Posts

Residential architects who specialize in the hot, humid, southern climate

Trends and Timeless Design

Hilton Head Long cove house

I recently was at the High Point furniture market and starting chatting with a woman at the shuttle stop. She told me that she is a trend spotter. I asked her what the new trends are. She was very coy and said that she could not tell me. But she said that gray is passé and subway tiles are horribly out of fashion. She expounded by saying that anything that you see a lot of - is already old news.

Maybe being a trend setter is not desirable. A friend of mine is friends with a New York-based trend setter. He describes her as looking completely strange and out of place, because she is wearing a look before anyone else. Think about the first people who wore ripped jeans as a style and we all thought they needed to throw out that pair of worn out jeans.

Hopefully, this isn’t spreading “old news” but I did spot some trends at the High Point market. First was the color blue. It was everywhere and in every shade. Sherwin Williams has announced their 2018 color of the year as “Oceanside,” which they describe as a collision of rich blue with jewel toned green.  The other popular color was a pale pink. Organic shapes and patterns were on everything. Texture was popular on furniture and fabrics. Bright brass hardware is back and furniture pulls are big and flashy.

One of the most innovative products I saw was Crypton fabric. This performance fabric is indestructible, yet looks and feels great. I saw a demonstration where the sales rep poured red wine on a piece of white Crypton fabric and it wiped right off. Residential textile brands that offer Crypton frabics are Thibaut, Kravet and Robert Allen Duralee Group.

I agree with Caroline Herrera who said, “I don’t like trends. They tend to make everyone look the same.” The opposite of trendy is timeless. My discussion with my shuttle companion turned to timeless design. She said that when a house is integrated with the landscape it becomes timeless because it belongs to it’s place. I agreed especially since site specific designs are what we do.

This project in Long Cove on Hilton Head Island was built on the last waterfront lot. It was full of beautiful live oaks and most people thought it was unbuildable because of the trees. We nestled the house among the trees and all the neighbors were amazed that we didn’t remove a single tree from the lot. You can see more photos here.

Long cove House hilton head

Lowcountry Architecture

 This Lowcountry contemporary house is based on Lowcountry design principles. The large overhang keeps water off the walls and blocks the sun in the summertime. The one room wide house allows light and cross ventilation. The metal roof reflects the sun. The tabby foundation is a local material found in ruins just blocks from the house.

This Lowcountry contemporary house is based on Lowcountry design principles. The large overhang keeps water off the walls and blocks the sun in the summertime. The one room wide house allows light and cross ventilation. The metal roof reflects the sun. The tabby foundation is a local material found in ruins just blocks from the house.

Many new houses are designed in the Lowcountry style without considering the “why” behind the style. It is common to see large porches on the north façade, just because it is the front of the house. These porches are dank and block light from entering the house. Shutters are screwed to the house with no intention of ever protecting windows from a storm. The mass of the house can be so large there is no cross ventilation to cool the interiors or provide natural light on both sides of the room.

Early Lowcountry architecture evolved to respond to the unique characteristics of our hurricane-prone, hot, and humid climate.  Large porches on the south façade kept out the hot summer sun; large overhangs protected the walls and windows from rain and blocked the harsh sun; single width rooms provided cross ventilation and natural lighting; high ceilings kept the rooms cooler in the summertime; exterior window shutters provided protection from high winds; and a raised first floor protected the house from flood waters. You can follow these time-tested principles, which still make sense, and have an open modern floor plan that accommodates contemporary living.

Materials particular to the Lowcountry should be used instead of foreign materials. Have you noticed how completely out of place stone fireplaces and walls look since there is no stone in the Lowcountry? Instead, use brick, stucco, tabby, cypress and/or heart pine, which are all indigenous. Local clays made into bricks have a color palette that blends into the landscape. Cypress is naturally rot resistant and perfect for siding, soffits, and exterior trim. Reclaimed heart pine is beautiful and a sustainable choice for floors and interior cabinetry. Modern tabby is based on the local historic material of lime, sand, and oyster shells. Metal roofs reflect the hot sun and allow leaf trash to wash right off of the roof during our heavy rains.

Hurricanes, heat, and humidity are natural parts of our environment and the houses we design must respect this. Your house should respond to views, vegetation, wind, sun, and neighbors. Here in the South, our land defines us and our architecture. A house that recognizes its place seems to belong.  Many people move here because of the natural beauty of the landscape, so, work with it and create a home that is rooted in the Lowcountry landscape.

 

 

 

"Suited to a T"

T House featured in Residential Design Magazine!

The new national magazine, Residential Design, chose to publish our T-House in their second-ever issue! We couldn't be more pleased with the article, which so accurately captures the essence of our town and our firm. This project was great fun and our enjoyment of the design and process is reflected in the final product.

Editor Claire Conroy wrote, “Although much new building in the area evokes the “Lowcountry” look without a thoughtful understanding of its practical aspects and pleasing proportions, several local firms are mining these antecedents in fresh, appealing ways. Frederick + Frederick is one of the best examples. Jane and Michael have a deep knowledge of the climate, sensibilities, and sensitivities of the place they call home and headquarters for the firm. They understand the traditions of the Lowcountry, and the subtle ways to honor and elevate them at the same time.”

