A Stylish and Dramatic Contemporary Home with Natural Light in North Carolina
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Edenton St Duo by Raleigh Architecture Company
“Two new compact houses have introduced a modern, sustainable, infill-housing model to an old, urban neighborhood while providing two young families with open, efficient homes perfectly suited to their individual lifestyles.
The Raleigh Architecture Company (RACo), a design-build firm in Raleigh, NC, acted as developer, architect, contractor, and, for one house, owner. The process started with land acquisition, followed by locating financing options, then working through variances in the subdivision before RACo could begin design work. For the construction loan, it was also vital to prepare a carefully balanced pro forma considering size and comps (minimum square footage plus three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths) in this evolving neighborhood.
Form and materials intentionally recall elements of the context. Front porches, for example: Cantilevered second floors cover front porches that are typical of every home in the old neighborhood. And by designing the houses in tandem, the homeowners can share limited outdoor space between the two slim lots as well as a parti/diagram for the interior floor plans. Yet each house is tailored to its owners’ specific spatial requirements.
Locally available exterior materials are both sustainable (recycled) and familiar. For 554 Edenton Street, slate shingles from an old house in a historic district nearby provides a unique textural siding. At 556 Edenton Street, the exterior is clad in Corten® steel, which weathers to a warm, rusty patina that will never need painting. Both houses also feature reclaimed North Carolina cypress to add warmth to the decidedly modern forms. Similarly, white oak floors warm the all-white minimalist interiors.
On these previously empty, narrow downtown lots along a busy corridor and close to the city sidewalk, both houses’ “public” spaces – living, dining, kitchen – occupy the lower level, where abundant glazing opens the house to the neighborhood. Bedrooms are located on the upper levels where clerestory windows bring natural light into every space without compromising privacy.
At 554 Edenton: In the house RACo partner Robby Johnston shares with his family, the two-story-clear kitchen is the literal and figurative heart of the house. Large skylights above it bring an abundance of natural light into the center of the house, where the family enjoys preparing meals together. A 10-foot by nine-foot custom fabricated steel-frame glass door at the rear of house opens the entire kitchen/dining area to the back porch, creating continuous public space for entertaining and physically extending the interior into the exterior. The roof’s extra-deep overhang shades the back porch.
A 13-foot-tall, cast-in-place concrete wall anchors the rear elevation and serves as a guardrail for the second story porch. The concrete form’s ties were left in place to allow vines to grow on the wall, further connecting the house to the urban landscape.
As the homeowners’ requested, every interior space in 554 Edenton is connected to the outside in some way: Both showers have skylights; the guestroom has a view of the Raleigh skyline; the kitchen overlooks the shared green space; and three porches encourage the family to spend plenty of time outdoors. Very intentional window placement also allows Johnston’s children to play outside with the neighbor’s children while he and his wife supervise without intruding.
At 556 Edenton: Though slightly larger to accommodate a home office, this house shared its neighbor’s challenge of fitting all the spatial needs onto such a tight urban lot. As a result, the home office became a partial third story. A deep roof overhang shades a porch off the office that affords a panoramic view of the Raleigh skyline since it rises above the roofline of the adjacent house.
“Public” spaces – living/dining/kitchen, which flow into each other – are located on the first floor, along with both a screened-in and an open back porch.
Like its neighbor, the kitchen is the literal and figurative heart of this house, too. A huge skylight above this central, two-story-clear space floods the core of the house with natural light. A dramatic, custom-fabricated steel staircase rises from the central space to provide vertical circulation. It is the single ordering element that connects all spaces and all levels. Painted black, it is also a sculptural element within the house’s white interior. The kitchen also features a custom-fabricated light fixture in North Carolina walnut above the central island. A similar fixture hangs in the master bedroom.
The neighbors have warmly welcomed the new houses, and their occupants, and expressed their pleasure over hearing the sound of children’s laughter again.”