CUSTOM BUILDER: “Backstory: Playing Both Sides”

A creative duo’s partnership is driven by client needs, site specifics, and school schedules

Piedmont Retreat-23 copy_0

(Photos: Tzu Chen)



“The Professor’s House” Will Be Open For Public Touring in September


Designed by Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, this small, modern, age-in-place house is part of the Fall 2017 Modapalooza Tour.


July 19, 2017 (Chapel Hill, NC) — “The Professor’s House,” a small, sustainable, age-in-place house overlooking Morgan Creek in Chapel Hill, has been selected for the Fall 2017 Modapalooza Tour on Saturday, September 16, sponsored by North Carolina Modernist Houses (NCMH).

Chapel Hill architect Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, designed the house for a retired professor of Native American Studies. A widow now, she wanted to downsize from her 3200-square-foot house and live with her dog in a modern, age-in-place house in a quiet, wooded neighborhood in Chapel Hill, NC.

She contacted Schechter because she’d heard about the Micropolis Houses®, a collection of modern “tiny house” plans Schechter designed that range from 150 to 1500 square feet and can be customized to meet specific buyers’ needs and preferences. In this case, the professor wanted to add a third bedroom/office and an extra bath to the Micropolis® plan she chose.

modern, age-n-place house Chapel Hill
A bridge from the parking area to the front door means guests won’t have to maneuver any steps.

“A small house meant she could have things like a swimming pool, a Japanese soaking tub, and choose nicer elements for her money,” Schechter noted.

The final design is nearly half the size of the professor’s previous house. Yet at only a little more than 1600 heated square feet– almost 1000 square feet less than the average American house, which is now 2500 square feet — it packs in all of the professor’s spatial needs in an open, fluid floor plan with age-in-place functionality. Schechter calls it a “Custom-opolis.”

The Professor’s House is one of seven houses designed by award-winning architects on this year’s Modapalooza Tour, including projects by Frank Harmon, Phil Szostak, Tina Govan, Jason Hart, and in situ studio. (For all the details about the tour, visit

The Professor’s House is also in the running for a 2017 George Matsumoto Prize, which recognizes excellence in North Carolina modernist residential design sponsored by NCMH. Winners are selected by both a professional jury and public voting. (Public voting at ends July 20.)

For more information on The Professor’s House and architect Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, visit

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


“Hungry Neck” House in Downtown Raleigh To Be Featured on 2015 Homes Tour

The Raleigh Architecture Co.
The Hungry Neck House: modern, compact, urban.

An award-winning Modern home in Raleigh’s old “Hungry Neck” neighborhood, designed and built by The Raleigh Architecture Company (RACo), will be open to the public during the sixth Residential Tour sponsored by the Triangle Section of the American Institute of Architects’ North Carolina chapter (AIA Triangle). The tour will take place on Saturday, September 26, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

One of only seven residences selected for the 2015 tour, the Hungry Neck house received an AIA Triangle honor award for design excellence and construction quality this past spring.

“Honor awards are granted to projects that exemplify excellence of architectural design on all levels of analysis and are reserved for those projects that stand out,” said design jury chairman William Carpenter, FAIA, of Decatur, Georgia.

This house is actually one of a cluster of compact modern houses in the old neighborhood just east of downtown Raleigh. Designed by RACo partners Craig Kerins, AIA, and Robby Johnston, AIA, it perches on an infill lot overlooking a busy thoroughfare. In the spirit of the neighborhood, the partners turned a corner of the façade into a front porch.

The owner is a chef by avocation, so the interior revolves around cooking and entertaining. A light-filled, double-height space in the center of the house connects the open kitchen to the rest of the house. At the rear of the house, large operable glazing lets the dining room expand outside and focuses the view on a 100-year-old oak tree. A balcony off the master bedroom suite provides outdoor living space on the second floor.

AIA Triangle encompasses members in Wake, Durham, Orange, Lee, Chatham, Franklin, Warren, Vance, Granville, and Person counties. The houses on the 2015 tour are located in Raleigh, Durham, Creedmoor, and Pittsboro. The tour is self-guided. Tickets are available at

For more information on The Raleigh Architecture Company, visit

LOGOAbout The Raleigh Architecture Company:

The Raleigh Architecture Company is an award-winning design/build firm specializing in Modern sustainable architecture, and craftsman-quality construction. As licensed architects and general contractors, we consider designing and building to be one integrated process. This streamlined approach empowers us to meet our clients’ economic expectations and to seamlessly execute high quality details, both small and large. Our office and shop are located under one roof in downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District at 502 S. West Street. For more information visit, call 919-831-2995, or email:

Indoor-Outdoor Living — Literally

"Seven Sisters" in South Carolina
“Seven Sisters” in South Carolina

To accommodate a tight budget, architect Frank Harmon made half of this modern coastal home open-air.