The issue focuses on small houses. Conroy commented “A small house is like a poem. Each design choice must fit the rhythm perfectly. It’s often as much about editing out what’s not essential as it is about choosing what to include.”

Check out the article from Residential Design here

View more photographs of the T-House on our portfolio page, here.

See this project from beginning to end in our video "The Architectural Process."

Do I stay or do I go?

Whether to renovate, rebuild or move in Beaufort County, South Carolina

The skills and expertise of your architect can help you in your decision to renovate, rebuilt or move. There are some great properties in Beaufort County with houses that are way past their prime and require such decisions. These houses often include; dated kitchens, small non-functional bathrooms with ugly tile, mean little windows overlooking a great view and rooms built below FEMA’s base flood elevation. Maybe you own one of these properties or are considering buying one for the view. Homeowners of older properties often come to the point where they have three options:

1. Renovate and/or add an addition to the existing house (and this might include raising the house),

2. Tear the existing house down and build a new house on the same property, or

3. Move.

     To help you decide whether you should stay or go, consider the following:

  •      Do you love the location?
  •      Do you have a great view?
  •      Is the house built above FEMAs base flood elevation requirements? If it is below you are  limited to spending 50% of the value of the house on the renovation or the          house has to be raised.
  •      Is the house built behind the current OCRM coastal or municipality river buffer setbacks? If your house is in the setback, you are not allowed to add any additional          square footage in the setback but you can keep what is there, which might be an advantage.
  •      Will current zoning laws allow you to add onto your house?
  •      Will you over-build for the neighborhood?

A few years ago, we had clients who owned a beach front house in Port Royal Plantation.  The property was in foreclosure when they purchased it at a great price, but it needed a lot of work. The question was should they tear the house down and build new or renovate the existing?

We listened to what they like about the house: besides the great location, they liked the feel of the spaces, the flow of the rooms and the relationship of the rooms to the ocean. Two other positive conditions were the first floor was above the required base flood elevation and the zoning allowed us to add the needed square footage. It was apparent that renovating the existing house and adding a small amount of square footage was the right approach. The project turned out beautifully.

Tearing down a house and starting over is a big step. The cost analysis of what is salvageable compared to the desired result is a good place to begin. Sometimes it is not obvious what the best path is at the beginning of a project or the conditions might change. For example, current Port Royal Plantation clients’ initial project was redesigning the windows in the great room. While documenting the existing conditions we discovered some structural beams in failure. In consultation with our clients and structural engineer we decided to reinforce the foundation.

Then Hurricane Matthew hit. There was water damage throughout the house; and the roof and foundation were compromised. After considering the amount of work to repair and renovate compared to starting over, our clients decided to build new. A big advantage in this project is the new house is placed to enhance the views of the Sound.

 

Why Now is the Best Time to Build Your Hurricane Resistant South Carolina Home

Even as our ability to design and build houses that withstand hurricanes has gone up, construction costs haven’t kept pace. If you are thinking of building a home in South Carolina at some time in the near future, this may just be the perfect storm.

There is a perception that everything is cheaper in South Carolina but we’ve seen that is not the case. This is especially true when it comes to building a quality home that can endure hurricanes and earthquakes, yet provide decades of enjoyment as well.

True, our gas taxes are cheaper and our property taxes are cheaper. Construction costs are higher than newcomers expect them to be.

Building in a Hurricane Zone Poses Special Challenges

 

Many people relocating from other parts of the country do not consider the additional cost of building in both a hurricane zone and an earthquake zone and what this means in terms of design and construction materials.

The requirements to mitigate both of these hazards add additional strength and durability to the building … and additional costs. Some of the necessities:

  • Building the first floor above FEMA’s base flood elevation, which adds to the foundation cost.
  • Structural Engineering fees in order to design code-compliant structural systems.
  • Connecting the roof through the walls to the foundation and footing with threaded rods, go-bolts, hurricane clips or other code approved methods. This adds to both the material and labor costs.
  • The shear walls required for lateral stability are more expensive than sheathing options available in other parts of the country.
  • Window and door openings must be protected from windblown debris. Impact rated windows and doors can cost up to twice as much as non-impact openings.
  • Our designs usually have big window walls, which require steel frames to meet the wind loads (and the views are worth it!)

Design & Construction Ensure House & Budget Weather Storms

We recommend and use several best practice options that will cost more initially but will save money on your home insurance or your utility bill.

  • A secondary roof under a metal roof ensures water tightness if the roof is compromised during high winds.
  • A U.L. certified lightning protection system will add $7,000 to $10,000 to a 2500 s.f. house but will protect your home and electronics from lightning strikes during our many lightning storms.
  • Spray foam insulation, more expensive than fiberglass insulation but a far superior product. It stops air and moisture infiltration, will not sag, keeps dust and pollen out and reduces capacity requirements, maintenance and wear of heating and air conditioning equipment.

