Sunday, September 21, 2014

New Pre-Designed Plan: The Foxchase

This 7,000 square foot manor house began as a quick design study for a couple who wanted very different "looks" for a new house. One wanted a graceful Georgian--symmetrical and stately. The other wanted a Charleston single house. So what better way to accommodate their wishes than to give them both? Designed for a corner lot, a graceful formal facade faces one street, while an inviting Charleston piazza faces the other.

The formal facade of the house features copper collector heads, and cast stone accents at the watertable, window surrounds, and entrance portico.

The facade facing the other street is pure Charleston style. A leaded glass entrance opens to a double piazza that overlooks the courtyard.
 The floor plan of the house is designed for entertaining on a large scale. The two entrances of the house converge in the center of the plan where a reception sized foyer and light filled round stair hall present a grand sense of arrival. Graciously scaled rooms round out the plan--a paneled library, banquet sized dining room, and beautiful living room occupy the front of the house, while more casual living areas, and the chef's kitchen fill another wing that wraps around the courtyard.

A vaulted family room has one of two fireplaces on this level. A sweeping staircase set into a half round wall of glass makes a memorable statement. Other features include built-ins, thick arches, and a flowing floor plan perfect for entertaining
Upstairs, three bedroom suites occupy the front portion of the house. A large master suite includes another fireplace, oversized bath, large dressing room, and a convenient coffee bar. This room accesses the second floor piazza and enjoys a view of the courtyard. Two other large bedrooms also include private baths and walk-in closets. Walk-up attic space on the third floor is accessed by another staircase off the hallway. Over the garage, a flexible suite of rooms features over 1,100 square feet of space. Perfect for media, games, and craft space, or as a self-contained apartment for staff, in-laws, or long term guests, the space is accessed via the back staircase near the family room.

The primary bedroom suites all feature walk-in showers, ample closet space, and generous proportions. The suite over the four car garage offers flexibility for various life stages.

If you're interested in more information on the Foxchase, please email us at, and be sure to like our Facebook page to see more of our designs.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

On The Boards: A Narrow Lot Craftsman

I recently finished a design for good friends of mine. They have a narrow lot with alley access in Greenville, South Carolina's hot West End neighborhood.

The exterior is a true Craftsman rafter tails, numerous bracket details, and tapered porch columns give it great curb appeal.

Bahama shutters on the left disguise the asymmetrical windows behind them.
While the house is relatively small, just over 2,300 square feet, it lives much bigger than that. The main floor houses the master suite, with dual walk-in closets, and a very open living/dining/kitchen area that overlooks the back yard and adjoins a vaulted screened porch.

The main level floor plan. The layout creates a private back yard, and the extra-deep garage provides storage for sporting equipment.

Upstairs, an office is located at the front of the house (could be called on to serve as a fourth bedroom if needed), and it shares a full bath with one of the secondary bedrooms. The rear bedroom has a private bath and walk-in closet...effectively giving the house two master suites.

The second master suite would be perfect for long-term guests.
We look forward to sharing construction photos with you as the house goes up, so check us out on Facebook!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On The Boards: The Altamont

Here's a new design we're working on: The Altamont. Designed for a lot with a view and a relatively shallow building footprint, it's a plan that is great for entertaining.

The exterior showcases fantastic details and a high mountain style. Stone, timber work, and a flared foundation tie the house to the natural surroundings. 
A wide open floor plan with tons of glass at the rear blurs the line between inside and out. Grandly scaled great room and kitchen are complimented by more intimately scaled nooks and spaces. A large screened porch increases the living area. 
The second floor includes three bedroom suites, all featuring walls of glass looking over the view. The two smaller rooms are on the left...each with a private bath and walk in closet. The left side of the house is home to an enormous master suite with sitting room, spa-like master bath, and double walk-in closets. The laundry room is conveniently located upstairs also.
If you're interested in learning more about the Altamont, please email us at
And join us on Facebook for a look at more of our designs.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Remaking a Classic Georgian Style House

There is no house style that has been more consistently a favorite of mine than the classic "Five Over Four and a Door" Georgian. Timeless, elegant, and just speaks of "home" to me. So I was very excited to be part of the wonderful team that remade this house.

The owners built the house in the mid-eighties, when stained wood trim was in, and open floor plans were just starting to be the norm.

Let's take a look at a few of the "before" pictures:

The front of the house lacked a covered entry and just generally felt a little tired.

