Scandinavian contemporary 
style hidden in the Oaks

CorrespondentFebruary 3, 2014 

Tucked into the hillside, this contemporary home in the Oaks was situated by architect Bill Waddell of Distinctive Architecture to provide a high degree of privacy to a golf course home site.


The Scandinavian influence on contemporary design can be seen throughout a beautiful modernist house in the Oaks of Chapel Hill. The words — “simplicity, light, airy and dramatic” — are top-of-mind when walking up to and through this lovely home.

The Van Dyke house at 204 New Castle Place in the Oaks is a signature of the open design that North Carolina School of Design-trained architects Bill Waddell and Keith Brown were building during the late 1980s and early 1990s under their distinct companies: Sun Forest Systems Inc. (Brown) and Sun Forest Architecture PA (Waddell).

The duo’s open designs were known for large expanses of glass, flowing spaces and strong connections to the landscape. Waddell and Brown worked closely with each client to build custom, contemporary and modern homes to each home owner’s tastes.

“Thanks to Keith’s prescient abilities, we formed a design-build organization breaking new ground when that mode of working was in its infancy,” Waddell said.

Waddell says the two men have continued their lifelong friendship, but their professional paths have moved in different directions. Brown is now in Africa, and Waddell formed another company in 2001 — Distinctive Architecture — in which he provides new home and residential remodeling design services. Two projects of Waddell — 3 Pavilions in Hope Valley and Deck House Re-do in Duke Forest Homesites — are featured in Rural Modern, a recently-released coffee table book about architecture by writer and photographer Russell Abraham.

Both of Waddell’s designs featured in the book were built by Krichco Construction.

The construction of Waddell’s designs is now handled through each local homebuilder or remodeler selected by each client. As he did from the beginning of his career, Waddell works with each builder to ensure the design intent is met during construction. For more information about Distinctive Architecture, contact Waddell at

The Van Dyke house, located on the seventh fairway of the Chapel Hill Country Club Golf Course, was built in 1991-1992 for Roger and Carole Van Dyke who reared their two children in the ever popular neighborhood. The house is an easy, two-block walk from the new clubhouse which also offers tennis, swimming and fine dining – everything for an active social life.

The Oaks was built in three phases and is now 99 percent built-out with only a few contemporary homes in the whole neighborhood. This makes the Van Dyke house a rare find. But the home’s design and meticulous attention to detail given by Waddell and Brown are the real gems when considering this house, which is now for sale since the Van Dykes are downsizing in preparation for retirement.

The Van Dykes worked for a full year with Brown and Waddell in the design process. Roger said he remembers folders of torn-out magazine design ideas stacked a foot tall.

“Bill and Keith spent many hours with us, week after week, asking questions like ‘What do you like to do when you first arrive home from work?’ ‘What do you want or need the house to do for you in that situation?’ or ‘So you want high drama, but no pretentious materials, is that right?’” Roger recalled.

By the time the design was finished, Roger said, “the house fit like a custom ski boot.”

To balance the strong south daylight and to provide the interior volume and drama sought by the Van Dyke’s, a central clerestory roof form runs the majority of the width of the home, Waddell explained. Internally, the house is zoned to provide public living spaces in the middle with a dramatic, cantilevered steel and glass stair and glass-railed bridge crossing the space, Waddell said.

The family room and kids’ zone is to the east, and parents’ and guest zone are to the west. Off the family room is a “lab” for each of the three kids to have personal space for exploring creative ideas, science, art, research and the like. The kids’ bedrooms are on the upper level, and above them is a shared loft space under a central skylight that serves to balance the daylight in each room, Waddell said.

“My favorite room is the great room because it’s so visually expansive,” Carole said. “It’s sunken and cozy, but as I scan with my eyes, there’s a terrific view from the couch that starts with the glass-walled entrance, continues to the baby grand piano in the foyer and a double-helix stairwell that seems to float above a tropical garden. Then looking upwards I see the suspended catwalk and the aqua-colored “tinker-toy” flying buttress that dramatizes the volumetric, vertical space in the center of the house and also the row of high, clerestory windows with views to the 60-foot hardwood treetops and sky. Then looking straight ahead, I see the side-by-side television and open-campfire style fireplace. Last of all, I glance out through a wall of glass to the rear where I see our chic rain-chain, the blue reflective splash pool and a vine-covered trellis at the edge of the woods with a peek-a-boo view of the golf course beyond. It’s such a wonderful feeling of being surrounded on both sides and above by the great outdoors, and I love it rain or shine.”    

“My favorite room is the screened-in porch,” Roger said. “It extends from the house and is open to air on three sides, and gentle cross-breezes flow through. Private from the neighbors, it’s a wonderful, insect-free and peaceful place, with birdsong, and the lovely smells of nature.  It’s the perfect place for an early morning time with God’s word, or reading a favorite book on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and then it morphs into a wonderful gathering place to barbecue and dine al fresco with guests in the cool of the evening. And it’s the first place I head to enjoy a coming rainstorm. The long eaves keep me dry and protected while I enjoy the show.”

The property for the Van Dyke home is sizeable, but still quite near neighbors, Waddell said. The couple’s desire for lots of glass, well-balanced daylight and energy efficiency was made possible by placing floor-to-ceiling windows on the south-side of the home, which was also the rear, private side of the lot.

Since the level of the adjacent fairway of the golf course is slightly above the property, positioning a screened porch near the kitchen and at a right angle to the back of the house allows the roof of the porch to screen views of all of the south-facing glass from golfers along the fairway.

Thoughtful placement of rooms provided the room-to-room relationships desired by the Van Dykes, and south-facing views into the woods provided the desired privacy, Waddell said. This privacy was supplemented by a carefully considered landscape plan. On the north, street-facing side of the house, the slope of the site was used to advantage to provide privacy by positioning the home toward the back of the property, tucked into the hillside.

Privacy was further accentuated by aligning the driveway approach to one side, so it arrives at an auto court that projects back toward the street, Waddell said. A stream running parallel to the front property line required a bridge to access the buildable portion of the site. It also afforded the opportunity to create a unique arrival experience, Waddell said. The design of the bridge employs the same brick as the house foundation, as well as matching bollard lighting, so the owners and their guests enjoy a taste of the character of the house on the way up to the auto court.

This dramatic contemporary is being offered by Re/Max Winning Edge at $1,199,995.

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