A Secret We Want to Share with You About South Carolina Construction Costs

There’s one more cost consideration that you will want to be aware of because it can save you money.

Our firm’s historical data of residential construction costs show that the current average new home construction cost is about the same as the few years before the great recession.

Now is a good time to build, before construction costs rise again.

What is the 50% Rule?

 Photo by Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Photo by Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Thoughts of hurricanes are starting early this year with the potential tropical storm forming off of our coast. In the past, I have written about protecting your existing house and best practices for new construction (March 2013 and December 2011, respectively). The area with some confusion are the rules for repairing and/or improving your existing house which I will address today.

Beaufort County and the municipalities within the county all participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA establishes a base flood elevation above mean sea level which is revised periodically. Buildings must meet the NFIP requirements which include having the first floor above the base flood elevation or higher depending on the flood zone, along with other requirements.

If the cost of improvements or the cost to repair a damaged building exceed 50% of the market value of the building, the entire building must be brought into compliance with the NFIP requirements. The market value is for the building only, not the property, any landscape improvements, or detached accessory buildings. The value can be determined by a licensed appraiser or the county’s property assessment.

The only items that are excluded from the cost of improvements or repair are as follows:

  •  Plans and specifications  
  • Surveys  
  • Permit fees  
  • Cost to demolish storm damaged buildings
  • Debris removal
  • Landscape improvements
  • Detached structures. If the detached structure is habitable space it is subject to the same rules when renovated or repaired.

Many existing houses in the county do not meet the NFIP requirements and must adhere to the 50% rule. Most houses built in accordance with the 2009 or 2012 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) meet the NFIP requirements and are not subject to the 50% rule.

Municipalities often adopt a cumulative substantial improvement policy which combines any combination of repairs, reconstruction, rehabilitation, additions, or other improvements to a structure during a finite period of time that is limited to the 50% value. The cumulative substantial improvement policy for Beaufort County and Bluffton is 10 years; the City of Beaufort is 5 years; and Hilton Head currently does not have a cumulative substantial improvement policy.

When purchasing an existing house it is prudent to do the homework to determine if the house is built above the flood plain. A local surveyor can provide a flood elevation certificate that shows the flood zone, the required first floor elevation, and the actual first floor elevation. That fixer upper might seem like a good deal until you realize the cost of raising the first floor and meeting the NFIP requirements.

Flood Recovery

Cleaning up after a flood is a daunting endeavor, as our fellow South Carolinians are experiencing. One should approach the task with safety first. If the foundation, exterior walls and/or roof appear to be compromised or there is more than two feet of sediment deposited in or around the building, have the structure reviewed by a professional before entering. Architects and engineers trained in safety evaluation are deployed by the South Carolina Guard after a disaster and can determine if your building is safe to enter. Turn off all your utilities, even if there is no power in the neighborhood.
Flood waters can be full of bacteria and other contaminants. Make sure your tetanus shot is up to date and wear protective clothing, boots, and gloves when cleaning out after a flood. Shovel out as much mud as possible before cleaning with a disinfectant such as household bleach.  Snakes and other wildlife may also be in the building, so proceed with caution.
Dry the structure and your belongings as quickly as possible to help prevent additional damage from mold and mildew growth. Cross ventilation is the most effective way to promote drying; open all doors and windows. If you have a generator, fans and dehumidifiers can supplement the drying. Remove all water soaked carpets and pads, upholstered furniture, mattresses, and pillows. These items contain bacteria from the flood waters and are a health hazard. They also slow down the overall drying of the structure. Mattresses and pillows should be thrown away. Upholstered furniture should be cleaned by a professional.
Wood floors and subfloors usually need to be replaced, if they cannot be dried. Tile floors installed on a wood subfloor may also need to be replaced because the subfloor cannot dry out.
Drywall and paneling will need to be cut away a foot above the high water mark if the building was flooded for longer than two hours. If the wall contains insulation, it should be removed. This allows the interior of the wall to dry. The wood studs should be completely dry before new insulation and drywall is installed; this might take up to six weeks.
Even if the water did not reach the ceiling, the ceiling may be compromised. The extreme humidity from the flood can cause the drywall ceiling to swell and detach from the ceiling joists. Minimally, the ceiling would need to be renailed and refinished; replacement may be necessary. The attic insulation should also be checked to make sure it is dry.
Solid wood doors and cabinets should be watched for swelling and cracking. Wood veneered doors and cabinets constructed of plywood or particle board will delaminate and deteriorate and will need to be replaced.
The mechanical and electrical systems need to be thoroughly checked by a qualified professional. Air ducts may need to be professionally cleaned and disinfected if they were not underwater or replaced if they were flooded. Appliances often have motors located near the floor and can be easily damaged by the flood waters. They should be checked by a qualified appliance repair person prior to using and reconnecting to power and gas.
If you were not effected by the recent floods, now is the time to review your flood insurance policy to be prepared for the next flood or hurricane.