The Mason-Grabell "Beech" House

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Architect: Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, Chapel Hill, NC
Completed: 2019

Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Owners: Anne Mason and Bruce Grabell

Custom Green Home Builder: Newphire Building, Chapel Hill, NC

Structural Engineer: Brian Moskow, Red Engineering, Apex, NC

Rooftop Photovoltaic system: Action Solar, Chapel Hill, NC

Passive House Windows and Glass Doors: Awilux via Eurostar Fenestration


Anne and Bruce, the clients for this project, had recently relocated to Chapel Hill from Florida. They considered themselves “climate refugees” who no longer wanted to live through the yearly hurricanes they were experiencing in Florida. They selected Arielle Schechter for her modernist style, then agree to ramp up the design “Net Zero Ready” in accordance with her commitment to sustainability.

They told Schechter they dreamed of a modest, yet decidedly modern, environmentally sustainable, age-in-place home in a natural, wooded setting. They found the perfect building site in a beech tree forest in Chapel Hill. Then they found the perfect green home builder who has served as general contractor for most of Schechter’s residential projects to date.

Schechter designed the three-bedroom, 2465-square-foot house to be extremely energy efficient with a small solar array on the roof that will elevate it easily to Net Zero status.

The greatest challenge, energy-wise, was the best view, which faces south and west. Western sun in North Carolina is brutal in the summer months. Schechter used this design challenge as a form-giver for the sliding wood screens she designed that are hung on the very outside of the wrap-around porch. During the hotter months, the screens can slide easily into a closed position to block the western sun and protect the owners from excessive heat gain.

Among the house’s high-performance features are triple-glazed Passive House-rated windows and doors from Eurostar Fenestration and the flat roof’s deep overhangs. The extended roof provides shade for the windows and overhead shelter for the porches and decks – the outdoor living spaces that are key elements in this and all of Schechter’s residential work.

On the east (entry) elevation facing the approaching road, strong horizontal lines in the fiber cement cladding and a cypress accent wall contribute to the house’s relaxed ease in its setting. A ramp provides a zero-threshold, age-in-place entry to the front door so the homeowners’ parents can visit now without encountering steps or other encumbrances. Other age-in-place features include a curbless master shower, wider doors, and spacious interior circulation pathways.

On the rear elevation, a generous cantilevered screened porch appears as if it’s floating above the natural landscape. A wrap-around deck provides more outdoor living space and connects the porch to an outdoor grilling area.

Inside, an entire wall of the main living space is actually two sets of massive, triple-paned glass, Passive House-rated folding doors. While the house’s windows, strategically placed to avoid heat gain, provide visual access to the natural setting, the folding doors literally open the interior to the outdoors overlooking Beech Forest.

Since Anne is a highly-skilled cook and she and Bruce love to entertain, Schechter’s open floor plan revolves around the kitchen — the heart of the house, both physically and metaphorically — with all other spaces having easy access to it. And in the kitchen, as throughout the interior, Schechter custom-designed the black walnut cabinetry to express its vivid grain and rich color. In the dining area opposite the kitchen, she designed a complementary mid-century-inspired cocktail bar for space beside the double-sided fireplace.

The Mason-Grabell residence, along with another house designed by Schechter, were the only two Net Zero houses included on the 2019 Spring Green Home Tour sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange, and Chatham counties in North Carolina. To complete the array of sustainable features in this house, the high R-value thermal envelope roughly doubles code requirements, all air gaps are sealed, and an Energy Recovery Ventilator transfers moisture and heat from incoming and outgoing air.

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Modern home with Exterior, House Building Type, Flat RoofLine, and Metal Roof Material. On the east (entry) elevation facing the approaching road, strong horizontal lines in the fiber cement cladding and a cypress accent wall contribute to the house’s relaxed ease in its setting.  A ramp provides a zero-threshold, age-in-place entry to the front door. Photo  of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

On the east (entry) elevation facing the approaching road, strong horizontal lines in the fiber cement cladding and a cypress accent wall contribute to the house’s relaxed ease in its setting. A ramp provides a zero-threshold, age-in-place entry to the front door.

Modern home with Exterior, Flat RoofLine, Metal Roof Material, and House Building Type. The house touches the earth lightly to leave the natural terrain as undisturbed as possible. The screen porch is visible to the left. Photo 2 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

The house touches the earth lightly to leave the natural terrain as undisturbed as possible. The screen porch is visible to the left.

Modern home with Exterior, House Building Type, Metal Roof Material, and Flat RoofLine. A generous cantilevered screened porch appears as if it’s floating above the natural landscape. Clerestory windows, seen beneath the upper roof, bring natural light into the center of the house. 

 Photo 3 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

A generous cantilevered screened porch appears as if it’s floating above the natural landscape. Clerestory windows, seen beneath the upper roof, bring natural light into the center of the house.

