Second Ugliest House on the Mountain

fayetteville, arkansas

Project Narrative [from owner/architect, Chris Baribeau]

When investing in your own future, and that of your family, you are investing in a place. If you are an architect, particularly absurd and obsessive questions about where you shall call home become paramount. So, it is a daunting state of affairs when you decide to reside in the second ugliest house on the mountain. It is with great reluctance that my wife (a fellow architect) and I purchased a 90+ year old home in a well-established neighborhood on top of Mount Sequoyah in Fayetteville. Let me stop you right there...if you are thinking classic old historic home with incredible detailing and grandeur just beneath the surface waiting to be revived into its former grandeur...this is not one of those stories.

While the view brought us up to the mountain, determination and opportunity fueled the transition, and the ability to renovate sustainability brought solace in the decision. It is probably obvious that most architects dream of building, well...the dream house; one of your own design, tailored to the site and place, with meticulous details and out of this world spaces. Reality being the check on all great intentions (and in my humble opinion the practical everyday register of the obtainable) we chose to purchase and renovate in...the right spot. As architects, it is in our nature to 'correct' what is wrong, and yet we also have budgets and limitations. We chose to relieve this old home, with its ghastly mansard roof, of its interior mockery.

Encumbered by overbearing trim, whimsical and non-amusing details, a 1980's kitchen, and a blatant misunderstanding of how to properly capture a view, the house was waiting for rescue. I believe, no doubt, that I actually heard the house on Skyline give a sigh of relief as 90 years of material mis-use was removed. After simplifying the interior to a pleasing collection of clean lines and open spaces, we embed richness in the home by reusing materials in the right locations. The 'bourbon room' (home studio) does not have a great exterior view from its position near the front door, but it benefits from material art in the form of recycled cedar walls and ceilings...born again from the original interior paneling in the once dark and gloomy main living space. White paint, steel details, and original white oak flooring come together in the main spaces to dance in the natural light, while the more functional social spaces are refit for the purpose of making food or sorting mail, without sacrificing the view from the mountain.

Really, this house has become a step-out from the otherwise ideal trajectory a young architect imagines. I have learned from renovating a great old apartment complex and a great old stock building into my studio's studio, and this is, in many ways the proper next step. Why not take an old unassuming (and ugly) house in a great location and make it new and great for raising a family? I have my answer every morning and every evening when I begin and end my day overlooking the city I call home. And as often as possible I sit and sip (bourbon) and stare aimlessly for miles from the Ozarks to the western horizon.

Typology Residential
location Fayetteville, Arkansas
Completed 2014 (phase 1)
photography Rett Peek