James River House, Scottsville Real Estate VA, Virginia Vacation Home, US Architecture Images

James River House in Scottsville, Virginia

post updated March 22, 2024


Location: Scottsville, Virginia, USA

James River House Scottsville Virginia

Photos by James Ewing / JBSA

Sep 14, 2020

James River House, Scottsville

The James River House was designed as a place for three young boys. It is a place where they can grow and learn from their surroundings – experience mud, moths, flowing water, and the changing light of the seasons; a place that would allow for many gatherings of all the people who love them. Three volumes hover above a bluff alongside a bend in the James River in Scottsville, Virginia, arranged loosely and lightly on the land like a scattered group of stones around a campfire. As a visitor slips between the volumes, the house opens up to light and river views and the fully enveloping woods.

James River House Scottsville Virginia

The clients wanted to build a home for their immediate and extended family with additional space for cousins and friends to come and enjoy the river and wooded landscape of this remote central Virginia location. Key to this setting was creating as little disturbance to the landscape as possible, to conserve the forest setting and to embrace the woods as the setting for the home. The home needed to be as open to this landscape as possible and create as much indoor/outdoor experience as possible, physical and perceptual.

James River House Scottsville Virginia James River House Scottsville Virginia

The home is set on 40 acres of fairly rugged land, with only an old dirt logging road cutting across and a gravel road coming in to the site. The project required stabilizing this entry road and bringing power and data to the homesite.

James River House Scottsville Virginia

The road way in had to be reconfigured, paved in a portion, and a waterway through the site controlled in order to allow for vehicle access to the homesite. The home itself is meant to sit as lightly on the land as possible with each pavilion’s foundation a separate and thus smaller shape on the earth with the deck and connecting entry way built as bridges to keep the footprint efficient and small. The framing of the house is primarily light wood which minimized the need for heavy equipment needing to navigate the rough terrain to the homesite.

James River House Scottsville Virginia

The clients are two of the partners of ARCHITECTUREFIRM, Katie and Danny MacNelly. They are parents of three boys and this is their vacation home from their main house in Richmond.

James River House Scottsville Virginia

The project uses very simple forms and relatively inexpensive construction materials and methods to create minimal black masses in the natural landscape. The way the volumes are positioned on the land, in plan and in section on the bluff above the river, along with strategic use of large expanses of windows and sliding doors creates a deep connection to the site from inside and around the house. The more solid elevations of the pavilions surround a space near the outdoor fire place that creates the feeling of a shelter in the forest, while the home spreads out to the west and opens up to the views, sounds, and light over the river below.

James River House Scottsville Virginia

Block foundations, light wood framing, and stained tongue and groove cladding are the main building materials with large Western Windows sliders and casement windows as the fenestration.

The home relies on large and operable windows and sliding doors for abundant natural light and ventilation throughout. The large fireplaces inside and out also provide heat with wood pulled from the site in the natural course of falling trees and maintenance clearing. The wood siding is stained cypress which is sustainably produced and easily maintained.

James River House Scottsville Virginia


James River House Scottsville Virginia

Photography: James Ewing / JBSA

James River House, Scottsville, Virginia images / information received 140920

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