Architects: In Situ Studio
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States
Contractor: Redfoot and Weber Construction
Area: 4,650 sqm
Photographs: Richard Leo Johnson, Courtesy of In Situ Studio
Our clients approached us to substantially renovate and make an addition to an existing Deck House north of Chapel Hill. The original house was a 1986 replica of a sixties-era Deck House. When our clients approached us, they had not yet purchased the property. Our first effort was to help them imagine the potential of improving the house. After a successful feasibility study, they purchased the home in December 2010.
Our clients have one child, an extended family that visits often, and a range of interests, including a love of listening to and making music. The design of the renovation and addition therefore had to accommodate fluctuating numbers of people and partition activities in a manner that would minimize “hobby creep.” Our response was to peel open the primary public spaces in the main living, kitchen, and dining areas, consolidate and organize existing bedroom areas to accommodate children and guests, provide sequestered study and music areas in the existing basement, and extend a “satellite” master suite off the end of the house that is attached to the main house via a glass hall and screened porch. The existing Deck House, ironically, had an anemic deck. Our design significantly expands the deck and other outdoor spaces.
We have transformed the house to suit the client, while maintaining the integrity of the Deck House. The gable roof portion of the house over the living and dining rooms has been lifted to the north, creating a two-story wall of glass. Skylights brighten darker areas of the house. The main house and the master suite addition take on different forms, and they are set apart from one another to distinguish existing from new. A new entry mediates between the two forms.
The logic of the existing structural system is very direct, and the renovations build directly from it. The master addition has a bolder presence, taking the form of a rectangular tube that cantilevers off an extended existing foundation and directs attention to the forest north of the house. The existing house was sited in a manner that exploits prevailing breezes and captures natural light. Our changes and addition amplify these functions.
In today’s economy, we are finding that clients are more cautious than ever and much more likely to renovate than demolish and build anew. We support this trend, knowing that the most sustainable choices center on reuse, recycling, and relying on existing infrastructures. In response, we have augmented our normal design process with an initial feasibility study phase on several recent projects. Our clients gain a great deal of confidence from this first step, and the knowledge they glean from the process has provided leverage in their negotiations with sellers and banks.