sea-blue glass cabinets, the rare pop of color in the house, provides a restrained drama that makes them the ideal backdrop for the handsomely imposing 8-by-12-foot island and the commanding stainless steel Viking commercial range.
Furniture and accessories are minimal, linear and contemporary with occasional nods to midcentury design, like the white George Nelson bubble pendant suspended over the stairs. Procured from the likes of Calypso, CB2 and West Elm, many of the pieces come with a comic backstory involving Rudolf, Pennybacker, a U-Hauland a snowstorm in Washington, D.C.
Landings, floating stairs and floating bathroom vanities – made from a red oak removed during construction – continue the sleek modern horizontal lines. The stairs, with their steel tube and tempered glass railings, allow light from the east-facing windows to penetrate deep into the open living spaces. Elsewhere, wood accent walls and custom Brazilian cherry barn doors inject a similar earthiness, at times sleek and at times with a hint of rusticity. The earthy palette includes a white paint toned with just a hint of warm gray.
The Rudolf family’s home works as a retreat where everyone can be together – or can spread out. But it’s also an entertainment hub. The Rudolfs love music and pump it throughout the house. A fit fivesome of golfers, they all put the indoor gym and private putting green to good use. The playroom and pool open strategically off the kitchen and adjacent bathroom so, Rudolf says, “it’s easy for snacks, drinks, restrooms, Xbox, movies, games, putting, canoeing, swimming … everything!”
“We are always open to friends and family,” she says, “just like our house with tons of windows and no shades.”