Lakefront Challenge

Working with owners of inland property who wanted to re-create a house that could be found on the islands off North Carolina provided the inspiration for this home in Cornelius, N.C. In addition to the desire to re-create the feeling of the islands, the odd shape of the lot demanded certain design requirements and challenges for residential design specialist Jennifer Pippin, AIBD, owner of Pippin Home Designs, also in Cornelius.

The development in which this lot sits began in 1990 and since then this lot has sat with what looked like no chance of ever being built on. “The lot sat all these years because no one thought that a house could be built on it. When the clients came upon the lot, their realtor tried to talk them out of it,” Pippin says. “They heard that I work with challenging lots, and they wanted to see if I could meet the challenge, which I did.”

The homeowners requested a maximum number of views of the harbor and neighboring yacht club, a three-car garage, screened-in porch, and to have the master suite on the second floor near their two small children. “Our goals were to create a home that functions for a family of four on a site that everyone thought wasn’t buildable,” Pippin says. “The site has seven sides to the shape of its envelope. Having a house that can fit that weird shape and meeting all the homeowner requests [was our goal].”

Development Requirements

The first challenge for Pippin was to locate where the three-car garage would sit. “Two cars would easily fit but three cars were tough to accommodate while leaving living space. Another problem was that the neighbor had a say in where the garage was located. The initial design, which the neighbor declined, would have maximized views across the street and behind [the house]. All the garages were on the right side of the lot with the doors to the right side — a side entry garage. You didn’t see the garage doors from the street, which was a requirement of the development,” Pippin adds.

Because the neighbor rejected the initial design, Pippin and the homeowners had to go back over the design and site requirements. “We had put one car on one side and two cars on the other side. It gave the neighbor the privacy of not having to look into the garage and it preserved the views on the first floor,” she says.

Situating the garages with the doors facing the street violated the codes of development requiring Pippin to meet with the development committee. “We proposed one car on one side and two cars on the other side. All the garages were angled to the front door. [The development] did approve it,” she adds.

The biggest challenge for Pippin, however, was meeting the town’s impervious requirements. “The area of town that this development is in requires a maximum lot coverage of 5,000 sq. ft. of impervious area. So we had to maximize house, garage, driveway and walkway, and keep it under 5,000 sq. ft. coverage,” Pippin says. “We combined the drive into one that enters dead center of the lot and splits off.”

Emphasizing Style

Two areas in the house the home-owners focused most of their attention were the great room and master bedroom. “The great room has a stepped-tray ceiling and heavy molding trim with indirect lighting. Most of the first floor has flat 10-ft. ceilings. On the second floor, the master suite has a cathedral ceiling where the rest of the rooms on the second floor have flat 9-ft. ceilings,” Pippin says.

If she had to re-do this project, Pippin would add trellis detail on the lake side as well as more stone. “[The homeowners] put the bulk of their money on the stone accents for the street side and didn’t carry it over to the lake side. I also wish they were more interested in green products. Green design wasn’t as popular when this project began as it is now.”

Pippin is most proud that she was able to design a building on this difficult site that met all the homeowners’ desires. “I’m proud of the fact that we were able to create a home on an unusually shaped building envelope,” she says. “It not only looks great but functions as the client intended.”