When a couple decided to “break free” from their cookie-cutter home and realize their long-awaited eco-friendly dream home, they turned to Chapel Hill-based architect Arielle Condoret Schechter to bring their vision to life. With their grown son now out of the house, the couple wanted to downsize to a simple modernist home where they could peacefully age in place. Nestled in a secluded place in the woods of Chatham County, North Carolina, the resulting sustainable home is custom-designed to meet all their needs, from achieving net-zero energy to its modernist design with architectural elements inspired by the Netherlands-based De Stijl movement of the early 1900s.

Completed earlier this year, the contemporary zero-energy home embraces the outdoors without compromising the clients’ needs for privacy. Along the front, street-facing elevation, architect Arielle Condoret Schechter installed a natural cypress screen that filters light, obscures views and references the surrounding woods. The windows along the front are also placed high up along the fiber cement walls. In contrast, the rear of the property is completely open to the outdoors with a large outdoor deck with full-height windows and walls painted with geometric blocks of primary colors in the style of the De Stijl art movement.

“We want a house just for the two of us,” said the clients. “We don’t want to socialize. We want to be left alone to enjoy our life…[and have] a sheltered place to sit outside and watch the rain.” To meet the clients’ needs for aging in place, the architect created an interior with zero thresholds, curb-free showers and oversized doorways. Meanwhile, the couple can watch the outdoors in comfort from the south-facing deck that’s protected by a deeply cantilevered roof.

Related: Net-zero Maine house is designed to blend into the forest with age

The large roof overhangs around the entire house also help reduce solar heat gain and support a rooftop solar array. Highly efficient insulation wraps the home’s three rectilinear volumes to create an airtight envelope, while an energy recovery ventilator keeps indoor air fresh without producing ozone. In addition to following passive design principles such as maximizing natural light and ventilation wherever possible, the architect also installed windows and doors certified for Passive House Construction to ensure that the house archives Net Zero performance.

+ Arielle Condoret Schechter

Photography by Keith Isaacs via Arielle Condoret Schechter