This small modern house was designed for an eminent professor who is an expert in Native American studies. A widow now, she wanted to downsize from her 3200-square-foot house and live in an small age-in-place house in a quiet, wooded neighborhood in Chapel Hill, NC, with her dog, Calamity Jane.
She contacted Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, Architect because she’d heard about the architect's Micropolis Houses®, a collection of modern “tiny home” plans Schechter designed that range from 150 to 1500 square feet and can be customized to meet specific buyers' needs and preferences.
Most tiny houses can fit in only one or two bedrooms, but in order to qualify for a loan, the bank required three bedrooms. So a "tiny house" became a "small house" of 1689 square feet.
Universal design and aging in place was a design directive. To that end, a floating wooden entry bridge leads from the guest parking area to the front door so that the owner’s friends have no steps up or down to maneuver. The one-car garage is on grade so she can walk into her kitchen without climbing a single step. Inside, both showers are curb-less and there are no thresholds.
There are no steps down from the house to the deck or terrace. However, the professor agreed to let Schechter drop the swimming pool level down a few steps from the back terrace so that it wouldn’t dominate the view from the living room, especially in the off-season when it remains covered.
Programmatically, the small house includes:
An ample living/dining space with a concrete-framed fireplace.
A small courtyard off the dining area.
A master bedroom suite with corner windows, a large open shower, and a Japanese ofuro soaking tub overlooking the courtyard.
A guest bedroom with corner windows and guest bath.
A third bedroom she uses as an office.
And a super-efficient workhorse kitchen
A one car garage with charging station
A small house meant the professor could put her money into special elements, like a pool and a Japanese soaking tub.
Outside, the entry bridge makes the journey from the driveway to the recessed front door an event. Adding more depth to the front are two projecting pavilions on each end: a one-car garage with charging station at one end, the guest bedroom at the other. Where the terrain dips sharply, the foundation is recessed so that the house seems to float above the land, keeping the natural hydrology intact.
At the back of the house, a covered terrace with natural wood flooring and a screened porch overlook nearby Morgan Creek. At one end, the master suite opens onto the terrace and the swimming pool. To keep the pool area from dominating the view from the rear elevation, it is dropped down a few feet below the level of the house.
Cascading flat roofs provide space for clerestory windows and expose the honey-hued plywood undersides. Along with the clerestories, large, unadorned windows and wide glass doors fill the interior with natural light. In the living area, the glazing provides panoramic views of the terrace and Morgan Creek. Deep roof overhangs protect the interiors and the Native American textiles from high summer sun.
The final design is nearly half the size of the professor’s previous house, yet packs in all of the professor’s spatial needs in an open, fluid floorplan with age-in-place functionality.
The Professor's house is a hub for her neighbors to come visit and use her pool. At night the house is designed to glow like a lantern, welcoming them to visit.
The back of the house nestles into the woods.
The house was designed to glow like a lantern at twilight.
The floating wood entry bridge at the front, allows for a zero threshold entry.
The deep overhangs seem to float out to provide shade and shelter.
Parts of the house flow over the land to allow the existing hydrology of the site to be unimpeded.
An extra tall ceiling in the screen porch is to catch the breezes and help keep the porch cool in the hot NC climate.
The Master Suite on the end of the house has corner windows to enjoy the view.
The back of the house has a covered deck, a screen porch and a pool for entertaining.
The different overhangs provide an abstract composition.
The deeply shaded deck and screen porch beyond ensure that the outside can be enjoyed during all types of weather.
The shower is curb less (aka zero threshold) in the master bathroom.
The kitchen allows for high storage of the Professor's collection of Native American baskets.
Native American textiles and her collection of rugs from around the world are the main decorations.
The study is filled with Native American art and artifacts, along with a book collection.
View to the living room from the dining room.
Tribal textiles adorn the Professor's Master Bedroom, which is painted her favorite shade of pale periwinkle.
The corner window in the Master Bedroom provides a reading nook with abundant natural light. The painting on the wall is a portrait of the Professor's dog, Calamity Jane.
A high window provides abundant natural light in the master bathroom.
The dining room has views to a small courtyard to the southeast. Native American artifacts adorn the walls and tables.
- Ted Sanford, Immaculate Construction