Contemporary Challenge in Athens, GA

This custom-designed house was the client’s first experience with building a new home. He wanted a space that expressed his love of contemporary design and the feel of a French country house.  A challenging combination, but not the only one. The property had a surprisingly steep grade, a foundation from a 1930s house, and a grove of pecan trees to protect. The site also had daily trains nearby; he needed a quiet bedroom and workspace. And he wanted his carbon footprint to be small.

 Working with the client, we decided on clean, angular lines and entrances into the land’s steep slope. The position of the house provides a view of the pecan grove from the living/dining area. The contemporary frame contrasts with a touch of country French - salvaged doors and hardware, Douglas Fir screen doors, a salvaged wrought iron gate, and blue-painted accents. The 1930s foundation was used for a pedestrian walkway to the entrance and a front patio.

The wide variety of materials in the interior space combine contemporary lines, light, and open space with the warmth of country French in textures and colors.  The salvaged doors, beautiful heart pine floors, a woodstove, and the stairwell post and wood paneling from a 19th century textile mill are a rustic contrast to the stunning modern staircase, high ceilings, and contemporary windows. The interior staircase, along with the exterior bridge and stairs, provided graceful curves in contrast to rectangular shapes.

The owner wanted to separate his “public” space from his “private” space, so we placed the kitchen, living and dining area, guest room, and a bathroom on the street level and his master bedroom, bathroom, and workspace on the lower level. To ensure quiet in the master bedroom, the walls are made of insulated concrete forms (ICFs). The workspace walls, left visible at the owner’s preference, consist of energy-focused, aerated concrete block. We supplemented the home’s heating system with a solar hot water heater, a floor heating system downstairs, and a wood stove on the main level.