Architect is drawn to sun and sustainability in designing tiny houses

January 30, 2015
By Bill Krueger

Arielle C. Schechter has always been drawn to minimal living. As a child, she pondered ways to improve the aesthetics of her playmates’ trailer homes. As a New Yorker, she rented a space the size of a walk-in closet and longed for the natural daylight that has come to define her as a designer. Finally, as an established architect, she renovated an 850-square-foot millhouse in Hillsborough, NC, and found an outlet for these ideas.

Arielle C. Schechter

Arielle C. Schechter

“I took out some walls, put in a south facing window, and turned it into something else,” she said. “It taught me about what a small house could and should be.”

Schechter, a 1987 graduate of NC State’s College of Design, started designing “microhousing” for fun in 2007. She found that “micro” did not have to be limiting, and played with strategically placed light and sustainability. Fast forward to January of 2015: Schechter has just released her trademarked Micropolis houses (seen below) to the market, and according to her, business is already booming.

“I’ve had a huge response,” she says. “People just don’t really need to live in these huge houses anymore.”

Schechter’s exposure to architecture began at home as she learned from her father, architect Jon Condoret. After overcoming some initial reservations, she headed to the College of Design to hone her skills. She studied under the likes of Frank Harmon and Harwell Hamilton Harris, and was ultimately drawn to the Modernist concepts she adheres to today.

At her own firm, in Chapel Hill, N.C., Schechter draws inspiration from natural daylight, focuses on sustainable design, and is passionate about site sensitivity and energy efficiency. That’s part of what makes her Micropolis houses so unique.

“Things should just stay open,” she says. “I like a lot of strategically placed light, a connection to the outdoors.”

house1When it comes to staying connected to the outdoors, Schechter is a leader in her field. She is known for her net-zero housing initiatives, or houses that produce all of the energy they need onsite through methods like solar panels. In fact, three of her homes were on the Triangle Green Home Tour of 2014 — the most of any single builder. This expertise comes in handy when designing microhousing projects.

“Small houses are the trend for the future. They’re easier to resell, and they use fewer resources,” Schechter says. “You can really focus on quality of your materials, instead of quantity.”

—Jenna Calderone


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