Mason-Grabell Residence - "Beech House" 

Beech House South Elevation

Beech House South Elevation

The screen porch on the south is cantilevered and floating out towards the view of the beech tree forest. Photo by Iman Woods.

Beech House Entry Ramp

Beech House Entry Ramp

The entry ramp allows zero threshold at the front door so that the owners' elderly parents won't have to deal with steps. Photo by Iman Woods.

Beech House Exterior

Beech House Exterior

A view toward the entry and the wood ramp. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Exterior

Beech House Exterior

The southeast corner of the house as seen from the woods. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Entry

Beech House Entry

The entry has a bright orange door and accents of wood siding. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Nook

Beech House Nook

A double sided fireplace makes the sitting area cozy. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Private Deck

Beech House Private Deck

The master bedroom has its own private deck facing the beautiful forest view to the west. Sliding screens provide shelter from the heat in the summer months. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Cocktail Bar

Beech House Cocktail Bar

A little cocktail bar is tucked on the side of the fireplace in the dining room. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Kitchen Dining

Beech House Kitchen Dining

The owners wanted a higher bar counter to conceal any dishes in the kitchen from the dining room. The countertops are Paperstone. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Kitchen

Beech House Kitchen

The galley kitchen connects to an open butler's pantry on the far end. The cabinets are custom designed by us and built by Brendan Walsh. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Interior

Beech House Interior

An artichoke lamp designed by Poul Hennigson is a focal point in the dining room. The walnut cabinets and copper light fixture add to the interior warmth. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Kitchen

Beech House Kitchen

The kitchen is the center of this house, as the owner is a spectacular home chef who entertains a lot. The bar counter allows guests to visit without getting in her way when she is cooking. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Interior

Beech House Interior

The kitchen, dining and living are connected and open to each other, yet are distinct spaces. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Western Deck

Beech House Western Deck

Sliding screens on the west deck help shade the house in the summer months, but move out of the way in the winter so the view can be enjoyed. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Master Bathroom

Beech House Master Bathroom

The master bathroom features tangram tile on the floor and in the shower and custom walnut cabinetry we designed that was built by Brendan Walsh. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Interior

Beech House Interior

The hall on the left is a quiet zone that leads to the master bedroom. The kitchen is on the right. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Sliding Screens

Beech House Sliding Screens

The sliding screens in the open position. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Sliding Screens

Beech House Sliding Screens

The deck terraces down to the ground on the south. Photo by Iman Woods

Beech House Operable Sunscreens

Beech House Operable Sunscreens

Beech House Operable Sunscreens in the o

Beech House Operable Sunscreens in the o

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 to “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 elevates 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 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 a 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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