US firm Robert Young Architects designed a pine-clad home on a forested hillside to provide immersive views of nature and a sense of optimism for a bereaved family. This is a story about the power nature has to heal hearts going through grief and know that without a doubt, plants can heal in any type of situation.
Virginia Treehouse Is Designed Around a Family’s Experience of Loss
The full-time residence is in a river valley in Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. The house was designed to embody a 'sense of connectedness between architecture and landscape' and to serve as a peaceful refuge for Sue Deagle, who had recently lost her husband Mike. Sue has been living here since its completion in 2021 with her two children.
Deagle, who publishes a grief newsletter and website called 'The Luminist', was heavily involved in the design process to aid in her healing process. One thing is certain— she wanted plants and nature to surround the entire site. Why? For her, just looking at nature would make her feel a thousand times better instantly, they have an added psychological value to those going through a hard time or grief.
Nature's beauty has so much to offer and when you look at it, it can be very healing according to Sue. She hoped that creating a new home would help her and her family imagine a future with optimism, said Robert Young Architects, based in New York.
Having Nature Around Your Home Can Uplift Any Mood and Situation
What primarily defines this home is the glass design which allows the family to oversee nature in every way possible. The house is roughly L-shaped in plan and is made up of rectilinear volumes clad in dark-stained pine. The house is 483 square meters (5,200 square feet) in size, with three levels and a basement. The architects designed the house 'from the inside out' to provide views of nature.
The interiors are configured in a way that choreographs movement through the house in relation to outside views according to the architects. Diagonal sight lines organize the layout and dynamically connect the interior spaces with the dense and varied woodlands beyond. The top level houses the primary bedroom suite and was designed to look like a 'forest aerie perched high in the tree canopy' to feel as if you're in healing heaven. The main level encompasses the communal spaces, along with an office, mudroom, and garage. Just off the living room is a furnished screened porch, which is lifted high above the ground by steel silts.
Every Material Used for the Virginia Treehouse Has a Meaning
The interior is made up of earthy and industrial materials such as white oak, tile, and concrete. Oak surfaces convey warmth, while concrete elements authentically convey durability and strength, having a meaning behind every material that was used for the construction of the Virginia Treehouse.
Windows were strategically placed throughout the house to provide curated views of the landscape, and certain walls were left solid to obscure views of nearby structures. Who has stared at nature and instantly felt better? That is the healing and curing properties of nature by itself. The beauty of trees astonishes and gives life so much purpose that they allow you to start your healing process linearly and calmly without disturbances.
The view is anchored at the bottom of the valley by a floodplain and watercourse on a steep hill that backs up to a tributary stream of the Potomac River appropriately named Difficult Run for its many obstacles. The house was situated and designed to celebrate everything about these sensitive ecologies.
Nature and Grief
Nature has long been considered important for people’s mental health. At least 70% of people have said that connecting with nature was important in terms of managing their mental health (especially during the pandemic). For those who are grieving, connectedness in nature can offer many benefits and aid healing such as:
- Nature can remind us of the continuum of life and that we and our loved ones are still part of something greater than ourselves that goes on existing without us.
- It provides a place and space to attend to our grief without intrusion from the ongoing demands of work, family, and everyday responsibilities.
- It can promote mindfulness, allowing the grieving person to anchor themselves in a moment by physically touching, smelling, and listening to nature.
- It allows us to disconnect from technology and find quiet, solitude, and comfort in life rhythms that are natural, soothing, and restorative.
- It reminds us of the beauty that can be found all around us - even in our grief, it can be comforting to realize that beauty still exists.
- The sights and sounds of nature can offer a distraction from a cycle of difficult thoughts.
Read the article 'The Magic of Flowers and Plants' to read more insightful data as to why plants and flowers are natural healers.
Photos by Frank Oudeman.