Stillhouse Bluff Residence
The modern house on historic Stillhouse Bluff in Chapel Hill sits 220 feet above the approach road on 10 wooded acres that include one of the highest points in Orange County. The property was an historic "moonshiner's hangout" in the early 1900's because of the abundance of chestnut trees. Chestnut trees burn with very little smoke, thereby hiding the moonshine making process from federal agents. The view from Stillhouse Bluff in winter, even on an overcast day, is all the way to nearby downtown Durham. The house was designed to maximize the views from this lofty perch.
Entering the 4300-square-foot custom-designed house is a journey of discovery. The journey begins up a long, winding, private approach road that meanders around the side of the house and concludes in a parking area under trees. A path nearby leads to a natural stone wall. Beyond the wall, the “front yard” is actually a large, lush goldfish pond complete with lily pads, other thriving water plants and small native animals such as frogs and salamanders. This water feature continues under a stone walkway that leads past a covered outdoor dining space. Straight ahead is the front door beneath the deep, exposed cantilever of the house’s flat roof.
Insulated steel construction allows for an abundance of glazing, natural lighting, and spectacular views from every interior space. Most rooms receive natural light from at least two sides.
The main living area is one-room deep with walls of glass on either side. On the pond-facing side, the glazing is actually comprised of sliding glass doors that open to bring the outdoors in at ground level. At the front of this space, a stone fireplace rises like sculpture, adding weight to the light, transparent volume and effectively separating it from the dining room on the other side.
This modern house is organized along a central east-west axis with the main living space as its central point. To the left of that point is the dining area and kitchen. The spacious galley kitchen gives way to a glass-enclosed casual dining area at the front of the house. This glazing provides both natural light and panoramic views of the outdoor dining area, koi pond, and lush vegetation, and also opens to the outdoors on nice days.
Beyond the kitchen, continuing along this axis, is a guest suite and bath and a staircase and home elevator that lead down to the lower-level two-car garage. An office/studio is located off the garage, up under the house. Yet here, too, the natural terrain and abundant glazing lets natural light fill the space by day.
Among the house’s many “green,” or sustainable, features are are a full array of solar panels on the roof (approaching almost net zero), a solar hot water heater, water collection from the roof into the pond, a vegetable garden and a large compost tiller.