Award-winning Raleigh architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, recently completed a single-family house on South Carolina’s St. Helena Island that solved tight budget constraints in an unusual way:

To keep costs down, 50 percent of this 1600-square-foot Modern house is composed entirely of screened porches.

“Screened porches can be built for a fraction of the cost of heated space,” Harmon said, “and since the climate in Beaufort rarely freezes, the homeowners can live outdoors for nine months out of each year.”

The homeowners are Sabrina Terry and John Lamb, formerly of Boston, who had spent three years summering on a specific densely wooded site on St. Helena Island on the edge of a coastal marsh. So they were well aware of the tidewater region’s hot summers, high humidity, and ravenous mosquitos. On the site is a 200-year-old live oak with seven trunks, which they named “Seven Sisters.”

In 2012 Terry and Lamb decided to move south permanently to escape Boston’s harsh winters. So they returned to the site of their summer vacations and hired Harmon’s firm to design their permanent house, which they would also name “Seven Sisters.” Jacob Burke would serve as project designer.

The couple’s property is in a flood plane so living quarters must be 14 feet above sea level. Consequently, the house sits on 14-foot pilings and is sited to maximize solar orientation, to capture prevailing breezes for natural ventilation, and to welcome a panoramic the marshes of Harbor River and Hunting Island.

A siding glass door protects most of the screened-in, open-air living area from cold north winds. The cypress framing and rain-screen exterior as well as the heart pine floors, were felled and milled within 50 miles of the site. The single-sloped aluminum roof reflects heat in the summer and provides a corrosion-resistant, energy-efficient roofing system in this coastal climate. The deep overhang shield the interior from the high summer sun but allows the lower winter sun to enter the space.

To condition the interior during peak hot or cold weather, Burke specified a mini split-HVAC system. The house also operates on a tankless water heater.

Matt Phifer of Phifer Contracting Services in Beaufort, SC, built the house with a little help from John Lamb who had already built other structures on the site

For more information on Frank Harmon Architect PA, visit

About Frank Harmon Architect PA:

Frank Harmon, FAIA, is principal of the multi-award-winning firm Frank Harmon Architect PA in Raleigh, NC, a Professor in Practice at NC State University’s College of Design, and the 2013 winner of AIA North Carolina’s F. Carter Williams Gold Medal, the highest honor presented by the Chapter to an AIA NC member to recognize a distinguished career and extraordinary accomplishments as an architect. In 2010 Harmon was included in Residential Architect’s inaugural “RA 50: The Short List of Architects We Love.” In 2013, his firm was ranked 21st among the top 50 firms in the nation by Architect Magazine. Frank Harmon is also the author and illustrator for, a series in which he uses hand-drawn sketches and mini-essays to examine the relationship between nature and built structures. For more information: Contact information:;919.829.9464; 14 East Peace Street, Raleigh, NC 27604.

Art and Architecture: A Special Exhibit Showcases Abstract Art In A Mid-Century Modern House

AuctionFirst® invites the ChromaZones to display their work during an open

1.The sunken sitting area with built-in sofas. Art work: “That’s A Maybe” by Sys Oppenlander (left) and “So What” by Larry James (right).  Photo by Sarah Sonke, AuctionFirst®
The sunken sitting area with built-in sofas. Art work: “That’s A Maybe” by Sys Oppenlander (left) and “So What” by Larry James (right). Photo by Sarah Sonke, AuctionFirst®

house event.

March 25, 2013 (Raleigh, NC) — AuctionFirst®, a professional real estate auction agency, and the ChromaZones, a group of award-winning artists that specialize in two-dimensional abstract art, will present a special art exhibition on Sunday, April 14, from 2-4 p.m., at the mid-century modern home of Al  and Suzy Purrington at 6108 Lost Valley Road, Raleigh, NC 27612. The event is free and open to the public.

“Abstract art is beautifully presented in the sleek, open ambience of a Modernist house,” said Sarah Sonke, auctioneer/broker with AuctionFirst. “The Purringtons and I are delighted to give the ChromaZones this ideal setting for one of their shows.”

The 4500-square-foot, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired house, designed by Raleigh architect Abie Harris and built in 1967, features an open floor plan where the entrance foyer, living room, dining space, and sunken media room with built-in seating and stone fireplace flow seamlessly into each other.  Floor-to-ceiling glass across the rear elevation and clerestory windows above a loft-like office overlooking the living space bring an abundance of natural light into the interior. The glazing also provides panoramic views of the forest surrounding the house near Umstead Park.

The house and eight-acre property will be sold at auction. Final bids are due by 3 p.m. on May 21.

