The Home of the Month series is a collaborative effort with the N.C. State University College of Design through its Home Environments Design Initiative. Featured homes, selected by an expert panel, highlight the benefits of good home design and represent the diversity of homes and home renovations designed by North Carolina architects. The stories, written by faculty, graduate students and alumni of the School of Architecture, bring to light the exemplary attributes of each home. Our goal is to offer inspiration and knowledge that can be applied to your living space.
Home, hearth and warmth. Few would deny the appeal and comfort of those words.
Now add steel tensioning members, concrete floors and Modern art. Still at home? Yes. At the intersection of capital-M Modern and love, we find the Twersky/Beauclair residence in Hillsborough.
It's a place to take your shoes off, settle in and witness the sylvan wonder of the Eno River. And it's Modern and edgy. The balance between these two impulses was achieved with attention to the hallmarks of home, with careful selection of materials, finishes and color, and with a playful and entertaining plan.
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"Impossible" is how Renee Beauclair Twersky describes the odds of finding an existing home like this.
She likes warm; husband Jack Twersky likes sleek. When the couple decided to build, they spent hours poring over books in the home of architect Steven Clipp, their longtime friend. Frank Lloyd Wright turned out to be the bridge between the pair's competing aesthetics -- and they went with it.
Clipp brought them an initial design. Six months later the design was little changed, and they broke ground.
"You push a design as far as the owners let you," Clipp says, "but in a good way."
Clipp's plan is, at core, an L-shape. Added to the L are two large rooms -- living room and master suite -- set off-axis at 15 degrees.
Big bay windows cantilever off these large rooms, but follow the angles of the original L. These enormous, light-filled nooks catch the eye; the visual dynamism keeps the house open and creates what Clipp calls "a wow factor."
Clipp complemented the rectangular geometry of the house with a large arc that runs from the front yard into the living room. Outside, the arc is a curved concrete path to the entry. Inside, it transforms into a carving in the floor that connects the foyer with the heart of the house, the great room.
The great room's vaulted ceiling, large expanses of glass and views through to the screened-in porch beckon the visitor to the center. There, all the parts of home are gathered together -- a large concrete hearth, a prominent stovetop in the kitchen and an informal dining table. And wood.
Wood, along with many other welcoming touches, warms the house. Light-colored baseboards and custom built-in cabinets and shelves soften the space. The pale sealed-pine finish is set off by a slightly darker concrete floor, stained a shade of terra cotta.
Skylights in the kitchen and exposed beams running through the master bath bring in nature. Custom tiling around the master bath tub provides stylish luxury. Recessed lighting throughout paints a subtle wash of light.
Each thoughtful detail -- plus a radiant floor system -- helps create a cozy retreat for the Twersky/Beauclair family.
And then there is what's Modern.
Color and guts
Color makes its boldest statement in the kitchen, where a red concrete counter is complemented by classic square tile in green. Showy chandeliers from the owners' private collection command attention in the kitchen and dining area.
Steel tension cables in the great room and master bedroom structurally anchor the house. They supply the gutsy backdrop for the owners' art collection -- paintings, prints, wall hangings and a sculpture or two. More important, they fit right in.
The neighbors might not know what unfolds inside the residence.
Sited on 3.2 acres along the Eno River, the house has an exterior that sticks with a traditional language: horizontal siding, sloped roofs, a two-car garage.
But among this design vocabulary are noticeable tweaks. Red framed windows stand out against traditional putty-colored fiber-cement planks. The cantilevered bays are sheathed in 3-inch siding, different from the 8-inch siding on the main house.
The two nooks cantilever into the landscape and echo the large screen porch off the great room. A playroom underneath the great room opens to the backyard with large windows and sliding glass doors.
The Modernist impulse is there, but it's hard to spot -- just as the house nestles gracefully into the sloping landscape.
A house becomes home
Clipp created a series of hipped roofs instead of a large, dominating single roof. These roofs also help the house look "grown" -- a term intended to describe a house that has evolved to precisely suit the needs of its owners. A grown house is a house that has become a home.
Small areas of grass are planted around the screen porch and the front entry. Clipp crafted an interesting roof cutout in front that provides light and space for a treasured Japanese maple. Bushes line the front of the house. Otherwise, landscaping, like the house itself, yields to the sweeping views of the river beyond.
Two years after moving in, the couple love their sleek but warm house.
Renee Beauclair Twersky says of the design, "It just felt right."
Clipp is satisfied with his role in helping his friends meld their styles and households. Building together, he says, "is one of the most fun things a couple can do".