Harmony Reigns … in a vacation-like home with steel I-beams

by Aaron Wilson


Text by Joanne M. Anderson

Photos by April Amodeo

You’ll find them in the Golden Gate Bridge, Empire State Building, the Mall of America, the Pentagon and Philip and April Amodeo’s house in Blacksburg. The method for producing them by rolling one from a single piece of steel was patented in 1849 by Alphonse Halbou, who worked for the Belgium company, Forges de la Providence. The ubiquitous I-beam has since become one of the most integral, structural components in bridges, skyscrapers, factories and warehouses. And the Amodeo house.
The house is designed specifically for the site with exposed I-beams and bolts in a Y-shape with each one running out infinity windows at the ceiling/roof line. The structure is composed of two intersecting cubes enclosing 3,400 square feet of living space on three floors. “I like open space, wood and industrial elements,” explains Philip Amodeo, architectural designer, builder and owner of Amodeo Design Build. He walks to the beat of a different drummer when it comes to home design, and each of his spec homes have included visible, painted I-beams and exposed bolts. “I build what interests me,” he says matter-of-factly. He would only design a custom build home for an owner who would allow free artistic expression and design.
“This exact house couldn’t be constructed anywhere else,” April states, “because it was completely drafted and arranged for the slope and orientation of this lot.” The family, which includes eight kids, lived nearby when Philip built this spec home in 2008 right next door to another one of his custom designs. From the 10-foot ceilings in their basement offices to the south facing windows on the main floor, angled bathrooms and bedrooms, every square foot of space is functional. Amodeo is an Energy Star-certified builder and received the Design Excellence Award for this house. Once built, they decided to move their clan into the 5-bedroom, 4-bath home.
The openness is conducive to a large family as one cannot exactly “not be found” in the kitchen-dining-living room area which encompasses most of the first floor. Ceilings are crafted from Ponderosa pine and Southern yellow pine, and the floors are oak. The oak staircase and pine window trim stand out for the white walls, which reflect light, making the entire space naturally amiable and inviting. The kitchen backsplash of popular, modern, narrow, glass rectangles normally installed horizontally makes another out-of-the-box splash for having been styled vertically. “That was April’s idea,” he concedes.
The open living area provides the perfect backdrop for entertaining. Family gatherings, graduations and baptisms have been celebrated with dozens of people comfortably moving about without feeling crowded. Holiday parties have included a live band performing in the living room with adequate space for everyone.
Ceiling fans can move air, but Philip also designed the bedroom walls on the main floor a little lower than the ceiling so air circulates comfortably all the time. “There are open spaces above the common bathroom, one bedroom and the master suite to allow air to move freely even when doors are shut,” he explains. This allows air to be easily captured through the return duct which increases energy efficiency and prevents stagnant air.
April embraces the philosophy of feng shui in creating harmony and calm in furnishings and accessories that promote positive energy flowing freely throughout the home. “All rooms and objects have energy,” she says. “When energy flows freely, everyone feels it, even if they are not aware of it. The furniture is placed to encourage conversation, and the sofa is against the wall, anchored, as opposed to floating in space. Elements of fire (candles) and water (a floating globe), along with numerous textures (leather, fur, glass, metal), create a unique balance. Another key element is beauty, and I instantly relax every time I walk into this space.”
In addition to designing and building spec homes, Philip has been involved in hundreds of kitchen remodeling projects and structural foundation repairs, as well as breathing new life into old buildings. He’ll buy a dilapidated structure and start at the base ~ lifting it off its foundation to secure a new, improved infrastructure from the bottom up.
The house here on Pleasant View Circle in Blacksburg has no footers. A Superior wall system with 10-inch foundation walls was moved in with a crane and set in one day. “The basement is always the warmest place in the house,” April explains, “which is nice since we both have home offices in this lower level space.” The 10-foot high ceilings accommodate windows and natural light that keeps everyone cheerful, even when working, and feels open despite being mostly underground.
From the deep, whirlpool soaking tub flanked by windows to a private backyard, expansive deck that runs the entire length of the two sections of the house and a charming view over rooftops to rolling hills beyond, this home radiates quality, contemporary style, peace and compatibility with the surrounding natural environment and the harmony within.
“It’s much like living in a vacation home,” they exclaim! “It is a dream to live here,” April adds. “Every morning, I feel like I’m in the most amazing vacation house ever built. My heart still skips a beat looking out the windows and walking into the kitchen with the beautiful woodwork and sun sparkling off cobalt blue stones in the granite countertop. After the kids are off to school, I take a moment. On the open deck. With a cup of coffee. And lots of cream. Then a dollop of whipped cream for a crowning touch. Best way to start my day!”

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