Great Falls Cottage

Project Description

In the lush, wooded expanses of Great Falls, VA, a unique residential project was conceived to meet the desires of a mother and daughter wishing to live independently yet close to each other. This project involved the expansion of the daughter’s existing home and the construction of a modern cottage for the mother, all within a sustainable and nature-integrated framework.

The Challenge:

The primary challenge was to design and construct two distinct yet harmonious living spaces that catered to the individual needs of the mother and daughter while preserving the natural beauty of the estate. The project aimed to achieve high standards of sustainability, livability, and aesthetic elegance, reflecting the green-minded ethos of the clients.

Project Details

Architect Checa Architects
Date 2009
Skills Experimental Systems
Photo Credits Kenneth M. Wyner Photography Inc.

The Transformation:

  • Main House Expansion: CHECA Architects reimagined and expanded the main house to add a bright and inviting dining room and a second-story study for the owner, an author and teacher. The study, with windows on all sides, offers panoramic views of the woods, creating an inspiring retreat flooded with natural light.
  • Modern Cottage Creation: A modern cottage was carefully tucked into the existing woods, designed with single-floor accessibility and an open loft for additional studio and guest space. Large, soaring windows and remotely controlled upper windows captured the beauty of the surroundings and facilitated natural ventilation.
  • Sustainable Orientation: Both the addition and the cottage were oriented to take full advantage of natural daylight, summer shading, and the site’s topography, minimizing tree removal and maintaining ecological integrity.
  • Integrated Green Technologies: The project featured an array of sustainability measures, including a geothermal energy system, greywater solutions, and a Clivus Multrum composting toilet system to avoid extensive excavation and tree cutting. Passive solar design, a highly insulated and sealed building envelope, efficient LED lighting, and water-saving fixtures were also integral to the design.
  • Collaborative Expertise: An integrated design team of LEED-certified professionals, including architects, builders, and landscape architects, as well as geo-thermal energy and greywater consultants, ensured that every aspect of the project was aligned with sustainability goals.


The Great Falls Mother-Daughter Duet stands as a testament to harmonious living, both between family members and with nature. The thoughtful design, respecting each resident’s independence while fostering closeness, combined with deep ecological respect, resulted in a family estate that truly embodies sustainable luxury. The project not only provided personalized spaces for the mother and daughter but also preserved and celebrated the natural setting in which it resides.

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