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Precedent Redefined

Charleston, South Carolina

THE DESIGN OF THIS FAMILY COMPOUND ON THE COAST OF SOUTH CAROLINA shows that Historical Concept’s collaborative design process can use both traditional precedent and contemporary influences to yield a fresh take on a classic form.

From the street, the site appears tightly sandwiched between two homes, yet its pie shape reveals a panorama of shimmering tributaries and grassy marshes. Our client had an ambitious vision for this small site; she dreamt of an experience of discoveries, enlivened by big gates, hand-forged ironwork, glass boxes, and romantic grottos. We researched precedent to determine what might support our client’s vision and remain contextual. We landed on a form that could be naturally adapted for our purposes: the Charleston single house. Its side yard-facing piazzas were an ideal and adaptable framework to build upon. Those found in the city’s Battery district, with their upraised floor plates, offered a 200-year-old template ripe for reinterpretation.

We began to deconstruct the notion of a traditional single house. Piazzas were drawn, then enclosed with steel and glass. Mouldings and pilasters were rendered in classical proportions, but then distilled and stripped. The design progressed in a more minimalist direction, with traditional elements now classical ghosts behind a contemporary shell, with only their proportions remaining.

~ Shutze Award from the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art ~
~ Interior Design: Amanda Nisbet Design ~ Landscape Architecture: Laurie Durden Garden Design ~ Builder: Koenig Construction ~ Photography: Eric Piasecki ~

MIRRORING THE COZY CONDITION of Charleston’s quaint streets, the guesthouse (left) and the main residence are next-door neighbors.

TO HEIGHTEN CURIOSITY FOR WHAT IS BEYOND, a dramatic front gate becomes the de facto front door. The architecture draws on the traditions of the historic Charleston single house. In the single house precedent, an open air piazza would have occupied the space behind the front door. In our reinterpretation the openings between the columns were infilled with steel and glass, creating a sunny dining room with panoramic views of the marshes.


A PECKY CYPRESS CEILING AND LACQUERED OAK CABINETRY add organic texture to the kitchen. The adjacent scullery with its barrel-vaulted ceiling sits in moody juxtaposition to the bright and cheerful kitchen it serves. Connected to the waterside veranda, the scullery also does double duty as a prep-zone for al fresco entertaining.


AS A FOCAL POINT in the living room, a copper-clad bar is tucked beneath a grand stair set against an expansive window, a tantalizing architectural element enhanced by exquisite, hand-forged metal work at the stair rail.

THE OWNERS’ SUITE offers breathtaking views at all times of day.

ACROSS THE COURTYARD, the entrance to the guesthouse has an almost urban quality, evoking the spirit of historic Charleston.

IN THE GUEST HOUSE, drama is created through high contrast and illumination.
On the upper floor sits a conservatory-like writing studio with views in all directions.

IRON HARDWARE ELEMENTS, forged locally, add an overlay of handcraftsmanship inside and out.

BRIDGING THE NATURAL AND THE MAN-MADE, the lap pool slips beneath the guesthouse into an architectural grotto.

MIRRORED GLASS embedded in the ceiling reflects candlelight as a continuation of the stars in the night sky.