But toss out any notions of what a dream house should look like.
The Parker place — from its simple, peach-colored exterior to its commercial windows that frame a super-sized view of their evolving landscape — resembles no other home you’ll find in Cumberland County. The couple designed it themselves to suit their personalities and way of life, incorporating environmentally-friendly design features along the way.
The moment you arrive at the front door, you know this is no ordinary Southern home. For starters, its colorful stucco walls are more reminiscent of Southwestern décor than Carolina style.
There’s no hint of a front porch or even windows. A series of narrow, rectangular azure tiles have been artfully arranged in a wide stripe of sapphire paint to frame the door and hint at exotic, south-of-the-border locales.
Inside the front door and through the sleek kitchen, cheerful primary colors — in the paint, artwork, decorative rugs and furniture — greet visitors. But the most striking feature of the home is the wall of south-facing windows that stretches the length of the house, from the floor to the 10-foot ceilings. These double-paned windows resemble those you might find in an office building. They work in tandem with a stylish, earth-toned concrete floor to provide passive solar heating, the home’s most significant green feature. The Parkers calculated how the sun’s rays would strike the home each season to determine how to install the windows. During the coldest winter days, the sun hits the panes directly for much of the day. The concrete floor absorbs and holds the warmth and releases it slowly after the sun sets, helping warm the main living space through the night.
“In the winter, it’s like the beach,” Liliana says of the bright living and dining areas. And the plants love it.
In the hotter months, when the sun is higher, an overhanging section of roof, situated about 16 feet above the patio outside the windows, prevents the sunlight from shining directly into the house. Special shades made of airy, woven silver fabric help reflect the light that does reach the glass.
Other construction materials were chosen with the environment in mind. The home’s exterior, made with a high-tech stucco product called Stuc-O-Flex, and extra blown insulation were chosen to optimize energy conservation and ease of maintenance.
The roof is made of high-density expanded polyurethane foam, which is light, tough and dense. The foam is sprayed over the entire surface of the roof and forms a waterproof, air-tight surface that will last indefinitely. The material goes on flat but expands to a depth of about 1.5 inches, a thickness that offers an R-10 rating for its insulation value. It is then coated with a silicone sealant. Scott said the roof was significantly more expensive than a traditional asphalt shingle roof would have been.
Many of the home’s green features, such as the low-flow toilets, skylights and reflective curtains, cost more than traditional products, but the Parkers believe their choices will pay off in the end. “The idea is they will pay for themselves in energy savings,” Scott said. “Of course, it costs more to build green, no doubt about it, but there are benefits to it, too.”
Building their home took more than a year, and they are not done yet. The Parkers would like to add another bedroom, and much of the landscaping remains.
They have done a lot of the work themselves. When the Parkers went searching for someone to construct their unique home, they could not find a builder willing to do the work, or accomplish it for a price they considered reasonable.
In January 2006, after fulfilling the requirements to become licensed general contractors themselves, the Parkers started building their own house. For those who know this unique couple, this likely came as no surprise. Neither is afraid to venture down a road less-traveled.
Liliana was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia. Scott is a Raleigh native who moved to Fayetteville as a teenager. She lived and worked in Europe for five years after college. He lived in a commune on the California coast before heading to Hawaii, where he built houses on a volcano.
They met online in 1999. They met in person in Colombia in June 2000 and decided to give long-distance love a go. That didn’t last long, though. On Aug. 4 that year, Liliana came to Fayetteville. Ten days later, Scott proposed. A few hours later, they bought a bouquet of flowers at Harris Teeter on the way to the magistrate’s office. They said their vows, and Scott left for work.
The Parkers spent their first years of married life in a marigold home on Morganton Road in Haymount. Then they bought 11 acres in Gray’s Creek, carved out a spot for their house and a small garage and set to work.
The result of their labor of love is an eclectic, comfortable 1,600-square-foot house filled with light, color and originality.
Liliana says they wanted their home to be an open, comfortable place to entertain. A set of Shoji, which are Japanese paper room dividers, slide between the home office and the living room to provide privacy — and an extra bedroom — when needed. Skylights offer additional ambient lighting. And blond-colored bamboo flooring, made from the quick-growing plant that is plentiful in Asia, provides the look and feel of traditional hardwood flooring, with a sustainable twist. In the kitchen, the Parkers have fashioned their countertops out of slate-gray concrete, polished to a shine.
In the long run, the Parkers’ experiences building their own environmentally-sound house could pay off in other ways besides energy savings. The Parkers have launched a business, Longleaf Builders & Design, that they hope will fill a niche in the local building industry. They design, build and install concrete countertops and sinks in homes and businesses. They also work with architects and renegade homebuilders like themselves who wish to incorporate passive solar and other green features into their own homes.
What they offer is an alternative to the ordinary.