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Bells Woods

Steven Ginn Architects

Project Name

Bells Woods


3064 Old Hillsboro Road


Project Status


Year Completed



5,800 sq. feet


David and Diane Bell


  • Structural Engineer: InfraStructure

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Project Description

Located atop a steep hill in Tennessee, this new residence attempts to assert itself as both contemporary and deeply rooted in the history of its place. The hilltop sits in a densely forested grove with vignetted views over a valley, establishing the agrarian context that inspired the design for a couple and their grown family. Sustainable efforts were instilled long before commencement as nearly all hardwoods used were reclaimed from urban tree removal projects by the owner over 20 years. Taking cues from the old stone fences running along the properties frontage, the house is organized around two stone walls, loosely forming a skewed cross. Each quarter organizes the house into four different levels of privacy. Spaces are organized around the demising walls and reveal themselves as you move through the house. Indigenous agrarian buildings inspired the shed roofs, punctuated by stone fireplaces and an eagle’s nest lookout resting atop the intersecting stone walls.

The client’s commitment to sustainability started 20 years ago as he began collecting the hardwoods used in the majority of the design from tree removal projects throughout Memphis, TN. The project incorporates 14,000 board feet of timber including some 10 different species. Rich wood tones contrast with jagged stone that create a place that is at once contemporary and rustic, warm and inviting, appealing to our innate desire for shelter. The exposed Douglas Fir timber structure supporting the vast shed roof clearly articulates its purpose with steel connections. Douglas Fir laminated beams and tongue and groove decking was selected for its inherent warmth, strength and weather ability.

The beauty seen in the use of materials, sensitivity to context, and overall design is paralleled with the performance of the house. The biomechanics of the space features radiant heating where it is needed by users and ground source coupled geothermal closed loop heat pumps with three geothermal wells. The south-facing windows with deep overhangs are designed for passive solar gain in the winter to heat stone floors, while remaining shaded in the summer. Operable south windows and north clerestory windows facilitate natural ventilation using summer breezes from the south. Exterior porch living spaces limit the necessity and amount of air-conditioned spaces.

Rainwater is conserved in a 15,000 gallon underground water tank for all exterior water needs, while the minimal impervious paving diminishes water runoff. The sustainable materials include reclaimed standing dead timber and reused stone from a local flour mill that was being demolished. The custom designed and engineered ultra-efficient, low-E, argon-filled, thermally-broken windows are also locally sourced. Perhaps the most sustainable aspect of all is that the home is designed and planned to last for many generations to come, using long-lasting, low maintenance and permanent materials.
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