2002 City of Virginia Beach Planning Commission

Merit Award for Outstanding Residential Redevelopment for Smithfield Foods Corporate Beach House


The original idea was to buy and then renovate.

The location was perfect, but the house could not accommodate the changes needed to make it into a first-class guesthouse for a worldwide food products company. So the decision was made to tear it down, and start again.

The program was conceptually simple: Design a house that would allow more than one couple or family to use it at a given time. Make it available to the executives of the Smithfield Foods component companies, and the dignitaries they invite to see the Hampton Roads area. But most importantly, make the experience of being there truly special, like a small seaside resort, a place where the guests could enjoy the Virginia Beach oceanfront experience, hosted by the Luter family.

The result is a 6,100 SF, three-story Bermuda-style cottage, whose public spaces on the first floor include a large oceanfront Living Room and Conservatory, Dining Room and Library. Upstairs, flanking the three-story Stair Hall, are a total of three self-contained guest suites, each including a sitting area, sleeping area, and bath, and two additional Guest Bedrooms and Baths. The guests share the first floor Living and Kitchen areas.

The building itself is detailed in the Bermuda vernacular style. All flooring and millwork in the Living and Kitchen areas is re-milled antique Heart Pine, with a hand-waxed finish. Hardware recalls handmade iron. Outside, traditional cement brick is veneered with stucco; the roof is gloss white lightweight cement tile. Windows and doors are clad in patina copper. Stacked, covered porches on the oceanfront side are capped by an open deck on the third level.

The house is sited on a cross axis with the Buff Taylor Memorial Garden, which forms the adjacent 47th Street beach access. As such the front yard and the Garden work together to provide an enlarged sense of landscaped area. Traditional Bermuda blocks are used to pave the driveway. The garden areas are filled with a mix of colorful English plant material, which blooms all through the spring, summer & fall.

Since it’s completion, the house has had only three weekends during which it was not used by the Luter family and their guests. All of them want to return again and again, completely taken by the romance of the house, and the Virginia Beach oceanfront experience.