The original family room had a massive brick fireplace and felt dark.

The original kitchen was spacious, but the heavy wood cabinets and brick floor made it feel small.

The original floor plan was a traditional arrangement of separate rooms.

The landscaping had become somewhat overgrown, as the clients spent several years planning the renovation.  This side of the house would become the site of the new master suite.

The original dining room was elegant, but felt small and closed off.

The original rear of the house had a small screened porch and didn't maximize the wonderful backyard.

After the trees were removed, this side of the house gets ready for an addition.
With their children now grown and beginning families of their own, the clients felt it was time to not only give the house a new look, but make it work better for the way they lived. Top of the list was a first floor master suite and expanded outdoor living. Their architect, who I have worked with in one capacity or another since the beginning of my career, drew up a plan that knocked down walls, opened up ceilings, and created a spacious master suite and gracious screened porch.

I stepped in to refine the details and assist with the interior design. We created a neutral backdrop and recovered many of their upholstered pieces in plain linen or monochromatic textured fabrics and layered seagrass rugs over the hardwoods to bring a more casual feel to the spaces. It is quite a transformation, but retains the original elegance and style.

Ready for the afters? Here they are: (warning, TONS of pictures, but be patient, they are worth waiting for!)

The new master suite is light-filled and features a small patio, which has become a favorite spot for morning coffee.

The new screened porch carries across much of the rear of the house, allowing for three separate furniture groupings.

We painted the interior doors Benjamin Moore "Graphite" and put these on barn door tracks for a fun accent.

We painted the back of the dining room built ins the same graphite as the doors to allow the blue and white collection to really pop.

A wide shot of the dining room, which used to be the kitchen.

Another view of the dining room. The built in banquette has a gorgeous nailhead design.
The new front of the house. The landscape architect suggested the stone courtyard wall with gas lamps, which softens the formality of the facade and creates a sense of arrival.

Another view of the front, with the master addition on the right.

The great room was brightened up with Benjamin Moore "Revere Pewter" paint, a Stark seagrass rug, and new upholstery in light tones.

The original brick fireplace and raised hearth were demolished for a flush fireplace with an elegant painted mantel.

The kitchen was moved to the back of the house, where a set of sliding doors opens it to the new screened porch. Distressed cabinetry, a copper farm sink, and classic antiqued subway tile backsplash make it a timeless space.

The new master bath is soothing in soft blues and white marble.

At the back door, we created a built in drop zone with bench, shelves, cubbies and hooks, to catch the clutter we all carry in with us!

The new outdoor kitchen is seeing a lot of use. Reclaimed barnwood cabinets hide a built in cooler.

The original dining room was opened to the foyer to create a reception room.

The statement making powder room!

The nearly 40' long screened porch has a brick floor, painted beadboard ceiling, and billowing outdoor drapery. We recovered the old family room furniture in durable outdoor fabrics to make this a truly comfortable outdoor room.

The study features a pair of demilunes where stacked books are ready to leaf through.

Part of the new open floor plan is this TV room, where four chairs surround a tufted ottoman.

Crisp white cabinetry in the master bath is punctuated by black shaded sconces.

Out back, a bluestone path connects the various outdoor living areas.

The abundance of light in the new master bedroom made the dark indigo walls possible.
The new master closet features marble-topped built-ins, highly specialized shelving, and this fun Lily Pulitzer rug!

Overlooking the refreshed tennis court, this brick firepit is a favorite spot on cool evenings.

In the great room, we created a small wetbar and used wine corks as the backsplash!  

We hope you enjoyed looking at this transformation as much as I enjoyed working on it! Be sure to like our Facebook page to keep up with more before and afters!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Saving Top O Rock

Sitting atop a wooded bluff in Charleston, WV, just visible from one of the city's busiest boulevards, is Top O Rock, a sweeping circular structure that looks (or at least it always did to me as a child) like something out of "The Jetsons". The house always fascinated me, such modern design is a decided rarity in West Virginia, and as it was the home and studio of an architect, I'm sure I wondered if I'd one day call someplace so "cool" home.

Henry Elden, Top o Rock's architect and owner, passed away in 2009, and his heirs sold the house a few years later. It's new owners, perhaps daunted by the costs to renovate the 10,000 square foot home and studio, have left it vacant, and in recent months it has been overrun by vandals who have shattered it's iconic plate glass windows and covered it's surfaces in the sort of crude and unimaginative graffiti that can be expected. Enter our guest blogger, Jennifer Peters, who has been instrumental in a campaign to save this treasure. We hope you will enjoy hearing from her, and the attached photos showing one of Charleston, West Virginia's most unique homes.

