North Carolina Home Renovated with a Swiss Aesthetic in Mind

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By Esha Chhabra / Published by Dwell
A couple channel their Swiss roots in the American South.

Susan Niffenegger and Roger Zeller moved from Zurich, Switzerland to Chapel Hill, North Carolina last March. They decided to update their 30-year-old house with eco-friendly materials and a modern, bright aesthetic that showcases the cedar ceilings and window walls.

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Niffenegger and Zeller put in over $150,000 for the renovation. The cedar home serves as a minimalist backdrop for their modern classic furniture. The window walls are just as charming after dark, says Niffenegger. “At night, one can see just how much glass the house has—it really glows.”

"The limited palette of materials really lets the house’s unique architecture shine through," says Niffenegger, a North Carolina native who was keen to return home with her Swiss husband after eight years abroad in Zurich. 

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The open staircase includes a lot of glass and is a focal point of the home, says Niffenegger. The staircase leads to a loft upstairs and three bedrooms on the lower level. The master bedroom sits on the second floor. Red oak hardwood floors run throughout the residence.

Living in Switzerland certainly influenced the couple’s priorities in a house. Natural light, for instance, topped their wish list. "As the weather is often gray and gloomy in Switzerland, light is very important for the Swiss," Niffenegger says.

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“The house features a nice mix of straight lines and curves,” says Niffenegger. The curved walls also include niches to display photos and art. In the sitting area, the cedar tongue with groove ceiling is on display.

After six months of renovations, the 3,650-square-foot home was finally ready to stage their Swiss furniture.

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In the kitchen, the couple kept the old oak cabinetry but refinished it. “We wanted a very clean look, so we opted for no hardware and painted it the same color as the walls,” Niffenegger says. They upgraded the countertops with leathered black pearl granite. A Louis Poulsen pendant light hangs over the sink, a leftover from the original construction. “Like any good Swiss, we have a Nespresso machine,” Niffenegger jokes.

The house also came with an added perk—access to local hiking trails, similar to what they enjoyed in Zurich.

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Custom built cedar window frames make up several ‘window walls’ in the house, offering views of the North Carolina woods and plenty of natural light.

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The entire house is painted in one color: Sherwin Williams' Ibis White.

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The couple picked inexpensive white porcelain tiles for the tub and shower, but splurged on a Carrara marble countertop for the double vanity. The medicine cabinets are by Fresca.