Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Schaller Cottage, Spring Island, SC

Architect: Historical Concepts, Peachtree City, GA; Jim Strickland, design principal; Design Team: Terry Pylant, Aaron Daily, Daniel Lemberg and Michael Moss

Landscape Architect: Don Hooten, Decatur, GA

Contractor: Clements Construction, Frogmore, SC; John Clements



New Design & Construction – less than 5,000 sq. ft.

Winner: Historical Concepts

Island Temple

By Hadiya Strasberg

For its design of a guest cottage on Spring Island, SC, Historical Concepts, an architecture firm specializing in traditional and Classical design, was ahead of the game, having worked on the client’s first house. "We had previously designed a family compound for the Schaller’s, including a main house [as well as a garage and separate guest house] in 1994," says Jim Strickland, owner and design principal of Historical Concepts, based in Peachtree City, GA. When the firm was approached in 2001 to design the guest cottage on an adjacent piece of property, it had the advantage of familiarity with the client, the existing structure and the natural features of the site.

When it came to locating the cottage on the approximately 2/3-acre site, the firm made sure that the building was a counterpoint to the main house and, at the same time, a separate entity. "The owner wanted to relate the guest cottage to the existing compound, yet wanted it to be distinct enough to stand on its own," says Aaron Daily, project manager. "It ties in with the existing main house on a main axis, and is further strengthened by the use of a palm allee, a direct reference to the landscaping materials used at the main house." The owner was adamant, however, that the cottage should retain some autonomy, so it was physically distanced from the house. As Strickland describes it, "The guest cottage relates to the main house, yet it can stand on its own as a complement to the pristine coastal setting."

Making the siting even more challenging, "the design team needed to address not only the owner’s current needs but also potential future uses," Strickland says. "While the owner intended to use the structure as a guest house, he also wanted to be sure that it would be distinct enough should he someday desire to sell the adjacent lot on which it would sit." Historical Concepts resolved this issue by placing the cottage in a clearing just west of the main house at the edge of the adjacent lot.

Another possibility was that the client or future owner might want to add to the cottage, so there needed to be space for a larger main house on the cottage’s lot. "We were trying to create this little jewel that could stand alone or could be part of a larger compound or structure in the future," says Strickland. "But if the client never decided to do anything larger, that would be fine, too."

While the main house is very casual in terms of design, the owner wanted something original and creative for the cottage. The design team presented a "very fun and very creative schematic plan that treated the guest cottage as a ‘folly’ of sorts," says Strickland. "We weren’t sure how the client would respond, but to our great pleasure he was delighted with the concept. Because it was one of those rare projects where the design process was just so invigorating and fresh and without constraint, it turned out to be so enjoyable and refreshing for everyone involved."

The team fleshed out the initial schematic concept into a distinctive, whimsical interpretation of a Greek temple. Its size, simplicity of form, symmetry and design elements could have been resolved into a Classical structure, but "by applying a dose of folly to this traditional form, the design team was able to create a unique and lighthearted home," says Strickland.

Like a Greek temple, the cottage is proportional and symmetrical and features Classical elements and detailing. Two gabled wings flank the central mass of the building, all combining for a total of 1,139 sq.ft. Historical Concepts designed a portico with a small pediment, square pilasters, pilaster capitals and proportional gable roofs, but kept the ornamentation to a minimum. The pilasters are simple, the capitals are refined and the frieze and pediments are unadorned. "The pediment is carried by pilasters with a very simple entasis, which is really only evident as a very subtle flare at the corners," says Daily. "It gives the illustration of an early period."

These elements work well with the more informal features, specifically the square trellised columns that the design team specified in place of Greek Doric columns. "The idea of expressing columns as trellis grew directly from the lush native vegetation that surrounds the site," says Strickland. "We asked ourselves, ‘How do we use Greek columns without the risk of being overwhelming and out of place amidst the lush and natural foliage?’ In the end, we choose a playful way to interpret a Greek column – they’re not stone, they’re not heavy." The columns are made of lattice and serve as trellis for the native vines. "The end result is a very organic and very playful, living column," he adds.

Like the ornamentation, materials were selected for their originality. "We grappled with what to put next to the main house, which features weathered cedar shingles that are very natural and part of the landscape," says Strickland. "We wanted to accomplish this on the guest cottage, as well, but needed to find a very different and unique way to do it." Thus, Historical Concepts chose to finish the wood-framed cottage with a muted natural color of stucco that blends into the surroundings, and, to contrast that, mahogany for the French doors. "The juxtaposition of the muted color with the doors is highlighted by the latter’s rich, dark finish," adds Daily. Light-khaki-painted transoms and large 6/6 windows complete the exterior.

One material, the stepped brick of the small platform on which the cottage was built, was chosen for its relationship to the main house. It is the same brick that is found on the pathways of the original compound and the wide exterior steps to the front porch of the main house. "And it mimics the indigenous Old Savannah Grey brick," says Strickland.

The cottage has an open, airy interior. Not only does all of the glass bring light into the building, but it also takes full advantage of the views, offering a 270-degree panorama of the surroundings. "We designed the cottage around spectacular views of the salt marsh and the live oaks," says Strickland.

The surrounding environment is significant to the design of the cottage in another way, too. The design team at first grappled with building "a Greek temple on this very nature-oriented island," says Daily. "Our final vision was that the cottage would be entwined naturally with the undisturbed coastal setting." The trellised columns and trellis on the stuccoed walls grew out of this concept. Landscape architect Dan Hooten of Decatur, GA, worked closely with Francis Parker of Garden Concepts, a Beaufort, SC-based landscape-installation firm, planting jasmine on the main columns and a fig vine on the body of the cottage.

A few potted plants are arranged in the sitting room as well. This room "acts as the main temple space," explains Strickland. "The temple would have stood alone so we made the main living area the main mass." Like a Greek temple, it is a square room with tall ceilings. Historical Concepts designed a unique coffered ceiling "that echoes the intricate coffers of ancient Greek and Roman buildings," says Strickland. The ceiling, like the latticed pilasters in this room and other interior details and trim, also mimics the cottage’s exterior trellised columns.

Because Historical Concepts wanted to design "a pure building," as Strickland puts it, the architects needed to figure out a way to hide the mechanicals. "It was a challenge to see how far we could carry the pure form," he says. "We had no crawl space or wall space in which to hide the heating and cooling systems – the temple mass was virtually enveloped in glass – and conventional solutions would have detracted from the detailed design aesthetic." The solution was to install the HVAC ductwork within the ceiling beams and conceal it with the inlaid latticework. The crown in the hallway was lowered to hold the return, and a utility room was located behind a concealed paneled door.

A built-in media center in the sitting room, designed by Historical Concepts and built of cypress by Johnny Payne of Frogmore, SC-based Clements Construc-tion, is hidden so as not to create any clutter. The carpenter and his team also made the custom cabinetry, all with heart-pine counters, in the sitting, kitchen and utility rooms. "The carpentry work on this project was exquisite," says Strickland. "The craftsmen deserve a lot of credit."

Off of the sitting room is a small kitchen, and opposite that a laundry room. The remaining rooms in the cottage are two bedroom suites – one in each wing. Each of the bedrooms is about 215 sq.ft. and is paired with a full bath. "They are both decorated in soothing, simple color schemes and have simple trim," says Strickland.

Construction of the Greek cottage was completed in March 2005. "It went through many versions," says Daily. "There was so much historical precedent that the options were plentiful." In the end, though, Historical Concepts achieved a truly unique design that "was frivolous and fun, and simultaneously Classical and updated."  



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