When his father passed away, Clem Carter was the natural choice among his siblings to take on the property near Luster’s Gate outside Blacksburg that his father loved so much. Work began in 2017 on a modest upgrade to the studio where his dad, Dean Carter, spent many hours. The elder Carter helped establish the Art Department at Virginia Tech, served as its head for a decade and was an esteemed artist himself. Spring of 2018, after months of careful design, saw the start of construction of a new home on the mountain above the studio. It was the spot Clem’s father had always referred to as the number one building site.
Inspired by the studio’s shed roof and tall north windows, the view and mountain setting, Clem worked with designer Chris Hudson of Shelter Alternatives to design a home that Clem’s daughter would later dub the “mountain modern” cabin. At first look, the floor plan appears modern, yet simple enough with a square footprint. The juxtaposition of the four opposing shed roofs led to the need for a steel structure. That was just fine with Clem, as the vision forming in his mind combined the use of visible steel and glass contrasting with brick, wood and stone. The shed roof concept is also mimicked in the freestanding carport that stands as somewhat of a bandstand to welcome visitors.
The 2,850-square-foot house features four bedrooms, two upstairs with a generous loft. Views from these bedrooms are framed by large windows where the drywall from the walls and ceiling blend seamlessly. The only trim is a thick piece of walnut at the sill. This presentation of the view could pose the challenge of guests not wanting to leave. In the bathrooms, the high windows provide privacy but allow for a play of light. The highest windows feature a splayed sill to spread the light lower into the room. The lower ceiling of the loft gives it a cozy feel while the view over the half wall peers down past a steel beam and wood ceiling to the expansive living room below.
The main level features the master bedroom suite along with another modest bedroom intended for Clem’s mother. Each sports its own bathroom, and the smaller bedroom shares the bath with the public space. Almost hidden behind a large barn-style door off the hallway to the master suite sits the laundry area.
As you enter the house through the mudroom, what catches your eye is the kitchen and great room, opening up with a tower of light from a stack of five windows opposite the stairway. The steel stairway carriage supports thick walnut treads custom-made for the application and light cable guard rails that sometimes disappear among the other materials. An adjacent brick wall contrasts the smoothness of the steel and walls and extends outside to blur the transition from inside to outside.
The great room is filled with glass that follows up the roofline of the main shed angle. A 16-foot double sliding glass door opens to a covered deck where the roof line continues from inside to outside. Stepping through the doors, the view of the valley is framed by the cable rail and a steel beam. A wood ceiling curves up beyond the beam like it is reaching for the view. The kitchen sits toward the front of the house and is also open to the great room and the views.
Wall construction was largely done with 2 x 6 studs on 24” centers filled with damp spray cellulose. Most of the walls also received a continuous layer of EPS foam sheathing creating an R-30 wall envelope. The ceiling trusses allowed Shelter Alternatives to maintain the long spans and insulate to R-60 with blown-in cellulose. The house sits on a sealed crawl space with the tallest portion of the crawl space allowing a full-size, walk-in door. A concrete slab in this portion of the crawl space allows easy access to service the high efficiency, fully modulating heat pump (17.75 SEER 11.8 EER, 9HSPF) and the energy recovery ventilator.
Attention to details by field supervisor Eddie Hall in executing the vision of Clem and Hudson show in the way the house came together. Former students of Dean’s have noted the presence of his vision here. Passing the studio on the drive to the house, one can’t help but pick up on the similarities in inspiration. As a nod to the natural setting, minimal tree cutting was done around the residence, and a trickle septic system is installed among the trees avoiding a clear cut. Clem and his wife look forward to sharing their mountain modern cabin with friends and family through the years.


Text and photos courtesy of Ed Tuchler, president of Shelter Alternatives