ELBERTA – “The need for a comfortable shelter is as old as mankind, and in Elberta you can find a luxury home of a very special variety: no doors or windows on the outside,” said Dietmar Schellenberg, the owner of a fascinating ancient …
ELBERTA – “The need for a comfortable shelter is as old as mankind, and in Elberta you can find a luxury home of a very special variety: no doors or windows on the outside,” said Dietmar Schellenberg, the owner of a fascinating ancient Rome-inspired home off County Road 87.
It’s certainly one of a kind, and Dietmar agrees: “You can’t find another home like this anywhere.”
Dietmar and his wife, Ingrid, formerly from Atlanta and by birth Berlin and South Germany respectively, designed their retirement home from scratch while being mindful of their taste for a multi-cultural architectural aesthetic thus infusing historical and contemporary European elements – Greek, Roman, Italian and Continental.
“We talked to a lot of people, we visited many houses finished and under construction, we consulted books and magazines, but nothing came even close to meeting our requirements,” Dietmar said.
So, the Schellenberg’s began sketching their dream home and 121 drawings later, they weren’t completely satisfied; but, the 122nd revision fulfilled their mutual vision of retirement bliss: safety, peace of mind, comfort and a satisfying sense of place.
That place, Elberta and the Gulf Coast, Dietmar said is “ideal” for many reasons that Southerners know all-too-well: the warm climate, the expansive Gulf blue water, and of course never a flake of snow; albeit, much different than the interior continental climate of Germany.
But, the ranch-styled home, located on a secluded 11-acre plot, is certainly not Southern, Northern or Western.
For example, the outside walls of the house are completely concrete, utterly impervious, without a single window.
Why? The Schellenberg’s design criteria called for a “concrete shell” that would ensure hurricane protection and longevity.
The walls also act as a heat sink promoting energy-efficiency by soaking up the sun’s rays during the winter, and in the summer, preventing cool air from escaping.
“People may say I don’t want to live in a bunker,” Dietmar noted. “But it’s a very livable design.”
Quite so and the trick is the well-thought out architecture: all living areas face an open-air, Roman styled courtyard that is in the center of the outer perimeter.
Expansive glass windows coupled with a suitable orientation to the sun allow an abundance of natural light to enter the living spaces – a large living room decorated with Western and Eastern art, a dining area, a Jacuzzi room, an elegant master bedroom, exercise room, home-theatre and a guest bedroom.
Dietmar said: “Like in Roman houses, all rooms face a column-dominated courtyard. The huge glass expanses are a modern feature, however.”
And, much of the home’s storage facilities and closets line the rear walls of those rooms, providing an added “buffer” between the concrete outer perimeter and the inside spaces.
The buffer enhances energy-efficiency by creating a “temperate zone” that stabilizes outdoor and indoor temperatures, Dietmar noted.
The Schellenberg’s signed a building contract July 17, 2003 and moved in June 1, 2004.
Shortly thereafter Hurricane Ivan and then later, Katrina, tested their design, but it survived without any damage.
During Katrina, Ingrid commented lightly to a friend on the telephone that “it is a little breezy” as she gazed out into the courtyard, observing slight whisks of wind; the hurricane to her seemed frivolous.
But, at that exact moment, Dietmar, outdoors on the grounds, said: “I could not stand straight. The wind blew me off my feet.”
Although, the Schellenberg’s castle-like residence may be perceived as expensive since it is self-designed from the ground up and further includes a myriad of other alternative design elements, undoubtedly straying from today’s typical housing fair, Dietmar said the cost is relatively inexpensive in comparison to the residential marketplace.
“If you want a house like this and you find the right builder, I would say you would pay about 10 to 15 percent more,” he noted.