zola blog

Case Study: North Carolina Love Shack

May 19th, 2016  |  Published in Featured Projects

High up in the treetops with views for 30 miles you can relate to James Taylor’s song about North Carolina. From this 3 story Modern Mountain Cabin called the “Love Shack” located in Robbinsville, North Carolina you are surrounded by large stands of old growth trees. This Treetop Modern Cabin provides views of the Blue Ridge, Smokey Mountains with a river valley and lake view. The solar-powered Love Shack is Net–Zero and pending LEED Platinum. The cabin uses Zola European Windows and Doors throughout. Working with architects Phil Kean and David Stone, the homeowner Ken LaRoe chose Zola’s ultra energy efficient Thermo Clad Windows and DoorsThis includes tilt-turn windows and large sliding glass walls that open up on 2 sides to a large balcony porch. The Zola large sliding glass doors open up the great room to a 30 mile view of Lake Fontana, the Forest and the Smokies.

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The Shack is located  above Fontana Lake on a high ridge site with Sycamore, Basswood, Oak and Yellow Poplar trees. The 3 story plus loft “Love Shack” is designed on a 600 square ft. foot print for minimal impact on the surrounding pristine Forest. The site topography was very challenging and top notch arborists were brought in to protect the trees and woodland. Covered with a metal panel system, it’s a rustic yet modern looking high tech cabin in the woods for the 21st century.  Recycled wood is used throughout this cabin. There is a rainwater catchment system that supplies all the water.


Recently we spoke with owner Ken LaRoe, about his ultra energy–efficient Mountain Cabin located off the grid in the Forest of the Smoky Mountains.  We also connected with architect Phil Kean, to learn more about Ken’s North Carolina getaway.

What was your design inspiration for this project?

Phil: “The project is named, ‘Love Shack.’ The inspiration was the client’s wish list and the incredible site.”

Ken adds: “We love this setting on a steep hill surrounded by the Forest with outstanding views.”

What was the design challenge for this project?

“The extreme sloping site and the desire to minimize environmental impact,” says Ken. The site drops dramatically and has a big drop from the road.

What makes this project outstanding?

Phil: “The green design elements, the site, and the architectural detailing.” For Ken, it is “the stunning yet regenerative built environment.”

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What was your personal design theory or focus for this project?

“Our focus was the million dollar view,” says Ken. For Phil “keeping the design footprint small and the views grand!” was the design theory that shaped the project.

 What are some of your favorite construction products used on this project?

“The exterior metal, and the Zola windows,” says Phil. Ken loved the repurposed bowling alley lanes used as counter tops, plus the Zola doors and windows.

160204-164042 What product line did you use from Zola for windows and doors?

“The client made the final selections (Zola Themo Clad windows and doors) based on energy efficiency,” Phil says.

Why did you choose these product lines?

Both architect and homeowner emphasize the energy efficiency of these windows and doors. “These energy conservation windows and doors help us reach strict green design codes plus they offer outstanding aesthetics, and functionality,” says Ken.

What is your favorite Zola product?

Ken: “The large glass sliding doors.” 

What do you like about Tilt-Turn windows?

Phil commended the tilt-turn windows for their ease of operation, the ability to easily clean and the passive cooling ventilation they provide.

Did you install any large opening glass walls such as a lift-slide, patio or folding door?

Ken: “They make up two walls of the house, and are an integral part of the design.”

What is the view you see from the windows or doors from the house?  What does it look like?

“There are unbelievable 30 mile long range mountain views,” says Ken. Phil adds: “The view is over and through the trees, to the valley and river below and the hills and mountains beyond.” A lovers’ paradise indeed.

** For more photos of this project please visit the project portfolio on our website.


Homeowner Ken LaRoe is a conservationist who wanted to preserve the nearby trees and create an energy –efficient house with a small carbon footprint. He is a prominent figure in southeast US banking, and founded the First Green Bank in Florida. He is also a Leader in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). 

Architects Phil Kean & David Stone, AIA, Phil Kean Designs Group, Winter Park, FL

Growing up the son of a contractor, Phil Kean aspired to be an architect from the age of 11. Studying at prestigious Harvard University and Washington University, Phil earned his Master’s of Architecture (MArch) from Harvard and Masters of Business Administration (MBA). He is a Licensed Architect (AR95091), Certified Residential Contractor (CRC1327855), Licensed Interior Designer (IB26001665), and Certified Green Professional. Phil is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), American Institute of Building Design (AIBD), American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Master Custom Builder Council, Greater Orlando Builders Association, Florida Green Building Coalition Central Florida Chapter and U.S. Green Building Council.

With a reach that extends nationally and internationally, Phil’s design projects can be found throughout the United States, the Bahamas, Spain and Ghana, West Africa. Though well known for his modern and contemporary designs, Phil is passionate about all styles of architecture with previously designed homes ranging from Spanish Mediterranean to French country, West Indies to colonial, and traditional. An accomplished runner, Phil has a personal goal of running marathons in each of our 50 states completing 35 to date. More on this to come!