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

On the Boards

grayton Beach house

This is the direction we are moving with the Grayton Beach house. The clients wanted the guest bedrooms on the second floor.  The design is inspired by Florida Cracker vernacular architecture. The concept is to create a dogtrot that is aligned with the natural arch created by the fairy trees that overlooks the lake.

 This is a view through the Fairy Oaks looking back to the street.
 Fairy Trees in Grayton Beach, Florida

We are designing a new home in Grayton Beach, Florida. The home site is on Western Lake, among small, twisting Fairy Oak trees. The drawing below were an earlier version with the guest bedrooms on the ground floor and a separate small cottage.

West Elevation

 A small cottage will accommodate guests

A small cottage will accommodate guests

The site plan

Byblos, Lebanon

Byblos Castle Ruins

I visited Byblos earlier this month for an architectural accreditation visit for the Lebanese American University. Byblos is 26 miles north of Beirut and is said to be oldest continually inhabited city in the world. It was first settled in 8,800 to 7,000 BC. The castle was constructed by the crusaders from Italy in the 12th Century. They used the stones from Phoenician and Roman buildings on site.

                                                                                 These are the foundations of the Phoenician houses between the castle and the sea. The wall to the right was built by the crusaders.

The crusaders used the stones from existing buildings to make the castle. The round ones are cut up columns. The white stones are  Italian marble from Roman Temples and the worn limestone is local from Phoenician buildings.

                                                                               There is a lot of marble on the tower. The castle was buried about two thirds up when they started the excavations in 1921.

The Romans built the amphitheater in third century.

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Byblos Souk

                                                                                                                                                                                    Roman ruins at the port in Byblos

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.


Lessons from Japan

Most of the roofs we saw in the Kansai region of Japan were either clay tile or cypress. The Buddhist temple above is constructed out of the traditional cypress slivers. The cypress bark is removed in strips from a living tree and stacked  for the roof as shown above.

This is a section through a roof showing the stacked cypress and how it is thickened on the edge to create the flair. The cypress roofs are usually replaced every 30 years.

The fences and garden walls were wonderful. They were made of all sorts of materials. Many were made of bamboo and grasses combined in interesting patterns. The stucco walls had clay tile caps. The wall on the lower left was made with recycled clay tiles that protruded  and created a nice pattern. The wood wall on the upper right is the list of donors who contributed for the restoration of a temple. The path on the bottom right depicts the Japanese aesthetic  of asymmetry. 

The garden Isui-en in Nara illustrates the concept of shakkei or borrowed scenery. The garden is designed and the trees  trimmed to capture the view of the gate house at Todai-ji and the mountains beyond. You wouldn't know that there are hordes of tourists passing through the gate to visit the world heritage site Todai-ji.

The Japanese attention to detail can be seen in the path details above. Our guide Yuko, explained that the Japanese aesthetic finds the following pleasing, irregularity (Fukinsei), simplicity (Kanso), weathered (Koko), and natural (Shizen).

The Shishi-odoshi or "Scare the Deer" is something we all might want to add to our lowcountry gardens. The bamboo fountain is on an off center pivot. The open end of the bamboo fills with water. When full it tilts to empty the water and make a loud thud against the rock when it returns to it's original position. Then it repeats about every five minutes. It must work because there were no deer in the garden!

On the Boards: Birthday Surprise

For the first time in the 26 years we have been in business, we were hired to design a house as a birthday surprise! What a great present! 

Here are some photos of the spectacular lot overlooking Battery Creek: 

Northeast Elevation 

Southwest Elevation

Houzz names popular trends in building, remodeling

Our office is a far different place than it was a few years ago when it was just Michael and me. Since 2013, we have hired four employees, and our email has been full of inquiries from potential clients. Most of the other architects, ontractors, subcontractors, and suppliers in town have told us the same thing. Everyone is busy, busy, busy.

So what’s hot in the world of building and decorating? The home decorating website recently asked its users the same question. The website recently published the findings of its Houzz and Home study, which analyzed responses from more than 400,000 users to find out what was popular in building in decorating trends in 2014. Here are some of the findings. 

• The Houzz and Home study found that most renovations were upgrades to the main home structure (69 percent) with a close second of being upgrading outdoor space (62 percent). 

• Millennials are moving out. The study said 33 percent of responders between the ages of 18 to 34 bought a home in 2014. 

• The survey found that the main reasons for renovating were to improve the look and feel of the design, improve functionality, increase resale value, improve energy costs, and minimize costs. Addressing health concerns, integrating sustainable materials, and integrating smart technology followed. 

• The survey found that top challenges in the building and remodeling process included finding the right service providers, finding the right products, and funding the project.

• The most frequently renovated rooms were kitchens and bathrooms. Costs for kitchen renovations ranged from $11,700 (small kitchen, minor updates) to $48,000 (large kitchen, major updates). Major updates were defined as replacing all kitchen cabinetry and appliances. 

• With the increase in homebuilding and renovations comes an increase in costs. The survey found that the average cost of a custom home in 2014 was $639,800

• Staying on budget was ranked as the top challenge in home building. We have seen this locally in our projects as well. A home that cost under $200 a square-foot in 2010 would cost closer to $300 a square-foot today.