We're glad to present completed photos of the Avondale cottage that we designed in late 2011-early 2012, with construction being completed this May.
This residence replaces a 1954 concrete block house that previously occupied the site. Analysis of the structural stability of the building and restrictions relating to modern construction codes doomed the unreinforced block cottage, as Charleston is located near a significant seismic fault line. The house that we designed for the site echoes the previous structure's general scale, as we endeavored to maintain the modest cottage scale of the Avondale neighborhood. We sited the new structure closer to the street and a bit to the left in accommodation of a new lush landscape to the side and rear.
With a need to expand upon the size of the existing home, we designed a bit of expansion within the roofline of the second level along with a one story element extending to the rear. The rear of the house contains a private master suite with a large sliding glass door that pockets into the wall, opening the master bedroom to the screened porch. This vanishing partition accommodates a seamless expansion of the master suite during times of fair weather (and low pollen count!).
We specified the natural, lime-based stucco finish used for the exterior, carefully matching the color of an historic townhouse on Church Street in Charleston that we determined would be the right hue. I designed the joinery of the timber framing at the porches with somewhat non-traditional detailing to accent and distinguish the residence. The timber framing was rendered by Fountain Timberworks from naturally insect resistant cypress material. The soffits of the deep overhangs and timber brackets supporting them were also milled from cypress, which is indigenous to the Lowcountry.
We learned a great deal about the application and specification of lime-based exterior plaster in the Lowcountry through our design of a significant beach house at Kiawah Island. Posts relating to this residence, which I term the Healthy House for its principal focus upon maintaining the health of its inhabitants, can be found here. Following link at the bottom to "Older Entries", posts here track the construction of this unusual residence back all the way to the driving of the piles into the Cooper Marl.
Timber framing: Fountain Timberworks
Landscape Architecture: Outdoor Spatial Design
Windows and typical exterior doors: Kolbe and Kolbe
Pocketing Exterior Door: WinDoor, provided through Buck Lumber
Swimming pool: Clear Blue Pools
Robert Paige of K&K Custom Cabinets commissioned some photography at the cottage that we designed in Charleston's Avondale neighborhood. He sent some photos along earlier this week, and we were happy with the results. Robert did a great job with the full-inset cabinetry that was designed for this kitchen.
The kitchen was design to be the center of the house as an acknowledgement of of this space as the heart of the modern home. It has direct visual access to the living room, which engages the kitchen through a bar with seating for five. We kept the countertop at one level, which I think contributes a great deal to the visual fluidity of the space.
The opposite side of kitchen features three windows for access to views of the gardens and pool in the back yard. The windows were designed and positioned to register with other windows at the top and to have the countertop run in continuously at the sill. The framers initially out-thought themselves in raising the windows up by three inches, only to later need to re-frame the openings and move them back down to the intended height. This is the type of thing that we can pick up in performing construction observation services as the architect.
Good progress is being made on the new residence being constructed in Avondale. The stucco and much of the brick masonry has been finished, and the wood trim on the exterior is underway. It is good to see the soffits installed and the cypress brackets going up.
In the meantime, the plaster work has been finished on the interior and the walnut flooring is being installed. Interior trim will begin soon. I will be meeting up with JP of Four Corners Woodworking, the interior trim material supplier selected by the contractor at some point next week.
Outside, the new swimming pool is coming together in the rear garden. The pool is a centerpiece of the landscape design by Outdoor Spatial Design. The landscape nests harmoniously in an L-shaped configuration opposite the L shape of the residence. It will be an appropriate setting for this great new Avondale cottage.
In the new Avondale residence, we designed fully glazed wall that opens completely, with all of the panels being operable and pocketing into the wall adjacent. This 7' x 13' door unit opens up the master bedroom completely to the adjacent screened porch overlooking the gardens and pool designed by Outdoor Spatial Design.
This WinDoor product, provided by Buck Lumber, is rated for passive impact protection due to the size of total assembly. Essentially, there is no way to cover the opening with two sheets of plywood, so some sort of alternative storm protection is required by code mandate.
The panels operate smoothly and are a nice match for the aluminum cladding color of the Kolbe windows and doors that make up the balance of the fenestration. We're really pleased with the way that these doors turned out. Many thanks to Buck's Perry Dawson for suggesting WinDoor and Buck's Ty Babb for completing the order.
Designing a residence where the exterior finish is to be stucco over wood framing needs to be handled with an obsessive amount of care. Those of us in the architecture and construction trades are familiar with the horror stories of EIFS systems that were not detailed or installed correctly, causing water intrusion and building envelope failure. Most of this was confined to the 1980's and 1990's, before class action lawsuits lined the pockets of attorneys and laid waste to the architects and builders roped in.
However, these problems persist today. Riding around Charleston on my bicycle a couple of weeks ago, I saw two examples of failed stucco on more recently completed buildings, one in 2005 or so and the other in 2007.
Simply put, installing stucco over wood framing is difficult and must be done properly, from start to finish and including all associated components. Moreover, having it done handsomely, so that it doesn't look like a monolithic plastic-like finish but more like the mottled true plaster appearance that it was originally interned to replicate, is of large importance the the overall aesthetics of the architecture.
Aesthetics and robustness of the application can be in conflict, or at least this is what you gather from most stucco applicators. They would love an acrylic top coat that repels moisture most directly, but this is because most think that this plastic-y finish looks. My preference is almost always a lime-based "living finish" that can mottle and change over time.
I prefer to work with stucco applicators that understand the process completely, from the technical applications techniques to the importance of aesthetics. On the Avondale residence, Archer Construction and I came to believe that Scott Flanders of Anchor Restoration was the best to advise and oversee the stucco applicators. We have taken a "belt and suspenders" approach to the stucco and are very confident in the efficacy of the system and that the appearance will be appropriate to the architecture.
We specified a stucco application system that includes a drainage mat layer over the weather resistive barrier. This facilitates the evacuation of any water that makes it through the stucco from the wall system. On top of this we specified a non-metallic lath; steel lath is know for the possibility of rust, and there are many occasions that rusting, failing lath can result in the stucco that it carries to fall off of the wall. Our lath cannot rust and is therefore unlikely to fail.
It is good to see this part of the project underway and we look forward to getting the color onto the stucco in the next few weeks. The appearance that we intend to replicate is the finish of an historic structure on Charleston's Church Street. We think that it will be an appropriately bold color to maximize the potential in lime based stucco finishes.