written by:
photos by:
September 23, 2009
Originally published in Modern Across America

In the heart of Atlanta, Shawn Moseley worked closely with designer Scott Ball to design and build his new house not ten minutes from downtown.

The house is designed like an urban loft. Even elements such as the staircase and second-floor railings are almost transparent, so natural light floods the structure from dawn to dusk. Moseley's friend David W. Prasse (right) and designer Scott Ball take
The house is designed like an urban loft. Even elements such as the staircase and second-floor railings are almost transparent, so natural light floods the structure from dawn to dusk. Moseley's friend David W. Prasse (right) and designer Scott Ball take it all in.
Photo by 
1 / 8
The 40-foot-long countertop melds seamlessly with off-the-shelf kitchen cabinets and stainless steel appliances, creating an unbroken line along one side of the house.
The 40-foot-long countertop melds seamlessly with off-the-shelf kitchen cabinets and stainless steel appliances, creating an unbroken line along one side of the house.
Photo by 
2 / 8
The bedroom overlooks an office, which floats above the kitchen and dining room. The railing and banister were fabricated by a local metal worker a few miles away.
The bedroom overlooks an office, which floats above the kitchen and dining room. The railing and banister were fabricated by a local metal worker a few miles away.
Photo by 
3 / 8
The home's most dramatic feature is a front wall that swings open onto an exterior terrace.
The home's most dramatic feature is a front wall that swings open onto an exterior terrace.
Photo by 
4 / 8
Sitting in the second-floor office, one has the feeling of being at the command center of a powerful battleship or futuristic spacecraft. Desk, floor lamp, and CD racks were all designed by Moseley.
Sitting in the second-floor office, one has the feeling of being at the command center of a powerful battleship or futuristic spacecraft. Desk, floor lamp, and CD racks were all designed by Moseley.
Photo by 
5 / 8
No alarm clock needed here. The highest point in the house is the bedroom, bathed in light from two walls made predominantly of windows and a third completely open to the rest of the house.
No alarm clock needed here. The highest point in the house is the bedroom, bathed in light from two walls made predominantly of windows and a third completely open to the rest of the house.
Photo by 
6 / 8
Shawn Moseley helped design his new home in central Atlanta.
Shawn Moseley helped design his new home in central Atlanta.
Photo by 
7 / 8
The decidedly nontraditional structure includes a front wall that opens the living room onto the front yard—and to the rest of the neighborhood, which has enthusiastically welcomed the house and its owner.
The decidedly nontraditional structure includes a front wall that opens the living room onto the front yard—and to the rest of the neighborhood, which has enthusiastically welcomed the house and its owner.
Photo by 
8 / 8
The house is designed like an urban loft. Even elements such as the staircase and second-floor railings are almost transparent, so natural light floods the structure from dawn to dusk. Moseley's friend David W. Prasse (right) and designer Scott Ball take
The house is designed like an urban loft. Even elements such as the staircase and second-floor railings are almost transparent, so natural light floods the structure from dawn to dusk. Moseley's friend David W. Prasse (right) and designer Scott Ball take it all in.
Project 
Moseley Residence

Atlanta is known for many things—Coca-Cola, cotton mills, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to name a few—but modern architecture has surely never been one of them.

In fact, mention of the city usually calls to mind the sprawling suburban developments that ring the metropolis and threaten to turn all of rural Georgia into one massive cul-de-sac. Contrasting with the legacy of sprawl is something of an architectural renaissance percolating in Atlanta’s older neighborhoods within the last few years: a host of urban infill projects and loft conversions that are slowly altering the suburban-wasteland image.

A recent and none-too-bashful addition to the city’s modern pantheon is Shawn Moseley’s dramatic new home in the McDonough/Guice neighborhood.

Moseley, a 34-year-old longtime Atlanta resident, hadn’t considered building a house when he started looking to buy his first home. Tired of renting but disdainful of most flimsy new construction, Moseley figured he could find an unrenovated loft or an older house to serve as a blank canvas for his ideas. But instead of an anonymous loft in a converted warehouse, he is now the proud owner of the kind of house that inspires Sunday-morning drivers to stop in the middle of the street, car idling, as they take in the slightly alien silver box.

The home's most dramatic feature is a front wall that swings open onto an exterior terrace.
The home's most dramatic feature is a front wall that swings open onto an exterior terrace.

Seven years in a rented bungalow followed by a year in a flood-prone loft had convinced the young music-industry executive, amateur furniture designer, and former architecture student that he would be happiest buying a solidly built industrial space he could redesign himself.

His realtor took him to see downtown and midtown lofts, which were disappointing. “I quickly realized how limited my options were,” says Moseley. “Every place I looked at was going to require an $80,000 renovation just to be habitable. What was available was just way overpriced, and didn’t exactly fit my needs.”

After months of searching for a suitable space, Moseley was lamenting his fruitless hunt over a Saturday-afternoon beer with his realtor—and old friend—David Prasse, who had bought a converted turn-of-the-century trolley station in a quiet neighborhood southeast of downtown Atlanta. As the afternoon wore on, Moseley suddenly remembered having gone with Prasse on a walk-through of a house in nearby McDonough/Guice the previous year, a house that now stands next to Moseley’s. The designer of that house was also responsible for Prasse’s trolley station conversion, and Moseley wondered aloud if he was still looking to develop the lots adjacent to the house they’d seen. “Dave picked up the phone, made a call, and we drove over within 15 minutes to look at the lot,” recalls Moseley.

