One dictionary definition of “vision” is this: the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom. While it is often used in corporate circles regarding a business plan, it is equally appropriate for a property where the buyers recognize and embrace what can be with the house, the land, the contours and the environment.
Warren and Margie Kark are definitely visionaries for having purchased a small ranch house on 2.5 acres nearly 30 years ago, seeing in their minds the vast potential to develop water features and renovate the home into a glorious home and retreat. “The property was largely undeveloped, and the house was three years old and not quite finished,” states Warren. They purchased the parcel in 1991 and got married there.
“We started both interior and exterior projects as soon as we moved in and found that we are a very good team,” Margie relates. “The initial goals were to make the house more contemporary in style and harmonious with the outside landscape.”
Architect Warren Kark, who grew up in Milwaukee, agreed to come to Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture in 1966 to teach for one year. “I had just finished graduate school at MIT and assumed I would spend my career in a large metropolitan area,” he recalls. But he stayed, retiring after 30 years of teaching and 10 years as the University Architect. He also maintained a private practice for 50 years. While designing more than 35 houses in the New River Valley, he had grand plans for this one. The couple met at Virginia Tech during one of Margie’s positions in human resources. She went on to become executive director of human resources at Radford University, and she and Warren retired the same day.
Their mutual goal was to create a place of tranquility that blends nature, architecture and design. “The landscaping was not developed independent of the interiors of the house,” Margie explains. “The influence is largely Japanese for its simple spring and fall colors, variety of textures and multiple shades of green. We have used certain plant materials, large rocks and hardscape repetitively among the water features to make the large yard cohesive and harmonious. It’s a visual experience altogether.”
The house has had three major additions enlarging it from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet. “We were responsible for all the design and supervision of every project,” Warren states. “With the extra interior space, we gained new walls and have had great pleasure collecting art to display on them.” The Kark’s art collection includes intriguing pieces from Russia, China, Argentina, Haiti, Africa and other places around the globe.
Warren is a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright which is evident in one floor living, streamlined spaces, copious windows and innovative lighting. “We have lots of lights, all with dimmers, to change moods in creative ways.” The exterior has been carefully planned, planted and nurtured to afford attractively framed views out windows throughout the rambling floor plan. The kitchen and dining area are adjacent to a generous outdoor covered patio at pond’s edge.
The South Lounge is a stunning addition that offers entertaining space under a wood vaulted ceiling among classy, contemporary furnishings. There’s a charming, dedicated, wood-paneled poker room, and the original master bedroom was transformed into a spa and exercise area. From automatically lighted closets and luxury bathrooms to the tiled garage floor, garden building and golf cart, convenience, style and function meld perfectly.
The centerpiece of this property, which includes a gazebo and vegetable garden on the hill and a stream and little pond in the front, is undoubtedly the stunning, large, natural, spring-fed pond off and under the back deck. It is home to koi up to three feet long, and rain water run-off from the gutters and downspouts is piped into it. “We brought in some 56 tons of rock,” Warren explains, “to assure that tree roots do not damage the expansive, rock-walled pond.”
Statues and large, kinetic, copper sculptures add interest, while thoughtfully-placed trees and shrubs provide harmony. “The house is a container for our lives,” Warren concludes. And Margie adds: “It is the tranquility that comes from this discerning union of nature, architecture and design that lingers in the human spirit.”
Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Kristie Lea Photography