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In living color: Green renovation reveals couple’s spirit

January 16, 2009

In living color
Green renovation reveals couple’s spirit
By Trish Stukbauer,
Today's Custom Home

Although Jenny Pippin is an award-winning residential designer with an artist’s eye, even she couldn’t have envisioned what would one day rise above the shores of Lake Norman: A beautiful, environmentally friendly home with gorgeous views of the body of water below.
Initially, the site was an 875-square-foot house with all the architectural charm of a trailer.

Strongly influenced by her desire to live on the water, Pippin purchased the house in 1999.
“The lot sold me. In winter you can see all the way to the bridge, and in summer the trees provide privacy, which is essential since it’s a busy ski cove,” she says of the site that slopes gracefully toward the shoreline.
Before she moved any furniture into the house, however, Pippin undertook the home’s initial renovation; she temporarily slept in one bedroom, while literally everything else was torn apart. Pippin enclosed half of a carport to create space for a living room, and reworked the kitchen and the Master bedroom.

Years later, her marriage to Wes Stearns meant that the couple needed more space than the home’s 1,225 square feet. They undertook an ambitious renovation that created the dream home and studio Pippin envisioned, and based it on green building principles. The resulting “contemporary industrial barn” is a far cry from the original boxy structure. Rising three full stories above the lake with multiple levels of balconies and outdoor living areas, the home is filled with light and showcases the spectacular views available from the property.

To accomplish this dramatic change, Pippin did what she advises all of her clients at Pippin Home Designs, Inc., to do: To assemble a like-minded team. Pippin invited her friends and frequent colleagues, Builder Willis Spivey of Spivey Homes and Spivey Commercial, and interior designer Tracie Johnson-Sawyers of PTI Design, to join her and to help her realize her vision.

The first obstacle Spivey tackled was structural.
“When the original house was built, they didn’t [make] the foundation strong enough to support what would be the second and third floors. So we took off the existing roof and then created a steel structure - essentially using steel post and beam construction - to hold the weight,” he explains.
Spivey built a concrete retaining wall; it incorporated recycled fly-ash from nearby Marshall Steam Station, and it was filled-in to provide a level area for the garage. Fly-ash is an unhealthy, powder byproduct of coal-fired power plants, which, if not recycled, is deposited in landfills.
To bridge the distance with minimal site disturbance, the team created an elevated walkway from the driveway to the front door. However, the bridge is not the only element that sets the home apart.
Unique exterior materials like corrugated metal siding and metal roofing contain recycled content, and also help to minimize future maintenance. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the garage roof heat water for the residence, while additional PV panels on the south-facing roof provide back-up power for the house. They also produce energy that the owners then sell back to Duke Energy Corporation.

For Spivey, incorporating green aspects into the home was just a matter of course.
“We have actually been building green for about 20 years; we just didn’t know that it was called green,” he says with a laugh. “We have always used innovative engineering and products, placed homes where they would cause the least disturbance to the lot, taken advantage of passive solar and built to increase efficiency and create healthy homes.”
Ensuring that air within the home was clean was essential to Pippin, who relocated her business to the new third floor studio.
“We installed a Pure Air cleaning system, since all of my staff is allergic to cats,” Pippin says, motioning toward a furry culprit. “So far, no one has had any issues.”

Bringing the residence’s aesthetic elements together to reflect the couple’s style was the job of Johnson-Sawyers. Her full-service, interior design firm works with clients to select every detail for their homes, including exterior materials, interior finishes, window treatments, furnishings and accessories that make the space complete. As is true in all of her projects, Johnson-Sawyers began working with Pippin during the early planning stages.

“Jenny wanted to bring a lot of energy into the space, so we started by looking at art she loved and pieces she owned. Jenny loves a mix of different elements,” Johnson-Sawyers says.
The designer skillfully created a contemporary interior that blends recycled, reclaimed and antique pieces with the couple’s eclectic style. The collection includes handcrafted furnishings built by Pippin’s father, striking photography by Stearns, original art and hand-thrown pottery.

Johnson-Sawyers tied the disparate elements together with a vibrant color scheme that she refers to as “high energy design.”
“I really like living in color, and Tracie brought all of my favorite colors into the space,” Pippin says.
The bright orange foyer and green dining room reflect the striking colors of the open metal and maple stairs; in addition, a purple wall in the great room, and colorful laminated glass panels on the balconies, shine onto the floor a rainbow of colors when the sun strikes them. As she does for her clients, Pippin carefully planned the placement of each window and skylight so that the home is awash in natural light, which also reduces daytime electrical use.

The combination of green elements, breathtaking design, and solid construction is displayed throughout the residence and has resulted in a home that is as unique as the couple who resides there.
“The house has a lot of personality,” Johnson-Sawyers says.