Modern home with Exterior, House Building Type, Flat RoofLine, Glass Siding Material, Wood Siding Material, and Metal Roof Material. A wrap-around deck provides more outdoor living space and connects the screen porch to an outdoor grilling area.
 Photo 4 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

A wrap-around deck provides more outdoor living space and connects the screen porch to an outdoor grilling area.

Modern home with Exterior, Wood Siding Material, Flat RoofLine, Glass Siding Material, House Building Type, and Metal Roof Material. Western sun in North Carolina is brutal in the summer months so Schechter designed sliding wood screens that can slide easily into a closed position to block the western sun and protect the owners from excessive heat gain.
 Photo 5 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

Western sun in North Carolina is brutal in the summer months so Schechter designed sliding wood screens that can slide easily into a closed position to block the western sun and protect the owners from excessive heat gain.

Modern home with Exterior, Wood Siding Material, Flat RoofLine, Glass Siding Material, Metal Roof Material, and House Building Type. Here, Schechter's sliding screens are in the open position at the master bedroom's private deck. Photo 6 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

Here, Schechter's sliding screens are in the open position at the master bedroom's private deck.

Modern home with Exterior, House Building Type, Flat RoofLine, Metal Roof Material, Wood Siding Material, and Glass Siding Material. Outside the main living space, the wood screens are sliding into place to protect the house from western heat gain. Deep roof overhangs also shade the glazing from glare. Photo 7 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

Outside the main living space, the wood screens are sliding into place to protect the house from western heat gain. Deep roof overhangs also shade the glazing from glare.

Modern home with Dining Room, Pendant Lighting, Light Hardwood Floor, Ceiling Lighting, Table, Chair, and Two-Sided Fireplace. Schechter’s open floor plan revolves around the kitchen — the heart of the house, both physically and metaphorically — with all other spaces having easy access to it.  Photo 8 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

Schechter’s open floor plan revolves around the kitchen — the heart of the house, both physically and metaphorically — with all other spaces having easy access to it.

Modern home with Living Room, Sofa, Pendant Lighting, Ottomans, Two-Sided Fireplace, Table Lighting, Light Hardwood Floor, and Ceiling Lighting. An entire wall of the main living space is actually two sets of massive, triple-paned glass, Passive House-rated folding doors that literally open the interior to the outdoors overlooking Beech Forest. Photo 9 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

An entire wall of the main living space is actually two sets of massive, triple-paned glass, Passive House-rated folding doors that literally open the interior to the outdoors overlooking Beech Forest.

Modern home with Living Room, Chair, Sofa, Light Hardwood Floor, Ceiling Lighting, Two-Sided Fireplace, Coffee Tables, and Bookcase. The Sitting Room side of the double-sided fireplace. Photo 10 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

The Sitting Room side of the double-sided fireplace.

Modern home with Dining Room, Ceiling Lighting, and Light Hardwood Floor. The mid-century-inspired cocktail bar Schechter designed to fit into a space beside the double-sided fireplace.
 Photo 11 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

The mid-century-inspired cocktail bar Schechter designed to fit into a space beside the double-sided fireplace.

Modern home with Light Hardwood Floor and Pendant Lighting. in the kitchen, as throughout the interior, Schechter custom-designed the black walnut cabinetry to express its vivid grain and rich color. Photo 12 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

in the kitchen, as throughout the interior, Schechter custom-designed the black walnut cabinetry to express its vivid grain and rich color.

The floor plan Photo 13 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" House modern homeView Photos

The floor plan

Modern home with Exterior, House Building Type, Flat RoofLine, and Metal Roof Material. Schechter designed the three-bedroom, 2465-square-foot house to be extremely energy efficient with a small solar array on the roof that elevates it easily to Net Zero status.  Photo 14 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" HouseView Photos

Schechter designed the three-bedroom, 2465-square-foot house to be extremely energy efficient with a small solar array on the roof that elevates it easily to Net Zero status.

In the master bath: a curbless, age-in-place shower, custom black walnut cabinetry, and one of the elegant Eurostar Fenestration® windows Schechter specified for the entire house in Beech Forest. Photo 15 of The Mason-Grabell "Beech" House modern homeView Photos

In the master bath: a curbless, age-in-place shower, custom black walnut cabinetry, and one of the elegant Eurostar Fenestration® windows Schechter specified for the entire house in Beech Forest.

Credits

Posted By
Architect
  • Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA
Interior Design
  • Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA
Builder
  • Kevin Murphy, Newphire Building
Photographer
  • Iman Woods
Bedrooms
  • 3
  • Structure
  • House (Single Residence)
  • Style
  • Modern
  • Year
  • 2020
  • Square Feet
  • 2465