schaum/shieh's residence in the US slides along natural contours to form green pockets

schaum/shieh's residence in the US slides along natural contours to form green pockets

SCHAUM/SHIEH builds Shenandoah House in the us

 

Nestled on a slope of the Allegheny Mountains in western Virginia, US, the Shenandoah House, designed by Schaum/Shieh, arranges its living spaces along a continuous line that follows the contours of its pitted terrain. This unconventional layout blends contemporary architecture with the natural topography, offering sweeping views of the rolling hills. The elongated plan, resembling irregular pods connected by a central corridor, creates pockets for gardens and outdoor nooks, erasing the boundary between the indoors and outdoors. The doubling of the ridgeline and the rounding of the peak add a gentle touch, reflecting the sloping surroundings. Designed as a 2.750-square-foot (255,5 square-meter) residence and writer’s retreat for a couple deeply connected to the local landscape, the project addresses the challenges posed by the steep site. As explained by Schaum/Shieh co-principal Rosalyne Shieh, they aimed for a subtle intervention in the landscape, seeking to create a house that fits organically without straightforwardly adopting local vernacular materials or solutions. ‘We focused on the hill, the seasons, the distant view, and the intimate life of the site.’

schaum/shieh's residence in the US slides along natural contours to form green pockets
all images by ©Naho Kubota

 

 

Shenandoah House’s Origins & Organic Response to its Topography

 

The inception of the Shenandoah House can be traced back to a dinner party where the clients shared sketches of a home inspired by travels in Athens. This initial drawing guided the collaboration with Schaum/Shieh (see more here), resulting in a final design centered around a long, airy plan that playfully embeds into the topography. In contrast to common reactions to hilltop sites, such as cantilevers, the architects opted for a subtle and organic response. The design avoids flattening any part of the site, choosing to build along the natural contours. A gray metal roof ties the elements together, emphasizing the lines and volumes of the slopes, creating a harmonious connection between the Shenandoah House and its natural setting. Ultimately, the team has developed a residence that respects the landscape and caters to the practical needs of its inhabitants. ‘We didn’t have the inclination to make a dramatic use of the steepness with a cantilever, and we didn’t want to flatten any portion of the site to erase the slope, so we decided to build along the contours as much as we could,’ explains Shieh.

schaum/shieh's residence in the US slides along natural contours to form green pockets
Shenandoah House unfolds over a lush slope of the Allegheny Mountains in western Virginia

 

 

‘The rolling hills of the Allegheny Mountains in that area of the Shenandoah Valley have such a soft, gentle feeling,’ describes the team. ‘They are like a well worn pair of corduroys —full of relief and detail, but a soft relief.’ This perception of soft relief significantly shapes the material choices for the Shenandoah House, particularly evident in the roof, which combines flexibility with the durability required for the area’s seasonal variations. Constructed from insulated stucco, the main body of the home integrates the smooth, white finish reminiscent of seaside Greek architecture with materials like the Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) cladding system, a locally used solution found on small commercial buildings such as gas stations. The design deliberately draws from these influences to create a unique aesthetic for the Shenandoah House.

schaum/shieh's residence in the US slides along natural contours to form green pockets
the stretched plan creates pockets for gardens and outdoor nooks, seamlessly blending indoor and outdoor living

 

 

The 120-foot-long hall features windows at either end that produce a telescope effect, framing views of the dense forest at one end and the expansive meadow at the other. These windows serve a dual purpose, framing the picturesque landscape and also connecting the interior with the interspersed gardens that weave between the rooms. Additionally, they physically open up, establishing a tangible link between the living spaces and the natural surroundings via steps leading down to the landscape. On the uphill side, simple clerestories connect with the treetops and offer views of the sunset over the ridge. Inside, the folds of the roof guide the layout and details of each room. The ceilings are kept simple, without any lights or disruptions. Instead, lighting comes through slots along the ceiling edge and from quasi-furniture objects that add texture throughout the home. Locally sourced soapstone influences various stone elements, like hearths and wood storage, while bamboo covers the expansive floor.schaum/shieh's residence in the US slides along natural contours to form green pockets

shenandoah-house-schaum-shieh-green-pockets-usa-designboom-31800

the house is integrated into its surroundings, offering sweeping views of the rolling hills

schaum/shieh's residence in the US slides along natural contours to form green pocketssimple clerestories create a connection to the treetops and sunset over the ridge
shenandoah-house-schaum-shieh-green-pockets-usa-designboom-21800

the rounding of the peak add a gentle touch, reflecting the sloping surroundings

 schaum/shieh's residence in the US slides along natural contours to form green pockets

 

schaum/shieh's residence in the US slides along natural contours to form green pockets

the design avoids flattening any part of the site, choosing to build along the natural contours

schaum/shieh's residence in the US slides along natural contours to form green pockets

large openings create a visual communication between the spaces

 

 

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no lights or other features interrupt the ceilings; instead, lighting emerges through slots at the ceiling edge
no lights or other features interrupt the ceilings; instead, lighting emerges through slots at the ceiling edge
the integration of wood, stone, and concrete elements adds an intriguing dynamic to the interior of the house
the integration of wood, stone, and concrete elements adds an intriguing dynamic to the interior of the house
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project info:

 

name: Shenandoah House 

architects: Schaum/Shieh | @schaumshieh

design team: Troy Schaum, Rosalyne Shieh, Giorgio Angelini, Andrea Brennan, Tucker Douglas, Ane Gonzalez contractor: Blue Ridge Green – Jonathan Kuntz

structural: Truesdell Engineering – Jordan Truesdell, PE

location: Lexington, VA

drawings: Schaum/Shieh

photography: Naho Kubota | @n_kubota

 

furnishings and finishes by room:

main bath: Custom Corian Counters, Dal-tile floors and walls, Kohler Cimarron Toilet, Kohler Caxton Sinks, Delta Tristan Plumbing Fixtures

main bedroom: Rakks Aluminum Shelves, Custom Cherry Cabinets, Flooring – Plyboo Stiletto, Brushed Pearl

kitchen: Custom Maple Counters, Custom Maple Cabinets, Kitchen Sink – Kohler Cape Dory, Kitchen Faucet – Grohe K7 Samsung Appliances, Flooring – Plyboo Stiletto, Brushed Pearl

dinning: Custom Maple Counters, Custom Maple Cabinets Flooring – Plyboo Stiletto, Brushed Pearl

guest bath 1 and 2: Dal-tile floors and walls, Kohler Cimarron Toilet, Kohler Caxton Sinks, Custom Corian Counters

living room: Pickled White Bamboo Floors, Ardex Skimmed Fireplace, Soapstone Hearth/Firewood Box, Fireplace Heat & Glo Exclaim, Flooring – Plyboo Stiletto, Brushed Pearl

exterior: Custom Powdercoated Rails, Marvin Windows and Sliding Doors – ‘Integrity’ Series, Thermory Wood Deck, EIFS Facade, Custom Powder-coated Window Surrounds, Exterior Lights – Sonneman Drift Wall Sconce

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