Story at a glance:

  • This modern, minimalist home is like a black snake slithering through the forest.
  • Clean lines, clear volumes, and a refined materials palette reinforce homage to the site.
  • The house is comprised of three sections that connect at two points to form the letter “Z.”

A verdant, 1.2-acre lot for sale near the center of downtown Carrboro, North Carolina languished for many years because no one wanted to confront the challenges it imposed. Located within a 12-acre preserved wooded area adjacent to a year-round creek, the lot presented an oddly shaped buildable area, a steep hillside, massive boulders, and dense forest coverage.

As the designers and owners of pod architecture + design and this house, we saw these challenges as inspirational rather than difficult—letting the property suggest the size, form, and materials for this modern, minimalist house, which we designed to visually retreat into the hillside like a black snake sunning itself on one of the site’s boulders.

The structure’s architectural profile also reflects the natural topography by rising and twisting up from the lowest creek-side level to the height of the hill. Clean lines, clear volumes, and a refined materials palette reinforce the designers’ homage to the site.


Photo courtesy of pod architecture + design

The house is comprised of three sections that connect at two points to form the letter “Z.” An internal system under the middle of the house contains all ductwork, the electrical system, and a tankless water heater. The skin is black corrugated metal that literally wraps around the form. The foundation and retaining walls are polished concrete block engineered to provide substantial insulation. Dramatic glazing frames views of the verdant setting while allowing natural light to flood the interior. Thermal mass and radiant flooring keep the interior cool in the summer and warm in the winter.


Image courtesy of pod architecture + design

Inside, the rising and twisting form creates the spatial journey in three levels, from living—including the kitchen and main entrance—at the lowest point to work in the middle to sleeping (bedrooms) at the top.

The living volume includes a huge window overlooking the creek and meadow. The work level features a custom-designed, built-in desk overlooking the living space below. Ultimately, all of the living space furnishings will also be built-in by the family members.

As for environmental stewardship, every Loblolly pine tree felled during construction went to a local lumber company then returned to the site to become the meandering pine core that tracks through each interior level from the lowest to the highest elevations.

The finish on the black accent walls is repurposed liner material for poured concrete forms. Stair railings and those around a second level balcony are perforated metal or glass.


Photo by Cornell Watson

The floors for the living level are polished concrete with radiant heating supplied by the tankless water heater underneath. Upper-level floors are the same milled pine as the core walls.

The home also features all LED lights, low-flow sinks and toilets, and has triple-pane glazing throughout, among many other green features.

Project Credits

Name: Hillside House
Location: Carrboro, NC
Completion: Fall 2020
Architect & Interior Design: pod architecture + design
Green Home Builder: NewPhire Building, Chapel Hill, NC
Structural Engineer: Excel Engineering, Carrboro, NC
Lumber Supplier: Fitch Lumber & Hardware, Carrboro, NC
Stone Masonry: Stonehenge Masonry, Adams/Oldcastle Products, Youngsville, NC
Metal Cladding Supplier: Sales Manufacturing Corp., Mocksville, NC
Radiant Flooring: Mike Torville, Carrboro, NC