Philosophy of Elmore

Frank Lloyd Wright believed that architecture and the built environment should be symbiotic with nature and the land. We have always tried to keep that philosophy as part of our design premise; however, equally important to us is the idea that architecture should be symbiotic with a culture.

Throughout rural North Carolina, there is a common thread that weaves the fabric of our culture…. rural buildings. They come in various forms ranging from purely agricultural to commercial agriculture, to timber or other forms of industry. These structures are simple and functional, yet their form is inescapable; it is typically classic in proportions, utilitarian, and born from necessity. When driving through the countryside of North Carolina, these buildings don’t necessarily stand out and that is the axiom of their beauty. When noticed, they fit the space. They do not seem out of place, rather they define the place. Elmore is the epitome of this regionally specific style and feel, and defines the North Carolinian agriculture vernacular.

Elmore – as with any strong architecture – is meant to be inspiring, and gives a strong nod to the North Carolinian agriculture vernacular. A home should engender physical, spiritual and psychological well being. It should bring a smile to your face when you leave for work and see it in your rear view mirror and upon returning, one should feel strong emotions of gratitude and inspiration. I saw Elmore as an opportunity to push these emotions to forefront of the daily experience. I wanted to create a place where the mundane did not exist, and do so affordably.

Though it may not appear so, this project was designed with budget in mind. Simple corrugated galvanized metal siding – used frequently on equipment sheds – was used in lieu of other materials, not just for the durable quality but to save tens of thousands of dollars. Commercial storefront windows were used to keep glazing costs down and allow for flexibility of design. Reclaimed lumber from local defunct tobacco warehouses was used throughout and was cost effective due to the proximity of the materials. The hickory flooring was milled just down the road – this reduced freight and local sourcing kept costs down. Local cedar was felled and milled as well as used in raw form. Fieldstone and boulders both within a couple hours drive of the homesite were used in the home and surrounding landscape. Even the zipboard sheathing on the walls and roof were made here in North Carolina. Some items such as the standing seam roof or the locally crafted stainless rails and spiral staircase cost more upfront, but their longevity extend the life cycle of the home and reduce long term costs… a concept that is often overlooked in conventional construction. This home is meant to be a generational home passed on to children and grandchildren; because of this, we kept long term maintenance and expenditures in mind and the front of planning process.

Keeping business local was again a theme that pays homage to the North Carolinian agriculture vernacular. Highly skilled and vetted local tradesmen and craftsmen were used throughout the project. These people and their stories are part of this home as well. Every flaw and every note of perfection are reminders of the craftsmen that helped us put Elmore together.

Designing Elmore

The design of this home is unique and was conceived from a remodel project that outgrew the footprint of the home it was intended for. As the size of the remodel grew, we took a reluctant step back and rethought the project as a whole. Ultimately, we decided it was not only more cost effective to raze the old home, but doing so would also allow us to change the location of the house on the property and revise the angle to the lake, improving the view as well as the solar attributes.

Much of the previous home, which was built in the 1960’s still resides in the footprint, though it is completely indiscernible without knowledge of the original homesite.

It is difficult to speak of design from any point without again going back to the vernacular roots. The prevailing theme in rural outcroppings is that they are expanded on throughout the decades, or even generations, of industrial, agricultural, or even family growth. Throughout these rural areas, buildings have always been added too and sheds were propped against buildings or built as stand alone features solely to provide a function. These theme was carried through on Elmore. The design is functional, and this vernacular expression is not as much for an aesthetic but as a practical approach to cater to future growth of the homesite and family expansion. In fact, midstream in construction, exactly that happened. Grandchildren were born and the house had an addition. There is now discussion of additional future expansion to accommodate a growing family. We designed Elmore to accommodate this, and any future additions will feel natural and intended from the very outset.

As many lake home properties do, this one had a fair amount of fall in grade toward the lake. The house footprint alone, fell 13 feet from back to front. Not wanting to create a basement or porch with rails and maintaining a home that would be easy for aging family and friends was the became foundation of our design. Grading would prove to be a challenge but also provided the medium to make the concept of one ground level approachable. We moved thousands of tons of soil around the property to make this possible and we placed the footprint on an axis to mitigate grade change problems.

A central theme to all of our design work, and particularly notable in this project is that of bringing a subtle and easy transition from dwelling space to activity spaces. A lake home is not box where we sleep and a dock where we play, it has to be everything in between. We have to feel comfortable anywhere on the path with usable attributes along the way. Covered porches, full house and dock sound and internet as well as seating in most spaces serve to bring comfort to all living areas of the property. Pathways from under roof to the dock serve to connect spaces, and play areas such as boulders not only function as retaining walls but give endless opportunities for kids and young adults alike to enjoy being human.

Tall ceilings in rooms are meant to make the space open and inviting, while the central living and dining area are meant to provide endless natural light and an incredible view to give the feeling of awe that never settles. The narrow passage helps keep such a large volume from feeling too open and also provided a cost effective span to help keep construction costs at bay. Anchoring the room are the floor to ceiling stone fireplace and stone endwall. The Rumford fireplace heats so well that it can be felt across the entire room, effectively warming the environment.

Being a lake home means that doors are left open or at least opened frequently; with this in mind, we installed a solar grid on the roof as a solution to help mitigate electric bills.

Designing Elmore was an ongoing process and being the General Contractor on the project allowed us a unique opportunity to bounce ideas around our staff and the client with little lag time in making changes as the project came to life. This is a shining example of expressing our rural history through modern design to create a timeless and beautiful home that will stand the test of time.