Storming the Castle

Architect Alice Dodson kept the rock and reimagined the rest when it came to an unusual Town Mountain home. Photo by Tim Robison.
Architect Alice Dodson kept the rock and reimagined the rest when it came to an unusual Town Mountain home. Photo by Tim Robison.

The 15-inch-thick stone walls convey a castle-like authority. And certainly, the 360-degree scenery, including a glimpse of storied Cold Mountain to the west, gives this Town Mountain home a kingly air.

But surveying one’s domain from under a leaky roof, or feeling oppressed in a once-open courtyard made into a dark living room, does not amuse. When Weaverville-based architect Alice Dodson began planning changes to the future summer home of James Fendelman and his wife Wendy Joffe, she reckoned on a new master-bedroom suite and a fashionable rooftop deck to capture the royal views.

But, soon enough, the unsavory secrets within the house’s 70-year-old walls began to reveal themselves. After a little investigation, Dodson and the builder, Builtwright Construction Company, were obliged to decree more than a straightforward renovation.
“It appeared to have good bones until we looked into different parts of the house,” recalls Dodson. Under the dripping ceiling, “the floor in the living room was just uneven patio stone on the ground. The windows were different types from different time periods and [made with] different materials, the heating and lighting systems needed a complete redo, and so on.

Rendering by Architect Alice Dodson.
Rendering by Architect Alice Dodson.

“As we started to remove layers and layers of different time periods, we got more and more surprises,” she says. “We adjusted the design and the budget several times. At the same time, the solid, thick stone walls inside and outside were very lovely, and we decided to keep that and repair all the rest. That expanded the scope of the project tremendously.”

“The parapet roof was failing,” confirms Andy Gardner of Builtwright, “and at some point, all the systems inside had become problematic. Over the years, all these changes had been made, years and years of band-aid solutions. When we got into demolition, it was clear that we had to get all of it out of the way. Everything but the exterior stone walls had to go.”

Such a thorough overhaul suggests many additions. But the expansion won’t result in a sprawling footprint. Although all the utilities were relocated — never a minor undertaking — and the floor plan was reconfigured, the indoor square footage will only go up from 3,900 to 4,035, thanks to a small garage extension. Instead of building on more rooms, Dodson and her crew cleared out the figurative cobwebs of past construction mistakes and installed skylights and high clerestory windows in the main living areas to invite in sunlight — the most natural way to open up a space.

But the grand new outdoor “rooms,” comprising 1,400 square feet of side decking, a balcony, and a rooftop terrace, are what loom largest, at least in the context of added value. Visually, the new appendages are smooth, stone-toned, and sleekly embedded into the structure, urging the rock house toward a more contemporary vision of mountain vernacular.

Owners Fendelman and Joffe have three grown sons who come home to visit, and while the family enjoyed a previous Town Mountain vacation home, “it didn’t have views,” explains Fendelman. “Being an optimist,” he says, “I wanted to find a home with views on a flat lot, where you’re not struggling just to walk out and get the mail.”

Because the property was so ideal, he didn’t consider their stone home’s major structural issues daunting. Instead, he enthuses that you can “see forever” from the enviable spot, and that it’s “ten degrees cooler up here” than down the mountain in Asheville.

Dodson’s custom roof design is all about form — it looks very “now,” especially the portion meant for lounging or entertaining — as well as hard-line function. Being a builder, Gardner leans on the latter components: The roof will last for a half century, he reports. It drains stormwater properly, and, perhaps most importantly, it harmonizes with the drastically updated plumbing and energy systems inside.

Meanwhile, Fendelman imagines the excellence of mountain life from the vantage point of that cutting-edge outdoor room. “We will be living in the sky,” he predicts happily.

Alice Dodson Architect, PA, is located at 45 Lula Cove Road in Weaverville. For more information, call 828-645-9326 or see

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