Love where you live

CorrespondentJune 6, 2014 

Architect Steven Clipp loves what he does, creating dream homes. While he delights in crafting visually striking houses, he has also spent 30 years exploring the psychology of how we live. He believes that through design he can increase the joy in our lives, strengthen our families and even deepen a couple’s romance.

In addition to his busy architectural practice, Clipp hosts a call-in radio advice show, “Making Your Home Great,” on Thursday mornings on WPTF-AM 9 a.m. (850 on your radio dial). Listeners are encouraged to call and ask questions about their home building projects.

He has also recorded hour-long monologues on different aspects of creating your Dream Home, on the internet through Voice America, and archived in podcast form at Titles include: Creating Romance in the home; Preparing your home for the Teenage Years; Hiring a Contractor; and Why hire an Architect?

“I think everyone should use an architect,” Clipp said, “dream homes come in all budgets and some of my most satisfying work has been for people of limited means.” He gave examples of a retired teacher who wanted to create an art studio out of a little barn and a nurse who needed a handicap accessible master bedroom/bath. He claims that even on a simple bath renovation, he can think of a dozen ways to make it better and create a higher return for the owner. He says everyone should have the advantage of good design. He charges $95 per hour, which is usually about five percent of the cost of the work.

Clipp has also developed a line of floor plans that he calls “Sensible Green Luxury Living.” These homes are less than 2,000 square feet, but live like their owner’s former McMansion. They have an elegant kitchen connected to a gracious entertaining area and a luxury master suite — just not a whole bunch of extraneous rooms.

“Figuring out how to get a spacious home for a professional and still keep it small is a real trick,” Clipp said.

In 1992, Clipp and his wife bought a 3,300 square-foot contemporary on a great lot in the Oaks. With six renovation projects over the years, he has transformed what was, he said, “a closed-up, cold contemporary,” into a warm, light-filled 4,417 square-foot soft contemporary that quietly stretches 170 feet, over half a football field long, near the 16th tee of Chapel Hill Country Club.

Clipp, who received his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Florida and his master’s degree in architecture from the North Carolina State College of Design, considered his home a test lab for his theories on the use of space, light and materials to “create calm in a hectic world, bring the family closer together and encourage romance in a marriage.” When they bought the house, the kitchen was “tight and low-ceilinged,” Clipp said. The family room was three rooms away from the kitchen; and a garage blocked any view of the street from the house. In their first project, the garage became a family room with two walls of glass and a long view to the street, balanced by a stacked stone, raised fireplace and a wall of built-in bookcases.

The back of the garage became a huge pantry/laundry/craft room. The kitchen was opened to the new family room, and the ceiling raised to allow for the addition of three skylights. Now the kitchen has so much light that it’s hard to read the LED displays on the appliances, Clipp said.

Clipp said that he believes “you should not have to turn on lights to move through a house.” In this same first renovation, ten skylights were added throughout the house, “bringing light and joy into formerly dark spaces,” Clipp said. The old laundry room was converted to a third bath; and it, too, has a skylight.

Clipp said he believes that the one television in a house should be in the family room overlooked by the kitchen.

“This way, if the kids are going to watch TV, it will be in the presence of parents who can casually discuss what the kids are watching,” Clipp said.

The original playroom was in a great location, on the main hall in the center of the house.

“If oversight of the teenagers can occur casually, on a moment’s notice, then you can also allow them great freedom.” Clipp said. But the old playroom was undersized and low-ceilinged. A subsequent project raised the ceiling to the roof, adding a 26-foot-long cedar ridge beam and a play loft accessed by a maple laperye stair. The loft space is perfect for quiet reading where kids can grab a book on the way up and fall into a bean bag once there. The playroom is sound-proofed.

The children’s bedrooms are on the same hall as the master bedroom, that way “supervision isn’t a chore,” Clipp said. “It’s casual. And the kids can’t help but be aware of your presence in their lives.”

Nine years ago Clipp expanded and rebuilt the house, adding a master bedroom suite, a screen porch and a two-car garage, as well as renovating every room that hadn’t already been updated. To combat the stress of three kids and two busy careers, the concept for the master suite is a Zen-like retreat; total calm and total luxury, with natural wood and stone in soft earth tones. Clipp described it as “a place for a husband and wife to shed the cares of the world and rediscover each other.” The spacious screened porch is wonderful for quiet breakfasts and large parties; with an etched concrete floor, delicate timberwork and a fireplace with custom copper hood. For a large party, the whole wall to the breakfast room opens up. If the doors to the dining room are opened as well, guests can easily circulate past the buffet. “Almost every porch I design now has a fireplace because they are the greatest places to build fires, especially if the porch has a concrete floor — build the fire and forget it” Clipp said. Clipp said that his kids were 3, 4, and 5 when he and his wife started this house adventure. Now his children are working adults — an architect in New York City; a developer in D.C.; the youngest working overseas and starting a master’s degree this autumn. Unfortunately, six years ago, Clipp’s wife died. Now Steve Clipp is planning a new house adventure with his fiancé, in an award-winning home he designed 10 years ago, in Governor’s Club. This means that the property at 22 Kendall Drive – four bedrooms and 3.5 baths on an acre of land with 520 feet of golf course frontage – has been listed at $1,095,000 by Domicile Realty listing agent Jill Ehrenfeld. Go to to see more photos

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