Arielle Schechter on how Japan Inspires Her Design Philosophy
This architect builds for the North Carolina climate and for clients who crave sustainability.
By Jessica Mordaco
Light is the most important factor in architect Arielle Schechter’s design philosophy. Much of her design inspiration comes from Japanese architects who use screens and overhangs to block the sun while creating a seamless translucence from outdoors to indoors—that, and modernist design that connects inside spaces to nature. Schechter became interested in her craft at a young age, growing up with a famous mid-century architect as a father. “I always thought I’d work for him but, when he died, I had a lot of things I wanted to say in architecture,” she says. “I totally believe there’s no point in designing anything, much less a green building unless you’re going to make it wonderful for the people who live in it, too.”
So she started her firm Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, and she now works tirelessly to change public opinion that architects are scary and expensive to work with.
“I really don’t care how much money I make. I just want to get people to stop buying cookie-cutter, badly built developer houses that don’t have an architect involved because they’re inefficient.”
Chapel Hill-based firm Arielle Condoret Schechter is known for its commitment to building sustainable homes that don’t sacrifice elegance or comfort. The company’s latest work includes the spacious Haw River House, which was built with several efficient features to create a net-zero energy home that is seamlessly linked with its natural surroundings.
Tucked into a pristine woodland overlooking the Haw River, which runs through central North Carolina, the beautiful Haw River House sits in harmony with the landscape. Using this natural setting as inspiration, the 2,600-square-foot house is outfitted with several energy-efficient features that make it completely energy-neutral. READ MORE
For a new home on the Haw River in North Carolina’s Chatham County, architect Arielle Schechter found her inspiration in two places.
One was the river. The other was a rock.
“Walking down by the riverbank, there were so many trees cantilevered and bent out over the river, that I said: ‘I want this house to bend out over the river too,’” she says.
She placed the home on the only available buildable knoll since the 21-acre site slopes steeply down to a flood plain and riparian buffer below.
As for the rock, it actually was a huge granite boulder, split down the center. “It’s super-sculptural with a thin knife-blade through the middle where rainwater flows,” she says. “The idea of bisecting something appealed to me, so I did that with the butterfly roof.”
MASON-GRABELL MODERNISM (All renderings by Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA)
May 1, 2018 (Chapel Hill, NC) — A family of transplants from hurricane-prone Florida can’t wait for construction to begin this summer on their spacious, modern house perched on a hillside in Orange County. Cheryl and Ken Serdar are showing off their new, modern, Net Zero, Micropolis® house in Hillsborough, NC, during the 2018 Green Home Tour. And a husband and wife in Chatham County are anxious to “break free” of the “soul-deadening” confines of a cookie-cutter residential development, so they’re counting the days until they can move into their new, modern, Net Zero house also nearing completion in Chatham County.
Construction is scheduled to begin this summer on the spacious Mason-Grabell house. The family grew tired of fighting hurricanes down in Florida so they relocated to Chapel Hill, NC, where hurricanes are extremely rare.
Rising from a hillside with large expanses of glass on all sides, the Mason-Grabel house features flat, cascading roofs that crown specific interior spaces. Designed to touch the ground lightly and protect the site’s natural hydrology, “Mason-Grabell Modernism” will be one of very few modernist houses in its neighborhood.
Net Zero on Tour
“HAPPY FAMILY” (photo by Iman Woods)
Schechter always stresses that a smaller house allows homeowners to invest their money in elements other than square footage. In the Serdars’ house (above), that other element is a luxurious, spa-like bathroom with a curb-less walk-in shower for two, a custom cast-concrete trough sink, and a vanity area where top-quality tile rises up the high walls to the ceiling.
Otherwise, the Serdars’ relatively small house is deceptive. It appears to be a simple modern house with large, honey-hued wood soffits adding warmth and textural contrast to the precast custom concrete exterior walls. But this is a Net Zero passive house. And the design skills, technological and materials knowledge, and attention to details necessary to create such a high-performance house are anything but “simple.”
*Schechter welcomes the challenge, however, as she continues to add to her growing portfolio of certified Net Zero and Net Positive, Passive residential designs with what she’s dubbed the “Happy Family” house.
“They consider themselves ‘escapees’ from a rigid, traditional development to a lot in the woods,” Schechter said, referring to her clients who are moving out of a traditional development and into this secluded, Net Zero house (above) in the forest in Chatham County. (She noted that “breaking free” and “soul-deadening” are her clients’ words.)
Besides the huge emphasis on privacy, the couple told their architect that they wanted a “modern but simple, unpretentious, age-in-place design.” And they had one specific request. “A sheltered place to sit outside and watch the rain,” Schechter said as she pointed out the house’s deeply cantilevered roof.
