Text description provided by the architects. This house, an AIA Housing Award recipient, was designed by Frank Harmon Architect to tread lightly on its lush site, and to evoke the feeling of living outdoors. The long shape and one-room-deep floor plan create a slender footprint and give each room windows and porches overlooking Shem Creek. Operable windows provide natural cross-ventilation and lighting. Approaching the house under a canopy of moss-draped live oaks and up a gentle ramp, the view of the marsh – replete with blue herons and water lilies – appears like an element in a Japanese painting. A modern interpretation of Charleston’s historic shutters provides protection from harsh weather and summer sun.
The client wanted a 2500 sqf house with an abundance of windows open to the view of nature on Shem Creek, which includes 100-year-old, live oaks. That request came with two challenges: (1) The best view of the creek would be on the western elevation, where the sun would bake the house on hot summer afternoons, and (2) the house would be located in a hurricane zone, so the windows, as well as the structure itself, would have to withstand up to 150-mph winds and accompanying debris.
The program called for a large living room and kitchen, bedrooms for the client and his son, plus a guest room, a workshop, a large screened porch, and a 75-foot lap pool. The floor plan positions the bedrooms (including a more sequestered guest suite) on opposite ends of the central, loft-like living/dining/kitchen area, beneath a single shed roof. Carports are dramatically cantilevered to shelter the owner’s cars and boat. To capitalize on the view, a large glass wall fronts the southwest side of the house.
This wall had to be protected from excessive summer heat gain, while allowing cooling breezes into the house, and had to be protected from extreme weather. The solution was a series of 10 screens, hinged above the porch, constructed of hand-fabricated metal frames. The perforated-metal panels can protect the house during any season. In their horizontal (open) position, they shade the house in spring and fall. Vertically, they create a shaded porch, allow cooling breezes to enter the house, yet keep damaging debris out. Made of hot-dip galvanized steel to resist wind-borne, corrosive salt, the 800-pound screens were also designed and installed to allow a single person to lift and balance them easily as they are moved from one position to another.
For strength, the house was built of steel and laminated-wood (Southern yellow pine) framing that rests on matt-concrete footings. The roof is a large, simple plane that shelters the house from the area’s torrential rains. Brazilian hardwood porch floors and pool decking avoids heat absorption and radiation during the hot season.