"Privacy House", Chatham County, NC
“We want a house just for the two of us. We don't want to socialize, we want to be left alone to enjoy our life.” – the clients
A married couple whose grown son comes for visits occasionally were determined to "break free" (their words) from the traditional, "soul deadening" (ditto) residential development where they lived.
Modernists at heart, they longed for a quiet, secluded place in the woods where they could build a modern but simple, unpretentious, age-in-place house in which every square foot would be custom-designed for their lifestyle, their needs and dreams, and their passion for privacy.
After they found the perfect hide-away site in the forest, they turned to our firm to help them realize their dream. They knew our reputation for designing precisely the kind of house they imagined. They also knew we can make their dream home Net Zero so that it will use only as much energy as it produces by renewable methods. So they can "age in place" without energy bills.
Besides the qualities already mentioned, the couple had one very specific request for their new home: They wanted "a sheltered place to sit outside and watch the rain."
The concept for the house was to present a "veil" to the front and the street. The windows on this side are high up where no one can peer inside. A cypress screen, filtering light but obscuring the view to the Owners terrace, further denotes that this is a "private" place. On the south, however, the house "bursts" forth into the light with bright elements of primary color. This side is only for the couple and their guests. It is a joyous place full of light and a deep sheltering roof.
The result is a compact modern house for two, plus a bedroom for their son when he visits. The simple form, elevated where necessary to follow the contours of the land, is composed of three rectilinear volumes. Each volume is defined by its individual flat roof. Roof overhangs around the entire house protect the windows and the large expanses of glazing that provide constant visual contact with the natural setting.
At the central volume, however, a large, deeply cantilevered roof reaches out to the south, shading walls of glass there, yes, but also providing shelter for the couple's very private back porch where they will be able to "sit outside and watch the rain."
ACS oriented the house on its site to maximize solar gain, natural light and natural ventilation (the latter when weather permits). Then we supported a small solar array on the roof with an over-abundance of insulation. sealing all air gaps, an Energy Recovery Ventilator, fiber cement panel cladding, windows and doors certified for Passive House Construction, and the roof overhangs - all to assure that the house will produce as much energy as it needs.
Inside, zero thresholds, curb free showers, and oversized doorways are part of what will make this an age-in-place home.
For this modern house, we're also using exterior blocks of primary colors as architectural elements, inspired by the Netherlands-based De Stijl movement of the early 1900's. De Stilj devotees believed that harmony and order could only be established by reducing elements to pure geometric form and primary colors.
How fitting, we believe, for a modern yet simple, unpretentious and utterly private house in the woods for two.