The designer was M. Scott Ball, who has a local practice and is co-executive director of Atlanta’s Community Housing Resource Center. Ball was hoping to develop a group of houses on land he owned in the racially and socioeconomically mixed neighborhood to use as showcases for intelligently built, moderately priced housing.

While Moseley was looking for a particular kind of modern aesthetic that was also within his price range, Ball was more interested in practical issues. “The CHRC’s largest program is a housing repair and rehab program for low-income homeowners,” explains Ball. “In the nearly subtropical climate of Atlanta, there are many environmental forces hostile to the stick-built, Sheetrocked, carpeted boxes in which we have grown accustomed to living.” Southern heat and humidity simply don’t work well with hollow-walled cavities, which trap moisture and wreak havoc on Sheetrock and wood framing. The same kind of homes that work quite well in California or Michigan become maintenance nightmares in the sticky Georgia heat, especially for older residents.

No alarm clock needed here. The highest point in the house is the bedroom, bathed in light from two walls made predominantly of windows and a third completely open to the rest of the house.
No alarm clock needed here. The highest point in the house is the bedroom, bathed in light from two walls made predominantly of windows and a third completely open to the rest of the house.

The CHRC hoped to use their experience to research, design, and build a home that would challenge community expectations of housing design and suitable materials and serve as a laboratory for Ball’s sustainable design ideas, yet still maintain a connection to the architectural traditions of the region.

“What would a house look like,” Ball says he hoped to discover, “if we eliminated wall cavities, Sheetrock ceilings, interior bearing walls, and other items that typically create problems as a house grows old and the use patterns change?” The overarching goal was a design that worked better and was more grounded in Atlanta’s particular set of needs than a “traditionally” built home. The freedom for designer and client to let their imaginations run wild and build something interesting and unique was icing on the cake.

With Moseley and Ball’s joint efforts (with assistance from architecture students at Southern Polytechnic State University, where Moseley studied design in the late ’80s), the house was finished in less than a year and emerged as exactly the type of urban space Moseley had envisioned, but situated on a quiet residential street ten minutes from downtown Atlanta. The 2,000-square-foot structure (plus an 1,100-square-foot basement workshop and garage) is essentially a freestanding loft, defined chiefly by its gull-wing roof, clerestory windows and the home’s most dramatic feature, a front wall that swings open onto an exterior terrace.

Eschewing the stick framing that CHRC inspectors have seen cause such trouble for many homeowners in Georgia’s year-round humidity, the walls were erected from structurally insulated panels (SIPs) built off-site, delivered, and raised into place. The exterior of the house is clad in a mixture of corrugated and flat sheet metal. It requires little to no maintenance as the house ages and is an overt nod to vernacular metal-roofed architecturecommon to the region—from corrugated farm buildings to industrial warehouses to the standing-seam metal-roofed bungalows that dot inner Atlanta. Likewise, the house’s dramatic eaves are reminiscent of the deep awnings and large front porches that have long been the perennial design solutions for escaping oppressive Southern summer heat.

“One of the most important things about the design was fitting the house to the site,” recalls Moseley when discussing how the structure took shape. “When you move from conception to final design, you start to realize what kind of impact things like budget, building codes, timeline, and especially the site have on a project.” Preliminary sketches showed one-story buildings with flat roofs, but upon continual examination of the site, the designers realized that a horizontally oriented structure was not right for the location. The final vertical, concave design relates to the topography in a way that restrains and tempers what is otherwise an undeniably bold structure. A tree- and kudzu-filled valley just beyond the house is echoed by the butterfly-shaped roof. And the height of the building actually complements the sloping site more gracefully and unobtrusively than the original low-slung designs would have. Inside, clean lines give the light-filled space a sense of dignified composure without seeming stark or cold.

The decidedly nontraditional structure includes a front wall that opens the living room onto the front yard—and to the rest of the neighborhood, which has enthusiastically welcomed the house and its owner.
The decidedly nontraditional structure includes a front wall that opens the living room onto the front yard—and to the rest of the neighborhood, which has enthusiastically welcomed the house and its owner.

Minimal trim and finish work, use of salvaged or off-the-rack materials, and a lot of work by Moseley and Ball on nights and weekends served to keep costs low and to create the simple beauty and drama the designers were hoping to achieve. These decisions also reflected Ball’s original intent to show that smart, livable design need not necessarily be unattainable. With construction costs of just over $110,000, the house was built for only $32 per square foot.

The open-plan layout flows unencumbered from room to room and level to level, allowing Moseley to live in the entire house as if it were one large living room, a system that fits his hectic and nocturnal lifestyle quite nicely.

Several design elements emerged as construction progressed, most notably a custom staircase that seems to float above the concrete floor and a 40-foot-long kitchen counter that Moseley jokes would make a great Internet café if he’s ever strapped for cash. The staircase was designed after owner and designer fell in love with the four-by-ten wood joists they had ordered to support the second floor, and the counter was inspired by (and built from) glulam beams that arrived to form a load-bearing wall that would span the patio doors.

Although the house is unapologetically modern, and starkly so, it has elicited interest and excitement from local homeowners. “Other than a couple little kids who rode up on bikes and hoped we were building a nightclub, we’ve had zero issues with unhappy neighbors,” notes Moseley with a grin. “I think most people are just happy to see something new and interesting in the neighborhood.”
 

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016