A Sleek Line: A Modern Foothills Home

Photo by Matt Rose
Photo by Matt Rose

Sitting sleek astride its topography, the planned Soto Residence in the high foothills is an example of a new breed of progressive architecture: minimalist but not cold, designed to meld with the land instead of impose upon it. Its vista takes in a lake and a grand but distant aspect of the Blue Ridge. Not exactly a mountain home yet distinctly more Southern-alpine than Piedmont, the future estate of native Britons Andy and Mireya Soto is a gesture of balance and ease, at home with a landscape it honors and imitates.

The Sotos wanted a new, full-time home on WNC property not far from an international airport, in this case Charlotte. (Andy is in industrial manufacturing and frequently commutes to Germany. Family connections are important, too: “We wanted to be close to people flying in,” says Mireya.) However, the logistical must for the passionate horsewoman was nearness to equestrian hotspot Tryon, a town that counts the Block House Steeplechase — which held its 65th run in April — among its institutions.

“They were really excited about the location, and they wanted a modern house, but they didn’t want it to be at all overbearing,” says Project Architect Chad Harding of Carlton Architecture. The green design-build firm resonated with the Sotos for “a commonness in aesthetic,” according to Harding. “The couple came to the table liking modern, but not the type of modern that is totally divorced from any sense of regionality.”

Modern home is a natural fit with the land.
Modern home is a natural fit with the land.

The 3,600-square-foot home, he says, “will be very calm and site-sensitive.” A low, one-level building, it tracks horizontally, sleek as a thoroughbred, with relatively scant disturbance to the land. That clearheaded intent, plus a cladding of regional Crab Orchard stone and vertical-grain Atlantic cedar, vaguely echoes a vernacular Harding admires: the beauty of older barns, outbuildings and other working structures.

Uncluttered, eco-friendly architecture that complements its surroundings “hearkens back to the lack of fussiness, the refreshingly simple lines, of such primary forms,” he says. A geothermal system will be installed in Soto Residence to regulate temperature, but the home’s “passive ventilation” — a.k.a. breezes — will merely result from commonsense planning.

“However,” adds Harding, back to briskness, “we’re not building barns here.”

No indeed. Luxurious appointments include a lap pool visible from the master bedroom and bathroom via glassed walls; the pool area frames a view to the mountains beyond. A glass connector links the master suite to the main house and accesses a set of other features that bespeak a refined-deconstructionist approach.

“The house breaks down into distinct sections, fingers and legs stretching into different areas, instead of existing as one large mass,” explains Harding. “The great room follows the contours of the south side of the land, but we’ve also extended northward on both ends of the house to create smaller ‘outdoor rooms’ of meadows, gardens and courtyards. Small groupings of spaces create different microclimates, so that all of the subtle aspects of the site can be experienced.

“The easy play is the view,” he declares. “You want to capture that; anyone would. But how do you engage the north side of the site, for instance, or the forest side, where it would be cooler on a hot day?”

With the Sotos, collaborating on such issues was an easy ride. “They have been very involved from the beginning,” says Harding, “and they’re wonderful. They’re informed [about architecture], but open to new ideas. You always hope for a smooth connection with your clients, and in this case it’s been just amazing.”

That natural fit extends to the firm’s design-build set-up. By being responsible for both the creative and literal angles of home construction, “we provide the homeowner with a single source of accountability,” says principal architect Rob Carlton.

“It’s been a fantastic working relationship,” concurs Mireya. She notes that the couple’s current home in Connecticut is “very traditional New England, three storeys high. This home has much cleaner lines.”

Having picked Carlton Architecture in a thoroughly modern fashion —after viewing its work online — the Sotos knew the firm specialized in the minimalist, informal look they were after. “We’ve always been on the same page,” says Mireya, “and we have refined our ideas together.”

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