Project: Stillhouse Residence
Location: Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Architect: Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA
Builder: Fox Construction
Photographer: Duffy Healey
The modern, sustainable house on Stillhouse Bluff in Chapel Hill sits 220 feet above the approach road on 10 wooded acres that include one of the highest points in Orange County. The view in winter, even on an overcast day, is all the way to nearby downtown Durham. The house was designed to maximize the views from this lofty perch.
Entering the 4300-square-foot house is a journey of discovery. The journey begins in the parking area under the trees. A path nearby leads to a natural stone wall that suggests something worth protecting is behind it. Visitors are not disappointed when they pass the wall and discover a large, lush koi pond, complete with lily pads and other thriving water plants. This surprising “front yard” water feature continues under the stone walkway, concluding at a covered outdoor dining space. Straight ahead is the front door beneath the deep, exposed cantilever of the house’s flat roof.
The architect chose steel beam construction to allow for an abundance of glazing, natural lighting, and spectacular views from every interior space. The main living area is one-room deep with walls of glass on either side. On the pond-facing side, the glazing is actually comprised of sliding glass doors that open the house to the outdoors on spring and fall days. A stone fireplace rises like sculpture at the front of this space, adding weight to the light, transparent volume and effectively separating it from the dining room on the other side.
The U-shaped house is organized along a central east-west axis with the main living space as its central point. To the left is the dining area and kitchen. The spacious galley kitchen gives way to a glass-enclosed casual dining area at the front of the house. This glazing provides both natural lighting and panoramic views of the al fresco dining area, koi pond, and lush vegetation, and also opens to the outdoors on nice days.
Beyond the kitchen continuing along this axis, is a guest suite as well as a staircase and home elevator that lead down to the lower level and the two-car garage. The homeowner’s office/studio is located off the garage, up under the house. Yet here, too, the natural terrain and abundant glazing let natural light fill the space by day.
Among the house’s many sustainable features is a full array of solar panels on the roof (approaching almost net zero), a solar hot water heater, and water collection from the roof into the pond, a vegetable garden, and a large compost tiller.