The gently rolling tract of land in east-central Alabama was exactly what architects Christian Dagg and David Hinson’s clients were looking for in a location for their new home: a serene, wooded spot that would require only minimal clearing, surrounded by fresh air and sunshine.
Expansive views were an added bonus—the 2.67-acre site sits on one of the highest points in Lee County, with a three-mile, southwest-facing vista. “We thought the gently sloping topography would give us the opportunity to arrange the geometry of the house so that the uphill, back view would have an intimate courtyard feel to it and the west-facing downhill side would have these fabulous long-distance views, which are not typical for sites in Alabama,” says Hinson.
Completed in early 2009, the 4,200-square-foot house pays homage to the area’s rural roots by relying on centuries-old passive ventilation techniques. Like nearby farmhouses and rural outbuildings with no air conditioning systems, the narrow dwelling is positioned to capture east-west breezes to reduce its reliance on mechanical cooling.
“We live in a region of the country where we have a fabulous spring and fall, and if you have a home designed to passively ventilate you can turn off the air conditioning and have a wonderfully comfortable home,” explains Hinson.
Its simple exterior materials and forms, such as galvanized metal roofing, gables, and white wood-look siding, also provide a nod to Southern vernacular. “We were both really keen on the notion of designing the house in a way that reflects the history and feel of the region,” Hinson says.
The duo’s first move was to lay out a simple L-shaped configuration and arrange the home’s major elements into two slender wings joined at the southwest axis, allowing for optimal cross ventilation while taking full advantage of the views.
Four bedrooms, the dining room, the kitchen, and the breakfast area are stacked in a two-level bar that faces west. The south-facing leg contains the social spaces, including the front porch and gallery, living room, and screened porch, and is lined with generous-sized low-E windows shaded by 36-inch overhangs to let in ample—but not too much—daylighting.