Mod Squad

Midtown modern housing - thinking outside the box.

The curious property perched atop a small hill on Diana Street, tucked quietly behind Overton Square, has been turning some heads since the structure was completed earlier this year.

It's no ordinary Midtown home.

In fact, there's nothing ordinary about it.

The 3,000-square-foot space is both a home and office. The first floor, occupying 850 square feet, was designed as a studio office, complete with a bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor courtyard. Once that was complete, it was time to "create" a modular story to literally place atop the office. The production team found their answer in architect Rocia Romero, whose award-winning style caught builder Mac Hopper's eye in an issue of Dwell magazine. He got in touch with Romero, and when the structure was completed, it was shipped — in one piece – from Romero's studio in Paragould, Missouri, to Memphis.

"I call it the two-story double-wide," laughs Hopper, who along with partner Jeff Wyatt decided the parcel of property on a Midtown side street would make the perfect location for the first of three modular, mixed-use properties. It's the first of three parcels of land to be developed with the same design.

Hopper voluntarily designed the house to LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) specifications, though he hesitates to call it a "green house."

"The 'green' term is so overused. I prefer the term 'high efficiency.' I'm not an environmentalist. I'm a capitalist," Hopper says unapologetically. "But if you can do good while doing well [financially], I believe you should."

So what makes a property "high efficiency? Start with Kynar metallic siding (known for its durability), and cedar trim for both form and function. Design the site for proper water drainage and distribution, EnergyStar radiant roofing and insulation, high-efficiency HVAC and other amenities, and sliding windows for cross ventilation. But the real savings comes with the structure's passive solar building orientation. Translation? The property runs east to west along its longest side to take advantage of solar gain. "In the winter, the sun sits low in the sky, and this design helps warm the building," says Hopper. "It might sound complicated, but it's a simple concept."

That simple concept means serious savings for tenants. The average utility bill for the place is around $200 a month for both floors, and is even less in the winter.

But perhaps the most interesting feature of the property are the hardwood floors, salvaged from the now-defunct Memphis institution Skateland.

With the pieces literally in place, it was time to find a tenant for one or both of the spaces. As the finishing touches were made, a young couple found themselves relocating to Memphis from Jackson, Mississippi. Eric and Amanda Miner and 2-year-old son Charlie were looking for a modern design in an urban setting, and started house hunting downtown. ''There are some wonderful places but we needed the space to work on a lot of levels for both my wife and me. I'm an architect," says Miner. "My wife's a photographer, and we needed a place that could do double duty as a studio and a family space. We were about to give up and start looking at commercial spaces to get the look and volume we needed when we found this place. It couldn't be more perfect.

"It's so light and open that Amanda doesn't feel like she's cooped up in the house all day. It's great to look out one side of the house and see city lights and buildings while the opposite view is green and leafy."

The Miners couldn't have designed a more perfect place themselves, they say. And if the place needed a final selling point for the couple, the flooring sealed the deal.

"We lived in Memphis years ago, and we had our engagement party at Skateland," Miner grins. "I mean really, who could have expected that?"

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