Lots of natural light and and a fluid floor plan made for an award-winning design
Photography and words by Anna-Rhesa Versola
The quiet, private lives of Debbie Domeck and Brian Domeck were briefly interrupted when NCModernist awarded their home’s architect, Jason Hart, with the George Matsumoto Prize, the state’s highest accolade for modernist residential architecture.
So, the Domecks opened their 4,625-square-foot home for private tours on a single day in September to celebrate Jason’s winning design and to exhibit the fine work by Chatham-based builder Bold Construction.
Located off Lystra Road, the single-story home was designed with the choreography of light in mind. “You get these really cool shadows that are inside and outside throughout the day,” Jason says. A founding partner of Durham-based ThoughtCraft Architects, Jason says the movement of natural light enhances the quality of living in that space. “You’re really aware of what kind of day it is and what time of day it is just on a more natural cadence, you know, more in tune with the body and our senses,” he says.
Jason, who has a master’s in architecture from MIT, says one of the design challenges for the Domeck residence was bringing together Debbie’s love for sleek lines and Brian’s preference for classic symmetry. “One challenge was how can you put these two incongruous things together,” Jason says, “and out of that came the traditional gable roof form and symmetry within formal aspects of the house.”
Jason’s design solution manifested in a series of four pavilions separated by function and connected by corridors lined with glass and charred cypress wood, which is also part of the home’s exterior. The main pavilion features a soaring interior with a wall of glass welcoming light into the living room, kitchen and dining areas. The home’s south-facing orientation maximizes natural light for the pool and recreation pavilion. Slatted overhangs mitigate glare and heat gains while skylights and windows allow light into shaded spaces like bathrooms and guest suites.
“They say the simpler the design, the harder it is,” Debbie says. She and Brian met numerous times with the architect for months in 2019 to fully explore what matters most to them in their home’s design. “The main thing we wanted in this house was light.” The couple broke ground later that year on 12.76 acres in their own neighborhood; construction was completed in 2021 despite the disruptions caused by the global pandemic.
Unobstructed pathways are another distinctive feature of their dream home. “We wanted the house to sort of flow,” Brian says, “so it was structured so that you can flow from wing to wing via the internal corridors. There are separate spaces, but they flow together.”
Debbie agrees, “I wanted to be able to walk a lot in the house and just not go from the bedroom to the sofa and sit.”
Brian, who tends to pace, says he uses the layout of the home as an indoor track. When asked about the distance from his office to the homeowner’s suite, the Duke University alum quickly responds, “about 100 steps.”
Debbie says her home decor was not always about clean lines and subdued palettes. “It’s evolved, she says. “Our first house was a 1920 center hall colonial in Ohio. And then we moved to Florida for a job transfer – that was a new house.” Just before moving to North Carolina, the couple lived in a French country house. “That’s where it started to ease up and not be so formal, “ Debbie says.
By the time the couple moved to Chatham County in 2015 after Brian’s retirement, Debbie knew exactly what she wanted in an eventual custom home. She challenged the architect: “I said, ‘You have to blow me away.’”
Every detail was thoughtfully designed and executed. The architect and builder took advantage of all available opportunities to create additional storage spaces. One example is when the HVAC unit bumped out a wall into the living room, the residual space was used to create a shallow cabinet to extend the clean lines of the room. Along the hallways, the homeowner can push on a panel revealing a hidden door for more storage. Inside the walk-through pantry, the vertical slats hold large platters and trays while the open shelves allow for easy identification and access to goods and smaller appliances.
The enclosed front courtyard has maintenance-free turf for Millie, the dog. Scuppers direct rainwater from the roof to niche gardens between each pavilion. The pool has an outdoor kitchen and grill area that leads to an open putting green just outside of Brian’s office. The details go on and on.
“We just like the ease of it,” Debbie says. “It’s just simple and just relaxing.” With the tours long over, Brian and Debbie can return to their low-key lifestyle – out of the limelight and enjoying the comforts of home.
BY THE NUMBERS
Year built: 2019-2021
Square feet: 4,625
Number of rooms: 9
MORE ABOUT THE GEORGE MATSUMOTO PRIZE
The NCModernist prize was created in 2012 in honor of George Matsumoto, who was in his final semester at the University of California, Berkeley for architecture in 1945 when he and his family were among 120,000 Japanese Americans detained during World War II. George was allowed to finish his degree at Washington University in St. Louis. Later, he became a founding faculty member of North Carolina State University’s College of Design in Raleigh and one of the most influential modernist architects in the 20th century. The award recognizes architects (and their clients) who support the modernist movement. North Carolina has well more than 4,000 modernist homes, one of the largest concentrations of this type of residential architecture in the nation, according to George Smart, nonprofit executive director and founder of NCModernist and USModernist. Chatham alone has more than 40 modernist homes.