Kentucky Roots, South Carolina Charm

Places / February 1, 2010

The River Road Home is all about the envelope.

Perched over a pier and a marsh near Charleston and Kiawah Island, it’s a 5,000 square foot residence that’s been designed – and very cleverly sheathed – by Whitney Powers of Studio A architects.

She’s used new and old materials, inside and out, in unexpected, innovative and subtly surprising ways.

Its exterior is in part a standing seam copper skin, but it’s clad also in rain-skin panels of pale green Eternit. Attached via batten strips, the panels create an area one-half inch in depth next to the home’s frame. The resulting air buffer prevents moisture buildup in the coastal climate.

“It’s been used in Europe for years,” Whitney said. “It extends the life of the siding and everything behind it. It keeps things dry and allows the air space to breathe.” In green circles, she said, it’s referred to as a high-performance envelope.

The 700 square foot roof over the home’s guest quarters grows lushly, a response to abundant marsh grasses nearby. Developed by Living Roofs of Asheville, N.C., it encourages chives, sedum, lavender and other drought-tolerant plants. Water there, as elsewhere, drains into a cistern for storm-water collection and landscape watering.

The roof over the main residence repeats the use of standing seam copper, projecting a long and low-rising slope skyward. “It’s about one-half an inch per foot, and goes from zero to 30 inches in 45 feet,” Whitney said.

She’s used sandstone facing at the swimming pool’s spillover edge – with visual qualities that foreshadow woodgrain patterns to be found inside.

There, the entire interior core is wrapped in boards of antique white pine salvaged from the client’s Kentucky barns, with wood that’s more than a century old. “It was milled specifically for this project,” Whitney said. “The boards came from beams, not siding, and they’re ancient.” Each three-quarter inch deep board varies from six to eleven inches in width.

The River Road Home is a design that responds sensitively to its low-country site and reaches back gracefully to its bluegrass roots – while binding all together with materials meant to please the eye.

For more on Whiteney Powers and Studio A , go to http://www.studioa-architecture.com/. For more on Eternit panels, go to http://www.eternit.at/9074.0.html. And for more on Living Roofs, go to http://www.livingroofsinc.com/about_us/?x=1

Photography: © Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

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Michael Welton




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