“Sarah and the Purringtons have provided us with this phenomenal venue to showcase our work, ” said Sys Oppenlander, one of the ChromaZones’ founding members.  “And likewise, we’ve provided them with a colorful backdrop to showcase the house.  The contemporary style, vibrant color scheme, and even the dimensions of both the house and the artwork really complement each other.”

The master bedroom. Art work above the bed: “Amadeus” by Constance Pappalardo. Photo by Sarah Sonke, AuctionFirst®
The master bedroom. Art work above the bed: “Amadeus” by Constance Pappalardo. Photo by Sarah Sonke, AuctionFirst®

The ChromaZones members originally came together during a charity fundraising effort and promotion of the 2009 Raleigh SPARKcon celebration. They created a 15-piece collaborative work for display during the event and, as an educational effort, painted en plein air on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh.  They donated the proceeds from the sales of both their individual artworks and their collaborative piece to charity.

These collaborative donations and live painting events form the foundation of the ChromaZones’ mission, but the members also mount group exhibits showcasing their individual artwork in various venues throughout the Triangle – such as the Purrington house.

Sonke and the ChromaZones invite anyone interested in abstract art and mid-century Modernist residential design to join them for the April 14 exhibition and open house.

To learn more about the ChromaZones, their artwork, and upcoming shows, visit their website at or follow them in Facebook.

For more information on the Purrington house, go to www.LostValleyCountryEstate.

About AuctionFirst:

AuctionFirst specializes in accelerated auction marketing of all types of real estate, from land to luxury homes. Unlike most real estate auctioneers, AuctionFirst’s agents work closely with real estate agents, sharing commission with both listing and buyer agents. Sarah Sonke is a professional real estate auctioneer/broker/realtor who conducts real estate auctions throughout North Carolina. Her office is located at 2501 Blue Ridge Road, No. 250, Raleigh, NC 27607. For more information visit or call her at 919-601-7339.


Triangle Modernist Houses Hosts Tour of 1959 Carter Williams House

“Blue Haven” will be open to the public for one day.

Inside the Carter Williams House

July 6, 2011 (Raleigh, NC) — The 1959 Carter Williams House Tour, designed by prolific Raleigh architect F. Carter Williams, FAIA, for his family, with landscape design by Dick Bell, FASLA, will be open for public touring on Saturday, July 23, from 10 a.m. until noon.

The tour of this classic mid-century modernist house, nicknamed “Blue Haven” for the distinctive “Carolina Blue Stone” used in its construction, is presented by the Triangle Modernist Houses and sponsored by Eidolon Design.

The two-level house is typical of mid-century modernist houses in many ways. Lower level floors are terrazzo and glass walls flood the spaces with natural light while opening the interior to the exterior. Upstairs, multi-columned stone construction visual divides the entrance hall from the great room beyond, where floor-to-ceiling glazing offers panoramic views of the landscape and forest beyond the house. Built-in casework throughout the house is walnut.

Current owner Jill Maurer has filled the Williams house with high-end mid-century

Entrance, showing landscape design by Dick Bell.

modern furnishings, including a Florence Knoll lounge, chairs and tables by Bertoia and Eero Saarinen, and an Isamu Noguchi coffee table. Her art collection, including abstract paintings by such North Carolina luminaries as Claude Howell and George Bireline, also complements the house’s architecture and ambiance.

Metro Magazine’s Diane Lea called the house “one of Raleigh’s acknowledged early Modernist jewels” in her feature on “Blue Haven” in November of 2010.

Over his 40-year span, Carter Williams and his firm designed more than 600 projects throughout the state. From 1939 to 1941, he was an assistant professor at the NCSU School of Design. The highest honor AIA North Carolina presents each year to an individual for a distinguished career or extraordinary accomplishments is named the

Rear elevation

F. Carter Williams Gold Medal.

In the study Post-World War II and Modern Architecture in Raleigh, North Carolina, author Ruth Little writes, “It is safe to say that Williams’ elegant understated modernism had a bigger impact on Raleigh architecture than any other architect in Raleigh from 1945 to 1965.”

The Carter Williams house is located at 6612 Rest Haven Drive. Tickets are $5.95 in advance until July 16 and $8 at the door. To purchase advance tickets and get directions to the house, go to

For more information on Triangle Modernist Houses, visit

About Triangle Modernist Houses

Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) is a 501C3 nonprofit established in 2007 to restoring and growing modernist architecture in the Triangle. The award-winning website, now the largest educational and historical archive for modernist residential design in America, continues to catalog, preserve, and advocate for North Carolina modernism.  TMH also hosts popular modernist house tours several times a year, giving the public access to the Triangle’s most exciting residential architecture, past and present. These tours raise awareness and help preserve these “livable works of art” for future generations. Visit the website at TMH also has an active community on Facebook.