The Accidental Advocate

I never planned on becoming an advocate.  But a last-minute-after-dinner trip for ice cream with my family changed all that.  So here I am, the Accidental Advocate.
The spring foliage made it difficult to see the glass house known as Top-O-Rock as we drove by so a split decision brought us up the hill to take a quick peek.  And THIS is what we found. (Insert gasp of horror here).                                                                                                               

To describe how it felt to witness this destruction in person is impossible.  It was AWFUL.  I cried.  Ninety-one pictures later and I was ready to show the city of Charleston the wretched state of this beloved and iconic structure.
Constructed in 1968 by local architect and engineer Henry Elden, Top-O-Rock is a magnificent 10,000 square foot structure of steel and glass that functioned as both working and living environment under the same roof.  An unconventional combination of  industrial and organic principles, it was designed to incorporate the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape.  Elden referred to it as A glass jeweled box set in a hillside without disturbing the beauty of the natural terrain.  This terrain being a steep twenty-seven foot sandstone cliff with panoramic vies of the city.  It consisted of 8500 square feet of solar plated tinted glass that was held together by an intricate framework of 90 tons of steel and 880,000 pounds of concrete that engaged the heavily wooded landscape that surrounded it.  The structure itself was adapted into its natural surroundings.  Charleston residents had never seen anything like Top-O-Rock.   It was considered Eldens architectural masterpiece.  And he joyfully shared this with the community, opening the doors to anyone that wanted to see its grandeur in person.   He hosted a variety of galas, parties  and other functions.  It became known as one of Charlestons most iconic houses and remained that way until Mr. Eldens death in 2009.  It remained vacant until it was purchased in 2011. 

An advocate is defined as a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy and offers support to the interest of another.  In a nutshell, an advocate becomes the voice for an entity that is unable to speak for itself.
To say that I was upset was an understatement.  I was sad.  And I was VERY angry.  The house had been abandoned and neglected and left alone to defend itself against the elements of nature as well as vandals and thieves.  How could this have happened?  How did the condition get the this point?  Who was responsible?  And what could be done?  I wanted answers.  AND I wanted everyone in Charleston to see what collective ignorance had done to a once magnificent place.

Naturally, sharing the pictures on Facebook was the quickest way to reach a large audience.  Combined with numerous emails to the local media, word spread quickly that Top-O-Rock was in dire need of help.   I posted on Sunday evening.  The response was overwhelming.  By Monday morning,  requests to the City of Charleston were made and the necessary steps to determine what was needed to secure the structure began.  A violation order was issued to the owners with 21 days to meet the requirements.  A collective sigh of relief was felt in the community.  Until a local contracting firm said it had been approached to possibly demolish the house.  That single word: DEMOLISH was completely unacceptable to me.  I knew at that moment, I was going to do anything and everything to save Top-O-Rock.

On Tuesday morning, I started a Facebook group and page called Save Top-O-Rock and shared it with my friends.  Within 30 minutes I had 150 members.  By the end of the day, I had 500 members.  It was amazing.  Membership requests along with offers of assistance, advice, financial donations, resources to utilize and volunteers was OVERWHELMING.  I was relieved that there were so many other people out there willing to lend a voice and become an advocate.  Today, we are 1400 members strong.  TOGETHER we continue to fight for our beloved Top-O-Rock.  It has been an emotional and tough few weeks but to date, the owners have secured the house and are working with the community to save it.  For now, demolition is off the table.  And we ARE continuing to make, albeit slow, progress. 

So the next time you find yourself driving down MacCorkle Avenue, remember to take a look up at the glass jeweled box on the hillside peeking out the trees, where it sits patiently waiting for another chance to speak for ITSELF.

Here are some photos of Top O Rock in better days (thanks to the members of the Save Top O Rock Facebook group.):
Top O Rock Under Construction

The great circular living room at Top O Rock

The living room and free floating stair, with the twinkle of Charleston below.

The undulating forms of the house respect it's difficult site.

Love the deck that encircles the tree.

Another View of the main living room.
The Main Floor Plan of Top o Rock

The Upper Floor Plan at Top o Rock
If you would like to help with the effort to save Top O Rock, join the Facebook group HERE.

And as always, we invite you to join Southgate on Facebook.