Post details: A New House for an Old Neighborhood


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A New House for an Old Neighborhood

Modern amenities and old-fashioned grace come together in this sophisticated cottage.

NeighborhoodRespecting the Neighborhood

Changing the neighborhood was the last thing architect Frank Cheney and his wife, Minta Phillips, wanted to do. They had recently moved to Greensboro, North Carolina from Princeton, New Jersey, and had chosen to live in Old Irving Park because they liked the community just the way it was. Its tree-lined streets and tasteful older houses reminded them of the comfortable suburbs where they grew up. They thought it would be an ideal place to raise their two children.

First they rented a home in Old Irving Park, not far from the hospital where Minta, a radiologist, would be working. Scouting for a more permanent residence, they were surprised to discover an undeveloped, affordable lot in a prime location. Of course, the only reason the lot was available was because no one had figured out how to put a house on it.

NeighborhoodLocated at an intersection where two major streets meet at an odd angle, the quarter-acre lot forms an acute triangle. Mandatory setbacks whittled down the area on which a house could be sited to a small triangle encompassing only 2,200-square feet. Frank, an accomplished architect trying to establish himself in the city, regarded this severe constraint as a welcome opportunity. "I knew that building a new house in such a prominent location would give me extraordinary advertising," he says, candidly. "Money can't buy the kind of advertising you get if people can see what you've done."

Frank devised an elegant solution to the problem of the tight triangular lot. He simply designed a house that is narrow at one end and wide at the other. At the narrow end, a small porch projects into the point of the triangle. The porch leads to the wider living room, which connects to the still wider central part of the house, which ends in an L where the carport attaches to the base of the triangle. The house comes right to the setback lines on all sides. "It's extremely tight," Frank says.

NeighborhoodThe house doesn't have a front and a back in the ordinary sense. The street defining one long side of the triangle, Country Club Drive, is considered the most prominent thoroughfare in Old Irving Park. Neighboring houses face that direction. But Frank realized that orienting the house in the opposite direction, toward St. Andrews Road, would offer the best views and make the most efficient use of the land. As a result, his design appears to have two fronts, each with a prominent entrance. The two entrances are connected by a stair hall.


Better Homes and Gardens



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