There are several historic neighborhoods in Richmond with diverse architectural styles to reflect them. Although Richmond’s architecture is best described as traditional, we are appreciative of the handful of structures that have ventured away from the norm. To serve as the backdrop for our December Short Run lookbook, we took advantage of the iconic and unconventional Rice House.
The Rice House, completed in 1965, is an exceptional example of modernist architecture and the only International Style home in Richmond. The house served as the residential home of Walter and Inger Rice. Mr. Rice was a top executive at Reynolds Metals Corporation, a Richmond-based Fortune 500 Company, and served as the U.S. Ambassador to Australia during the first Nixon administration. Mrs. Rice was a native of Denmark who had a natural appreciation and love for mid-century modern design.
It was Mrs. Rice who commissioned Richard Neutra, an internationally-renowned West Coast architect, to design the home. After working briefly for Frank Lloyd Wright and then moving to Southern California, Neutra is considered one of the most influential architects of the modernist era. At the top of his career at the time of the offer, Neutra initially declined the Rice’s invitation. According to lore, once Neutra took in the view of the river while visiting Richmond, he said it was the most beautiful site in the world and accepted the rare East Coast commission.
The property is located on a remote wooded gorge – accessible only by bridge – and rests 110-feet above the rapids of the James River. While on the property, there is a noticeable feeling of peace and welcomed isolation.
Neutra was known for merging the lines between shelter and nature, and for playing with spatial concepts in his designs. A great example of this is a marble wall that’s both inside and outside, only separated by a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Texture plays an integral role in the design of the house — large mirrors, beautiful wood, and various kinds of rock are used throughout the home. The Rice House also features a Japanese-style sunken seating area, sauna, and even an air raid shelter – after all, the home was built during the Cold War.
Mr. Rice passed away in 1998 and Mrs. Rice lived in the house until moving to a retirement community in 2007. A couple of years before Mr. Rice’s passing, the Rices donated their home to the Science Museum of Virginia Foundation to ensure its preservation and continued use. Since the foundation has taken over maintenance, a handful of renovations have taken place including new roofing, cork flooring, new interior paint and a new second-story deck.
The Rice House is a greater example of knowing what you want and sticking to it, even if this means going against current trends. At the time that the Rice House was built, many members of Richmond’s social elite scoffed at the home’s contemporary architecture. Now, nearly half of a century later, the 6,000 square foot home constructed from glass, granite, and concrete is one of the most celebrated homes in the area.
View the lookbook and shop the December 2013 Short Run Collection now.
The Rice House is available to rent for private parties, corporate retreats and weddings. For more information on the historic house and booking, visit smv.org.