BUILDING A NEW HISTORIC HOUSE
This is one of our series on projects that ARCHIDEMIC currently has under construction. Future blog posts will track progress on this house as construction progresses.
This client, a member of the state legislature, sought a new house that had a historic look. Beguiled by images of historic antebellum plantation homes common throughout the south, the client desired a Greek Revival vernacular plantation home. Upon finding a suitable large acreage track, the design work began.
Those who are acquainted with me know that I have always had a passion for historic architecture of the south and the islands of the Caribbean. I have traveled extensively to visit and document many of these amazing structures. In fact, I also happen to own one, a former cotton plantation house built in the Greek Revival manner in 1832. In the design of this new plantation house, I referenced many of the scale and details found in my own example. One area where many builders go wrong in working to replicate historic structures in in scale. This is largely due to budget, a little bit due to ignorance regarding scale, and a lot to do with our modern lumberyards. We build buildings different today. Most items are off the shelf. At ARCHIDEMIC we don't design that way. We strive to design structures that require craftsmanship be put back into building. We seldom pick items off the shelf, but rather ask the craftsmen and builders to create the piece that we have designed, often out of many parts and by hand.
The use of proper scale and historical detailing today requires custom craft. This is a notion often at odds with modern construction practice.
Our new plantation house then has twelve foot ceilings, the window headers are at ten feet. Window sills are 3-4 inches thick, like the houses common throughout historic Charleston. The columns are massive and rest on masonry piers. If we were true to historic precedent the columns would have been built of brick with a stucco finish, but there are concessions to be made due to project budget. There are several excellent cast columns available today that were not available historically. This is testament that some modern construction products can be beneficial despite our favor of historic techniques.
The house has a central hall that runs from the front to the rear of the house with two rooms on each side. The same layout is replicated on both floors. A large continuous staircase runs from the walk up attic to the basement. Changes occur often during construction. During the early phases of construction we decided to forego the second story gallerie on the front portico as illustrated on the design rendering up top. It was retained on the rear of the structure though as the deeper verandas there would get more use.