Basking in the South Carolina Breezes

General / People / Places / February 13, 2015

It’s always nice to see a plan come together:

While Boston braces for 13 more inches of snow this weekend – along with wind gusts up to 70 mph – a pair of that city’s expats will be basking in breezes warmed by the coastal South Carolina sun.

They’re living in a new home designed by Frank Harmon to do exactly that. It’s sited on 15 acres of wetlands on St. Helena Island – a residence that rises on stilts,12 feet above sea level, for fantastic views from two floors.

The cottage offers heated and cooled spaces that are minimal at best – a bedroom, dining room, kitchen, and bath. The rest is composed of screened porches, most facing south to the water over a maritime forest.

“The only problem was that they wanted a 2,000 square foot house on a $150,000 budget,” Harmon says. “I came back to the office and said: ‘Maybe I can design a trailer.'”

Instead, he gave them an expansive home – one they call “Seven Sisters,” for the number of trunks on a century-old live oak tree – that worships at the altar of sunshine, vistas and breezes.

“We wanted to give them as much connection to the site and the outdoors as possible, given their budget,” says Jacob Burke, project designer and architectural intern at the firm.

The couple had lived on the land for a few years before discovering Harmon’s Raleigh firm on the Internet. In fact, they’d found the site itself on the Internet, moving there with an Airstream trailer. As they adapted to the area, they built a bath house and erected a screened tent.

“The mosquitoes and no-see-ums are fierce down there,” Harmon says. “For them this site was paradise – but paradise with bugs and snakes.”

Still, while Boston-area residents are cautioned to stay inside for the next few days, there are sure to be two smug and smiling faces on St. Helena’s Island, along coastal South Carolina.

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.




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