Concurrently, Arielle Schechter is working through the schematic design phase for a house for two engineers in Harnett County. She’s also fine-tuning three houses in design development and shepherding two other houses through the construction documentation phase.
For more information on Arielle Condoret Schechter and to see additional examples of her built and on-the-boards work, visit www.acsarchitect.com.
About Arielle Condoret Schechter:
Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, is a licensed, registered architect based in Chapel Hill, NC, who specializes in Modernist, energy-efficient buildings with a focus on PASSIVE, NET ZERO/NET POSITIVE houses, as well as her new tiny house plans, the Micropolis® Houses. She is a lifelong environmentalist and began practicing green design long before it became mainstream. She is also a lifelong animal advocate who lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Arnie, and an assortment of foster animals in the modern, sustainable house she designed for all of them.
Demonstrating the perception of space from day to night.
February 12, 2018 (Carrboro, NC) — How structure is perceived from day to night is the theme of the presentation that pod architecture + design (pod a+d) in Carrboro is contributing to the upcoming N.C. State University School of Architecture Alumni Exhibition. The exhibition will be on display in the Brooks Hall Gallery on the NCSU campus during the School’s accreditation review in mid-February.
Juxtaposing a photograph of each project taken in bright daylight with a photo captured against a darkened sky, pod a+d’s presentation includes an adaptive re-use project in Louisville, KY, an educational facility in Goshen, IN, an iconic restaurant in West Hollywood, CA, and a large-scale experiential graphics project in Qatar.
Pod a+d is a hybrid firm owned and operated by design principals Douglas V. Pierson, AIA, LEED AP, BD+C, and Youn Choi, an environmental graphics designer. The couple relocated their firm from Los Angeles to North Carolina in 2016.
“Doug and I always consider the day and nightlife of a design because the perception of the space changes as the light changes – from day to night and from natural to electric lighting,” Choi explained. “We also consider when the use of the space will be the liveliest. Perhaps the users are more productive during the day when the sun is shining. Some rejuvenate in the evening as the sun goes down. This is an integrated, repeating process that we always consider.”
According to David Hill, head of the School of Architecture, NCSU College of Design, “This will be an important show of work that will be seen by visitors from the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), faculty, students, and other visitors. Perhaps this exhibition will allow the school to reconnect with a great number of alumni throughout the world.”
For more information on pod architecture + design, visit www.podand.com.
About pod architecture + design:
pod a+d offers all architectural design services that connect building, environment, and identity because we believe in the integration of architecture and design disciplines throughout our projects. Exteriors, interiors, engineering, furnishings and finishes, equipment, financial feasibility, scheduling, construction, and the environmental context – these are the contributing elements that inform our integrated approach to each architectural project’s design. More information: www.podand.com.
Hi there, welcome! Please, make yourself at home. This is the first post in the blog, and also a very special one.
This is the residence of Arielle Condoret Schechter, architect and designer, a space with great character but serene, filled with natural light and good decisions. With a mid-century modern inclination and a zen outdoor inspiration, she decided to make her home as comfortable as possible, e.g., adding wheels to chairs and tables, allowing the sunlight to find her path in between sofas and shelves and fill every possible inch.
Driven by sustainability, the architect installed solar panels on the roof -approaching almost net zero-, and also built a solar hot water heater and a large compost tiller. Condoret believes that making that kind of decisions, conserving energy, preserving natural resources and reducing costs, ‘That’s the kind of environment that just makes you feel good about life…” READ MORE…
December 11, 2017 (Chapel Hill, NC) — Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, Architect, a full-service architecture firm based in Chapel Hill, NC, has announced three new residential projects, each with remarkably different aspirations.
Big House for a Big Family: Arielle Schechter, principal and founder, describes one of her newest clients as a “big, loving, blended family with kids and more kids on the way.” The family needs a generously sized modern house “for the rest of their lives,” she said, with plenty of space for the family as it is today and as it will be in the future as it expands with spouses and grandchildren.
One response will be a huge playroom to allow for ping pong, pool, and foosball “at any hour of the day or night.” The playroom will connect directly to the house and to the outdoors, allowing access to a future swimming pool. “This house is all about togetherness and family fun,” Schechter noted.
Privacy for Two: A husband and wife anxious to escape what they call a “soul-deadening” cookie-cutter residential development, have hired Schechter to plan and design a very private new home that will let them “just disappear into the woods,” she said. The “woods” she refers to are in Chatham County.
According to the architect, they are a modest couple and want a modern but simple, unpretentious, age-in-place design that let them live out their lives together in peace, away from the restrictions of a housing development.
One of Schechter’s inspirations was her clients’ request for “a sheltered place to sit outside and watch the rain.” In response, she has designed a deeply cantilevered roof where they can sit outside and enjoy the rain without getting wet.
