During a question and answer session at a recent industry conference, a home builder asked Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi for his thoughts about the labor
Motivated by the rocky topography and natural beauty of a challenging hillside site in Alpharetta, Ga., builder Randy Schwartz indulged his passion for art on a spec project that he says was as much about creating an environmentally interpretive design...
|Key elements of this luxury home near Atlanta, including the mosaic-accented fireplace that serves as the focal point of the great room, function as art within a compositional whole, builder/architect Randy Schwartz says.|
|With its combination of stone, stucco and tile, Schwartz says the home reflects his artistic interpretation of the topography of what he calls "a very unique and compelling building site." The house is not visible from the street, and with the color palette Schwartz selected for the exterior materials, "it virtually disappears into the woods," he says. The motor court features a stone paver surface. Finished space above the garage can be accessed directly from the motor court.|
|Tradition meets new age in the kitchen, where Schwartz combined conventional materials such as granite, wood and stone with sleek stainless steel and glass to create a textural blend. The kitchen features snack-bar seating at the island as well as a breakfast nook.|
"The home expresses the energy of the site itself," says Schwartz, who is also a Georgia Tech-trained architect. "I call it artchitecture because it blurs the lines between the two."
While he's experienced in all areas of residential construction, from new homes to renovations and additions, Schwartz calls this project life-affirming in terms of what he wants to achieve as a builder. "I am really seeking to transition into a niche that will allow me to practice with the latitude to exercise my artistic discretion and interpretive skills," he says.
Schwartz eschews categorizing the 7,600-square-foot dwelling, instead calling it avant-garde. "The luxury market in this area is a very conservative one, and to call this house 'contemporary' connotes a style to buyers that really does not describe this house," he says. "It goes way beyond the bounds of the image that comes to mind with that description."
Schwartz acknowledges that the home's appeal will be limited to a select few in his high-end Atlanta market - which is exactly what he intended. "I really got tired of seeing the same things in new homes over and over again and recognized that there are buyers who feel the same way I do," he says. "I believe there is a suppressed demographic for this type of house." He predicts that the eventual owner will choose it precisely because it offers an alternative to the more traditional luxury homes available in metropolitan Atlanta. "Perhaps a professional athlete, an executive couple with older children, or even a local artist."
Although the $3.2 million home might break with stylistic convention, its functionality remains exceptionally broad. It features the trappings of a typical luxury residence, including a gourmet kitchen and spacious great room; a private master retreat with an office, a steam room and a sauna; comfortable secondary bedrooms; and space above the detached garage for an in-law or teen suite or an additional office. This space can be accessed directly from the motor court to maintain privacy for the main residence.
The home features a passive solar-assisted design. Insulation, orientation, ventilation and the preservation of existing vegetation contribute significantly to its heating and cooling. "Nearly all of the window openings are on the south and southeastern sides of the home," Schwartz says. "Not only did this work out well in terms of solar gain, but it also provided the most dramatic views."
Outside, more than 3,000 square feet of multilevel deck and terrace space facilitates circulation between indoor living areas and provides plenty of room for enjoying the sights and sounds of the 30-foot waterfall and retention pond that Schwartz incorporated into the 5-acre site.
The home's exterior and interior walls feature 4,200 square feet of stonework. Interspersed with a combination of porcelain tile and stucco, these rock walls not only serve a structural function but also allowed Schwartz to focus on the interplay of textures, color and light.
"I did a lot of this work myself," he says. "This was a very hands-on project for me. I experimented with 25 or more colors before making my selections." He chose a wide range of complementary shades, including yellow, taupe, terra cotta, gray and turquoise.
The effect, he says, is spectacular. "The walls function as foreground or background depending on where you are in the home, and the colors and textures look different as the sunlight varies throughout the day or as the seasons change."
The home was completed in June 2003.
|The two-story master suite occupies a separate wing that can be closed off from the rest of the living space. This inviting retreat features a spacious main-floor bedroom with a fireplace surrounded by custom shelves (left). A private office is upstairs. The master bath (right) includes not only a spa tub and glassed-in shower but also a steam room and sauna.|
Location | Alpharetta, Ga.
Total square footage | 7,600 (air-conditioned)
Estimated market value | $3.2 million
Builder/architect/interior designer | Buildynamic Inc., Atlanta
Spec-built luxury residence
Major Products Used | Appliances: KitchenAid | Countertops: granite | Cabinetry: custom | Doors: custom | HVAC: Ruud | Lighting: Juno | Windows: MW, Andersen | Cultured stone: Eldorado | Plumbing fixtures: Grohe, Moen | Roofing: Elk | Rugs: RugSmart Interiors (great room), Sharian (master suite) | Furniture: Leather World (leather), Diamond Teak (master suite) | Sculpture: Janice Metzel
"The lot is very rugged. It drops 125 feet from the curb to the property line of the golf course that forms its rear boundary," says Schwartz, who integrated existing natural rock formations into the terraces that extend the home's interior living spaces to the outdoors.
Schwartz broke with convention from the project's initial stage, allowing much of the home's form to emerge during construction. "I tend to work with a minimal amount of drawings," he says. "The ones I do have are used to procure the permits. Many of the details of this house, including the curved roof line, were responses to opportunities that arose during the construction process. That's one of the key advantages to being the hands-on type of builder I am."
The three-level home features a combination of conventional frame (70%) and poured concrete block (30%) construction as well as more than 13,000 feet of steel. "There are 62 roof trusses in this house that were 61 different lengths," Schwartz says.
In response to the site's topography and to provide the spec home's future owner with plenty of private living space, Schwartz constructed the house in three main sections. The primary structure includes the kitchen, great room and recreation room. A 1,700-square-foot, two-story master wing connects to the main residence via an enclosed, air-conditioned bridge. And the detached garage contains living space above.
The master wing was built on piers positioned among the site's mature trees to avoid disturbing their root systems. Schwartz says preserving the trees was crucial aesthetically and because they augment the heating and cooling of the home's living spaces.
"One of the most enjoyable spaces is the kitchen," where stainless steel finishes add a high-tech shine. In addition to a separate breakfast nook, the kitchen features a piano-shaped island surrounded by professional-grade appliances, including an oversize refrigerator, stacked double ovens, a separate range, a microwave and a warming drawer.
As he did for the rest of the living spaces, Schwartz chose a combination of finishes for the kitchen to emphasize contrasting textures. The room includes hardwood flooring, granite countertops, cultured stone accent walls and custom cabinetry in addition to the stainless steel appliances and backsplashes.
Fabricated by Israel Peljovich of Arts & Laminates in Atlanta, the cabinets combine stainless and laminate finishes over solid-birch plywood frames and doors. The design also incorporates glass-front display cabinets.