Here, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a stone’s throw away, and after sunset, the lights of downtown Asheville look like fireflies dancing in the distance. One glimpse of this view and all of the wonders of the world they’d seen paled in an instant. The owners couldn’t picture themselves anywhere else.
Settling down on the side of a mountain is no easy task, however. The lot is quite steep, and most stock plans are designed for flat sites
. They consulted with the post-and-beam artisans at Timberpeg
and ultimately choose the “Leconte 5607” plan, which, serendipitously, met about 80 percent of their needs. For the remainder of their wish list, they worked with Ken Wertheim
, an architect and independent rep for Timberpeg, who molded the design to fit the location they loved.
The Low Down
“One of the big challenges for me,” says Ken, “was that the owners wanted a porte-cochère in the front so they could park their cars by the front door. Because the site was so steep, the only location for it was the driveway, which meant we had to push the house even farther down the slope.” Ken solved this problem by building a stem wall below the basement slab to support the foundation.
Consolidation and compromise are key to adapting a floor plan to a steep site. For example, the owners wanted a yoga room
that the plan didn’t have room for. There was, however, a light well that Ken proposed they transform into an eagle’s nest.
To make the most of the lot, the design team built up, rather than out, relying on a vertical three-story Douglas fir frame that would give the couple the living space they needed while fitting within the property’s parameters.
The Inside Scoop
Homes built on hillsides or steep inclines provide fantastic views and offer unique design opportunities. The tradeoff is a need for extra planning and creativity. When building on a steep lot, consider this advice:
Solid footing “I highly recommend that you bring in a geotechnical engineer, so you know exactly what your soil conditions are,” says Ken. “You don’t want to get in a landslide situation when you’re investing a large sum of money into a home.”
Go vertical If you have a steep plot, consolidate the footprint to be as small as possible. The more you spread horizontally on a lot, the more you’re going to spend on foundation work. A three-level vertical concept or a treehouse-like design can help with cost.
Don’t fight the mountain Frank Lloyd Wright said, “Design a home of the hill, not on the hill.” Your home should be incorporated into the slope and work with the landscape. “We start every project with a topographical survey, so we know all about the grades and contours,” says Ken, “then, we design the home to the land.”
Our Favorite Design Ideas
A private balcony off the master bedroom is a great place to take in the sights and sounds of the morning.
The master bathroom was expanded to include a whirlpool tub as well as a walk-in shower.
A ship’s ladder beyond the upper-level loft space leads to an eagle’s nest lookout.
Post-and-beam style construction allows for lots of glass — and excellent views from the great room.
Ken added a foyer with a closet and bench seat to bolster the relationship between the entrance and great room.
An enclosed office/library offers privacy from the lower level’s guest quarters.