Design winners inspire

The addition to the circa 1827 house at Clifford and Archdale streets was honored recently.

The city of Charleston’s second-annual design awards competition is proving its worth by calling attention to two quality designs people might otherwise miss.

True, this year’s design award winners also included some highly visible projects:

The Midtown neighborhood between Coming and St. Philip streets, just north of Spring Street, by Neil Stevenson Architects;

Ashley Hall’s new dining commons on Rutledge Avenue by Stubbs Muldrow Herin Architects Inc.; and

The Charleston City Market rehabilitation by Glenn Keyes Architects.

But the awards also honored small-scale residential work on Bogard and Clifford streets, two places most people don’t often pass by.

At 27 Bogard St., architect Julia Martin designed a three-story house on a tiny 30-foot-by-40-foot lot.

The house’s size, scale and materials blend nicely with its neighbors, while its details make it clear that it’s also something new.

That’s particularly true at the roofline, where curved brackets alternate with square vent holes to draw one’s eye up.

The recessed entryway with an 8-foot door adds an element of grandeur to an otherwise humble house, but city architect Dennis Dowd, part of the judging team, says the best move is the top floor, which has a different siding and far lighter color than the first two.

“It reduces the apparent height of it and it gives it some interest,” he says.

Martin says the biggest challenge was making it fit on the street while not copying neighboring homes. “We didn’t want it to be super-tall or out of place, yet we didn’t want to replicate a single house or pretend it was living in another century,” she says.

While the house has no side piazza like so many of its neighbors, the rear of its third floor does offer some private, outdoor space. Dowd also admires more subtle details that others might not notice, such as the house’s rectangular foundation vents.

An equally notable yet modest residential project can be found at Clifford and Archdale streets, where architect Jim Thomas designed a two-story addition to the circa 1827 wood-frame house at the corner. From the street, the addition doesn’t look like an addition at all but a small new stucco home next door, one whose size and shape mirrors the closest building on the northern side of Clifford.

Only those passing right by will notice the two are connected by a recessed hyphen, one whose color matches the historic home but whose details are clearly new. “You want to differentiate the new from the historic,” Dowd says.

He also says in this case, federal flood rules fortunately didn’t require elevating the addition’s windows to a higher level than those in the historic house. The addition’s projected masonry sills and genuine stucco-over-masonry construction also make it appealing.

Those who view the addition from Clifford Street will see a circular stucco tower (for a circular staircase inside) joined to the house with a wooden hyphen that has a new rear entrance.

When presenting the award, Mayor Joe Riley said his staff feared he wouldn’t like the circular tower, “but I think it’s kind of cool.”

The addition clearly makes the historic house larger and more livable, but it doesn’t change its scale or look from the street, not like its earlier, less interesting addition (which was torn down to make room for this new one).

Dowd says the addition is one to emulate.

And that’s the idea of these awards: They aren’t about highlighting buildings that the city necessarily wants to see copied, but they are designs whose quality should inspire work still to come.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.