We put the finishing touches on this custom 'fun house,' as the homeowners call it, about a week ago. This modern take on the classic beach cottage, has a very unique story behind it, which made it a very interesting and exciting project for the Fasse bldgs. team! The homeowner's primary residence is in the Chapel Hill area where they both work in the academic discipline. Husband Alain, originally from Switzerland, and his wife, Silvia, who is Brazilian, wanted a low-maintenance, energy-efficient, minimalistic home-away-from-home closer to the beach. Lucky for them, not only is Alain's father an extremely talented european architect with a global architecture portfolio, but, they also managed to score a quiet little lot tucked in the trees on Allens Lane, less than a mile from Wrightsville Beach, NC!
"Being able to bike to the beach was the ultimate goal," according to Alain. This stellar location also allows them to walk to restaurants, a grocery store, and even a hardware store nearby. The area has a great deal of meaning to Alain and Silvia. Starting in the earliest months of the couple's courtship, they frequented Wrightsville Beach on most weekends, often exploring the area together on bicycles. "We even had coffee at the Starbucks near our house on the first date," Alain told me. It was actually on one of their bicycle explorations, that they stumbled upon the Allen's Ln. lot.
Looking back to over a year ago, during the early planning phase of the home, Alain's father Jean-Christope Laederach, Architect ETHZurich (JC ) sought out Pamela Fasse of Fasse bldgs., and immediately identified with our modern, more simplistic, and sustainable building style. Although JC has designed all over the world, he had never built in the US, had no experience with "inches" and "feet," and did not know the local building and administrative set-up. After several emails and a couple Skype conversations with JC and his lovely wife Michele, they hopped on a plane and headed to North Carolina! Meetings turned into long lunches, and lunches led to spirited dinners and drinks. We began to get to know the Laederach family, and learn a little more about their lives and adventures both personally and professionally.
Swiss born and Swiss National, JC tells us. Living now in Evian, France. "Evian water : we shower every morning with Evian water - you must have noticed our perfect skin, haven't you?" JC joked. JC's personality and life journey are just as colorful and distinguished as his architecture. After working as a sailor on a deep sea merchant cargo ship, JC then doubled as an architect and a professional musician (viola), playing both concerts and operas, while also making time for several architectural competitions. He then moved to Lesotho, South Africa, where he volunteered for a non-profit organization utilizing his architectural talents by building schools and clinics, designing infrastructure to bring water to local schools, and raising money for a variety of social projects. From here, JC then opened a private architecture firm in Lesotho, and later was a creator and participating member of a prominent architecture association called "Building Design Group."
We couldn't get enough of their european humor, travel stories, diversity, in addition to their simple, streamlined living and design approach. "I was born in the same town as Louis Chevrolet and Le Corbusier (La-Chaux-de Fonds, Neuchâtel, Switzerland)," JC said, "this is a very heavy load to carry around!" JC believes "Form follows Function," and designs his buildings from the inside out to suit whomever will be working or working there.
He also values low maintenance building materials, and passive solar orientation and design to maximize efficiency and lower environmental impact. Not only were JC's architectural drawings and concepts right in line with Fasse bldgs. , but his thoughtful consideration of every detail was remarkable as he developed the final plans for Alain and Silvia's home. So it was at this point, according to JC that "AN" agreement was sealed, "with a handshake, and of course with a glass of something...."
"One of the big draws of the lot is the 400+ year old oak tree," said Alain. "It is so typical of the region and uniquely southern." To take advantage of the natural beauty of the live oak tree and gain additional building space, a garden shed was nestled in the tree's branches, and roof deck was built on top of the shed, connecting to the main patio surrounding the house. "It is a great place for stargazing at night, or having your morning coffee," Alain and Silvia told me.
The house also comes packed with useful built-ins so Alain and Silvia do not have to lug unnecessary items to their second dwelling. Tons of built-in shelves, storage vanities, a built-in table, colorful ikea wardrobes, outdoor seating, built in desks, and so on. They prefer to keep things simple and clutter-free, and intend on adding to the house, only items they really need.
Despite the stellar location and natural beauty of the lot, there were a couple challenges. According to architect JC, the shape of the building was dictated by the four property setbacks, leaving only 700 sq. ft of buildable space in between them. "It definitely needed to be designed like a Swiss watch," homeowner Alain joked! Fasse bldgs. was up for the challenge and thrilled that the project started with a great design. JC managed to fit two bedrooms, two and a half baths, living area, full size kitchen, elevator, and laundry room on a lot that was about 30' x 25'. "The result was a simple two-story rectangular box, and a pitched roof. Because the light and view are better upstairs, and because the ceiling of the upper floor follows the pitch of the roof and created a large volume, it was decided to build the two bedrooms downstairs and the living spaces upstairs," said architect JC. The result is lovely. As you gaze out from almost any window of this house, there is a view of the natural vegetation of the lot, and with the main living area located on the second floor, it as if you are truly living among the trees.
Although his delightfully positive demeanor would never let on, Alain was born with physical disabilities that can make mobility extremely difficult. His father designed this home to accommodate any challenges a normal home may face for his son, and he did it in style! A beautiful natural wood custom-crafted stairway (wider than a standard staircase which makes it easier to use stairs), elevator, open floor plan, wider hallways, roll-in showers, and vibrant colored grab bars. The bold color scheme continued onto the exterior of the house as well!
JC decided that since this was the fun house, it needed to have some color. For Alain and Silvia, reluctance turned into shock when JC had the painter put a huge yellow diagonal across the front side of the house (the yellow is from the Brazilian flag) and the door is red, like the swiss flag. "As if that wasn't enough, we now have a giant yellow sun on the east side of the building and the moon on the west side. That was my mom Michele's idea," Alain told us. The couple now loves the final color scheme, and it reminds them both of their origin and they have been noticing that the house gets a lot of attention.
Throughout the home, there is what JC refers to as a "celebration of negative space." This continual theme of linear detail starts with 1/4" gap along all edges of the exterior siding, and moves into the house, where you will find 1/4" gaps along all doors, along the entire ceiling, and along all window edges. Where traditionally one may find trim, or fancy crown molding, in this home there is simply...NOTHING. Sometimes less, really is more.