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Chapel Hill, NC


The homeowners asked for a comfortable custom home for their retirement that would not only meet their needs, but that would also accommodate houseguests and dinner parties with ease. Stylistically, they wanted the coziness of a “cabin in the woods” yet the elegance of an estate home. That combination suggested the simplicity and integrity of a Prairie Style home, which would combine comfort, utility, and beauty. As a result, this 5000-square-foot, single-story custom home features a broad, low-pitched roof with prominent low chimneys, rhythms of vertical and horizontal planes, and outdoor spaces and elements that extend beyond the house.

In the landscape, we nestled the house between three substantial rock formations. These outcroppings provided the anchor points for the porte-cochere, rear terrace, water garden, and retaining wall at the lower-level garage. For the exterior terraces and retaining walls, we juxtaposed curvilinear forms with the house’s rectilinear geometry.

On the interior, the floor plan is organized around two axes. Each room along these axes represents a functional requirement. The front-to-rear axis aligns the porte-cochere, entryway, great room, central fireplace, and exterior water feature. The side-to-side axis aligns the hallway and the more private sections of the home with the entertainment center, great room, and the internal dining room. A sub-axis through the kitchen, dining room, and guestroom becomes apparent when the pocket doors between the kitchen and dining room are open. This flexibility lets the dining room function as an intimate space for the homeowners when the doors are closed and a central serving area when the doors are open.

Frank Lloyd Wright created the Prairie Style. So throughout this home’s interior, a common design pattern, inspired by FLW’s Craftsman-esque detailing, is repeated in the mahogany doors, casework, mantles, railings, and window muttons.

Numerous windows and skylights provide the interior with an abundance of natural light by day. In the evening, dimmable cove lighting, custom-designed light fixtures, and a fiber optic ceiling element in the dining room create a warm, cozy ambiance within a house that’s part “cabin in the woods,” part elegant estate home.

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