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Penny House

Location: Williamsburg, Virginia

Period: 1770

The Penny House project involved expansion and rehabilitation of a 1770 house that was disassembled and moved to Williamsburg in 1947. The dwelling stands on a challenging lot that is confined in the rear by a magnificent oak tree and a precipitous descent to the creek beyond.  A new addition on the south end provides a den above, a guest suite below, and a rear porch serving both levels. The airy, spacious den was inspired by historical precedents. It varies the spatial experience of the house in a pleasant and unexpected way. The well-lit guest suite below has walkout access to a rear patio, and to the raised porch deck above. Situated at some remove from the master bedroom, it preserves the owners’ privacy, yet it remains easily accessible to social spaces where they can entertain.


At the rear of the house, a new sun room infuses the interior with daylight and affords prospects to the wooded ravine beyond.  Adjoining this space is a new deck--a large venue for outdoor entertainment sharing the same vistas to the ravine.


The damp, musty basement was reclaimed, adding significantly to the spaces available for living. To achieve this, the lower level was completely waterproofed, insulated, and finished. The new guest suite is optimally located to receive natural light, and systems are routed to maximize head room, thus enhancing the domestic “feel” of the spaces.


A new garage and covered way provide protected access for two cars. The old one-car garage stood in the “Resource Protection Area” defined by the Chesapeake Bay Protection Act. To obtain the needed regulatory approvals, the new garage was moved partly out of the zone, and a run-off mitigation plan was prepared by the consulting engineer. On the architectural side, our designs were presented to the Architectural Review Board for the City of Williamsburg, which passed them by acclamation, based on the knowing use of historical elements they displayed.

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