A Doctor in the House: Schechter’s third new project is a modern residence for a doctor who teaches and practices at Duke University, his wife, and their son. The family moved to Durham from New York City. Their primary objective is a family home for three that maintains the parents’ connection to their young son.
One design decision directly related to that concept: a second-floor bridge that “floats” over an open, double-height living room. The bridge connects the master suite to their son’s suite, both of which are on the second floor. The lower level will feature the public spaces – living, dining, kitchen areas — and guest rooms that can double as an office or den.
For more information on Arielle Schechter and to see her built work as well as other “On The Boards” projects, visit www.acsarchitect.com.
About Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA:
Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, is a licensed, registered architect based in Chapel Hill, NC, who specializes in Modernist, energy-efficient buildings with a focus on passive houses, NET ZERO houses, and her new tiny house plans, the Micropolis Houses™. She is a lifelong environmentalist and began practicing green design long before it became mainstream. She is also a lifelong animal advocate who lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Arnie, and an assortment of foster animals in the Modern, sustainable house she designed for them. For more information: www.acsarchitect.com.
This small, modern house was designed for an eminent author and professor of Native American studies. A widow now, she wanted to downsize from her 3200-square-foot house and live in a new, age-in-place home in a quiet, wooded neighborhood in Chapel Hill, NC, with her dog, Calamity Jane.
Over 40 million monthly users that comprise the Houzz community chose Schechter and the other winners from among more than one million active home building, remodeling, and design industry professionals.
Best Of Houzz honors are awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service, and Photography. The Customer Service honor is based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews that a professional receives. (Click here to see Schechter’s reviews.) A “Best Of Houzz 2017” badge now appears on Schechter’s Houzz profile, along with the 2016 badge and a 2015 “Recommended on Houzz” honor.
According to Lisa Hausman, vice president of industry marketing, “These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area. Each of these businesses was singled out for recognition by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts for helping to turn their home improvement dreams into reality.”
Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, is a licensed, registered architect based in Chapel Hill, NC, who specializes in modernist, energy-efficient buildings with a focus on passive houses, NET ZERO houses, and her new Micropolis Houses® collection of tiny house designs. She is a lifelong environmentalist and animal advocate who was riding on the green design train long before it became mainstream. She lives in a modern, sustainable house she designed in Chapel Hill with her husband, Arnie, and an assortment of foster animals. For more information: www.acsarchitect.com
Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, online or from a mobile device connecting millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, Houzz also has international offices in London, Berlin, Sydney, Moscow and Tokyo. Houzz and the Houzz logo are registered trademarks of Houzz Inc. worldwide. For more information, visit houzz.com.
For the third year, architect Keith Shaw, AIA, founder and principal of Shaw Design Associates, is one of the “Best Architects in Chapel Hill” according to the readers of Chapel Hill Magazine.
The results of the publication’s 2016 Best of Chapel Hill readers’ poll appear in the July-August edition.
Keith Shaw is best known in Chapel Hill for completing over 70 custom-designed estate homes, 100 for-sale homes, and 80 extensive renovation projects in the gated Governors Club and other high-end communities. Time-honored styles, including French Country and English Manor, as well as the American Prairie Style, inspire many of his residential designs. Occasionally, a Modern project comes in his office, such as the 3300-square-foot home he designed in for a fellow architect from the global architecture, engineering, and planning firm HOK .
“Keith’s designs seem to beckon the viewer to look further, to keep exploring,” wrote clients Judy and Dick Blake for Shaw Design Associates’ website. “[He] has taken the hopes and ideas of his clients and morphed them into the home of their dreams. There are many fine architects out there who could design a suitable home, but Keith will create a masterpiece that truly reflects who you are!”
One of the builders with whom Shaw works offered, “Shaw Design Associates seems to come out on top in our minds. Previous homeowners that we’ve worked with, and who have worked with Keith, rave about how happy they are with the design, and at how much he seemed to listen to their requests throughout the process.”
Keith Shaw is also becoming known for liturgical architecture. Among other structures, he designed the timber-frame Chapel In The Pines on Great Ridge Parkway and the New Life Fellowship church on Weaver Dairy Road.
Chapel Hill Magazine is published by Shannon Media six times a year. With 52,000 readers, it covers Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, and northern Chatham County. For more information, visit www.chapelhillmagazine.com.
Founded by Keith Shaw, AIA, in 1995, Shaw Design Associates, P.A. is a recognized leader in providing innovative architectural solutions for all project types – solutions based on time-tested, enduring standards and plan elements that are vital to design integrity. The firm adheres to these design truths by focusing on the land, the light, and the patterns of interaction between the owner, the structure, and the environment. Shaw Design Associates is located at 180 Providence Road, #8, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. For more information, visit shawdesign.us or call 919.493.0528.