Architect: Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA
Chapel Hill, NC
This modern, Net Zero-Net Positive house is a customized version of one of architect Arielle Condoret Schechter’s Micropolis® houses -- a collection of small, modern, sustainable house plans she continues to design that can be purchased outright or customized to accommodate specific needs.
Her clients, Cheryl and Ken Serdar, loved the original 950-square-foot plan but needed a bit more space. So Schechter enlarged it to 2222 heated square feet to include a spacious, spa-like bathroom and a third bedroom that Cheryl could use for her office and jewelry-making studio.
Originally from Texas, the Serdars were very clear about what they wanted. They told Schechter that they wanted their new home in the Piedmont region of North Carolina to be "very modern, extremely green, and almost industrial."
Through form, function, and materials choices, the house is decidedly modern. The exterior walls are prefab-concrete sandwhich panels made to Schechter's specifications and brought to the site. The rich hue of the angled, wood-clad soffit is a warm visual and textural contrast to the walls. All windows are doors are aluminum framed and the floors are primarily polished cement.
A pivoting, steel front door, sliding "barn doors," and built-in closets, cabinets, and shelving throughout the house are modern space-saving ideas.
Extensive glazing provides the Serdars with an abundance of natural light and natural ventilation. In the central living space, casement windows are combined with a wall of folding doors that open the entire back of the living/dining/kitchen area to the back porch, welcoming cool breezes inside during pleasant weather.
All of those elements contribute to the house’s environmentally sensitivity. The Net Zero status takes it up to "extremely green." In fact, the Serdars' modified Micropolis® house is the most energy-efficient residence Schechter has designed to date (and she's designed several Net Zero/Net Positive houses). It has a HERS rating of -13, compared to the average American house’s very poor HERS rating of 100. Representatives from the independent rating company reported that this was the lowest/best rating they had ever seen.
Along with the cement floors, other details that give the house its minimalist, industrial ambiance are the exposed ducts and the large factory fan from Big Ass Fans®.
Like their architect, the Serdars are passionate about animals and include cats in their household. For the felines' pleasure, Schechter enjoyed creating a “cat staircase” of simple, natural wood steps that lead up to a 12-foot-high platform in the living room.
EXPLORING IDEAS: As Schechter was designing the master bath, she was "exploring ideas of what a luxurious bathroom can be," she said, "which ties in with my assertion that smaller houses let you put your money toward better quality in materials and details rather than square feet."
The walls of this elegant space are covered in dark gray, large-scale tile that recalls the exterior. The custom-designed vanity is composed of pale natural wood and stone. The architect used the same wood for built-in cabinets and drawers. But the star of the space is the lighted shoe-display closet Schechter devised for Cheryl Serdar’s extensive collection of designer shoes.
Schechter names her Micropolis® house plans for certain inspirations they give her. She named this one “Happy Family” because she designed it to have two bedrooms on either end as private retreats with a central shared space between them where the homeowners can be together. Schechter believes this plan offers "the type of spatial variety essential for a happy family."
About Arielle Condoret Schechter:
Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, is a licensed, registered architect based in Chapel Hill, NC, who specializes in Modernist, energy-efficient buildings with a focus on passive houses, NET ZERO houses, and her new tiny house plans, the Micropolis Houses®. She is a lifelong environmentalist and began practicing green design long before it became mainstream. She is also a lifelong animal advocate who lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Arnie, and an assortment of foster animals in the Modern, sustainable house she designed for them.
In form, function, and materials, the Serdars' new home is decidedly modern.
The deep, angled, wood-clad soffit is an intriguing visual and textural contrast to the dark gray cement board exterior walls.
The angular entrance draws attention to the steel pivoting front door.
At the front door, a slim side window lets sunlight spill into the house behind the steel door.
A simple cement walkway leads from the garage to the front door and mirrors the angle of the entrance.
The western elevation.
A folding glass door system opens the house to the back porch and extends the living space.
View from the back porch to the front door.
The pivoting door is an intriguing and practical solution to spatial conservation.
View from the living room to the dining area and kitchen. The floor is polished concrete.
A view down the length of the one-room-deep main living space.
Starting in the corner by the glass doors, little wood platforms comprise the "cat staircase" that lets the feline residents climb up to the clerestory windows.
A wall of aluminum-framed glazing provides a full view of the forest beyond the homeowners' property,
A factory fan from Big Ass Fans® keeps the indoor air moving.
In the central dining area and throughout the house, exposed ductwork helps satisfy the homeowners' desire for an "almost industrial" ambiance.
View from the kitchen to the dining area and living space.
The high ceiling accommodates a row of clerestory windows at the front of the house.
The white subway-tiled backsplash and open shelving make the kitchen look brighter and more spacious. The wrap-over counter top on the island looks like weathered steel but it's actually Dekton®, a composite material.
The extended countertop on the island provides a casual dining option and lets guests watch the cook at work. A wine cooler is tucked into one end of the island.