Schönberg Residence / Dialect Design

© Armando Bellmas

Architects: Dialect Design
Location: Charlotte, NC,
Construction & Design: Tobias “Toby” Witte & Jahan Nourbakhsh /
Project Year: 2009-2010
Photographs: Armando Bellmas

Slowing down traffic with curiously hovering red boxes tickling the traditional sensibilities of an urban tree-lined neighborhood, Charlotte’s latest architectural triumph of contemporary design is breaking all conventions.

Via a modern climbing library that immediately evokes adventure, stylish comfort, and the intimacy of reading, Dialect Design, a design + build firm, has created an ingenious and refreshingly unexpected space. The Schönberg residence second story addition bears the mark of all things classically Dialect – a sophisticated use of color that effortlessly runs from the coolly subdued to the richly dramatic; an expert and unconventional approach to materials and construction; and an eye for detail so subtle the soul of the design is upon you before you know it.

© Armando Bellmas

Upon entering the library, “finesse” and “order” make a great first impression. The “boxes within boxes” construction of recessed shelves reveals shadow lines that seemingly float the shelves inside the library walls. This simultaneous directional and uncluttered use of reveals is beautifully intended. Throughout the space, as steel, concrete, glass, aluminum, acrylic, fabric, and wood engage, their reveals provide a sense of separation, definition, movement, and harmony that yearns to be lived in. From the walls to the floors, doors, and windows, the entire renovation is a study in clean functionality, flush meetings, and visual ease. Additionally, the ordered elegance of the library’s interior shelves is echoed to dramatic effect with the protruding iconic red boxes that stop traffic and define the space’s exterior.

plans 02

Pinwheeling around the library are three exceptionally appointed bedrooms and the swankiest shared bath three siblings could wish for. The inhabitants are Caroline and Matthias Schönberg’s 4, 7, and 11 year-old daughters. With its translucent acrylic counter, deeply red stained cabinetry, ubiquitously running glass and ceramic tile, and the perfect touches of whimsy, the bath is a fete of serious design and young lady appropriateness. Whether the light rich second floor is filled with the blush of day or night sky it is clear these young ladies provide a vibrancy and energy even the space’s solar paneled roof can’t match. Dialect has deftly created a sophisticated space that encourages the electrifying resonance of children while inspiring adults to inhabit it as well. According to Caroline Schönberg, it’s no wonder that upon climbing the library’s heights everyone is compelled to tell their best tree house stories.

© Armando Bellmas

Visionary, thoughtful, and collaborative, the Schönberg project is an example of successful innovation. Dialect’s inclusiveness with the Schönbergs created an environment where the renovation inspired trust and invigorated daily life without disrupting it. In service of achieving something unique and fresh, every tradesperson and sub-contractor rose to the challenge of rethinking the conventions of their expertise.

© Armando Bellmas

The sheer presence of the climbing library has enriched residential life for the Schönbergs. The family’s emotional center has shifted to the environs of the library while the treasures of their international lives have an ideal place to reside. As the addition’s influence finds its way into other parts of the home, an open steel screen marries the kitchen to the library’s ascent; a glassy red veined concrete floor sets a new standard for a sleekly finished garage; the outdoor interplay of Dialect’s iconic red boxes, rich grey surfaces, directional reveals, flat roof and visually seamless aluminum gutter harmonizes beautifully with the rest of the house and the outdoors.

© Armando Bellmas

The outdoors is used to great effect as perforated aluminum sunshades overlook the outside back terrace. The sunshades expertly bring the outside in by casting playful shadow patterns on the bamboo floors of an enviably lush and voluminous interior hallway. The front of the house welcomes visitors with a bold and refreshing design perspective. Completely flush in its niche and confidently asymmetrical, a black anodized steel door sporting the luster of glass detailing and a perfectly juicy red accent is a stunning example of Dialect’s proven ingenuity with doors.

Products in this project

Facades: James Hardie

  • Siding by James Hardie

Heating and Ventilation: Modern Fan Co., Minka Air

  • Ceiling Fan: Pensi by Modern Fan Co.
  • Ceiling Fan: Cirque by Minka Air

Joinery: Gerkin, Emtek

  • Windows: dark bronze, double glazed, aluminum frame with thermal break by Gerkin
  • Door Hardware: Stuttgart by Emtek

Lighting, Heating, Home/building automation: Cooper Wiring Devices

  • Switches, Outlets: Aspire by Cooper Wiring Devices
Cite: "Schönberg Residence / Dialect Design" 02 Aug 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 May 2015. <>