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Southern Living Favorites - June 2001

Built for a Lifetime: The Lifespan House

By Derick Belden | Photography by Jean Allsopp | Styling by Rose Nyugen

Southerners have always prided themselves in holding on to the basics of life-family, traditional values, a place cherished as home. Today, however, with the explosive growth of many Southern cities, we have begun to loose that sense of community. Architecture, once a defining characteristic of the region, is becoming homogenized. It seems the concept of homeplace is being forgotten.

A bath with stainless steel accents and white brick tile complements the cool yellows and whites of the adjacent bedroom.
We believe that it doesn't have to be that way; a home should be more than four walls and a roof. It can be designed wisely to adapt for a growing and ever-changing family. The Life-Point House at I'On in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, exemplifies that idea by blending beauty and style with logical answers to the multiple demands of contemporary life. Those answers, we found, came from the past. "In the past, a house could easily adapt to a changing family," writes concept architect Andres Duany of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ). "Because houses were flexible, families could stay in one place if they wished. The homestead was an heirloom; it could accommodate the life span of a family and be available for the next generation."
A bath with stainless steel accents and white brick tile complements the cool yellows and whites of the adjacent bedroom.

Led by Andres, a talented team of architects, builders, and designers set out to make the Life-Point House a reality. They knew that the house needed to grow in phases, but it also must look like it belonged at every stage. That meant sitting it in a neighborhood that embodied the project's ideals, one based on principles of traditional town planning- compactness, walkability, and a diversity of building styles.

I'On proved the perfect place. "Our development philosophy allows us to encourage evolution," says Vince Graham, on of the neighborhood's founders. "WE realize that one size doesn't fit all." Joe Barnes, also of I'On, adds, "The flex concept allows for growth-to build what you need when you need it." With the location chosen, I'On design coordinator Macky Hill, builders Kevin and Betsy Kalman, architect Luigi Bianco, and interior designer Carolyn Griffith, joined the team to make the plan work. This community is full of different forms of architecture, from the Charleston single house to shingled cottages. A Low-country vernacular worked best for the Life-Point House because it was not limited to a tight footprint and, therefore could grow in different directions. The house's exterior includes some of our favorite details, from the heavy shutters to the red metal roof, but the most charming is the sweeping front porch. The house's exterior details do a lot to carry the adaptable concept, but how do you design a floor plan that changes with the family? Well, it's not as complicated as you might imagine. Think of an older home that has changed with time, then think of those changes as different phases in that home's life. This is how the Life-Point House's floor plan works, but with on major difference. All phases are designed first, then built as needed. With an older home, the phases were built as they were needed-with no plan. Read on to learn how this concept came together.

The bedroom of the original tarter Cottage serves as a guestroom in Phase 3. No matter the room's purpose, interior designer Carolyn Griffith stresses keeping its furnishings and accessories fresh and inviting.

Phase 1

The first phase (shown in green) of the Life-Point House is called the Starter Cottage. Topping out at a mere 780 square feet, the structure is the perfect size for a young couple just starting out. Inside, the space encompasses a large multipurpose room that serves as both living and dining rooms and has a small foyer off the front door. A galley kitchen provides efficiency and ample space for the new cook. The bedroom and bath are situated in the rear of the plan to afford a sense of privacy. Builder Kevin Kalman simplified the architectural details, such as the moldings, in this section while keeping them elegant. Interior designer Carolyn Griffith combined light colors and less elaborate details to maintain the young and affordable look of the cottage. The bath pairs a sleek, white brick tile with black and stainless steel accents for a contemporary look. Because this cottage is small and affordable, the couple can begin to build equity, both financially and emotionally. It makes the goal of home-ownership attainable. Kevin adds, "When the house was open for tours, it really piqued the interest of first-time buyers."

Phase 2

The second phase (shown in orange) is the Main House. This phase would be built when children begin to arrive and more space is necessary. It adds 2,170 square feet and creates the two-story structure. Downstairs, formal living and dining rooms are added as well as a larger kitchen and laundry room. Upstairs, three bedrooms provide room for children and guests. The porch and garage could be added now or later, depending on your budget. In the more formal living and dining areas, Carolyn and Kevin stepped up the details to show the family's financial growth. " I wanted the living room to have a Lowcountry feeling to it," says Carolyn. "We included the crown molding for warmth and character." With the addition of the Main House, the Starter Cottage could become an apartment for grandparents, a rental unit to help offset the mortgage, or an office with its own outside entrance. The original kitchen could either serve the apartment, be used as a pantry space, or be incorporated into the new kitchen.

"We wanted to add instant character and age," says Carolyn. "There is nothing more Southern than heart pine, so we used it as a focal point at the mantel and as crown molding in the more elegant spaces of the house." The heart pine is remilled and recycled from an old warehouse in Chicago.

Phases 3 and 4

The third phase (shown in purple) is the Back Building. As the family continues to grow, whether in number or age, houses can tend to feel small again. Now that the kids are teenagers and a level of financial stability is realized, it is time to add on again. Encompassing 780 square feet, the Back Building connects a family room and master bedroom to the kitchen that was added in Phase 2. Stylistically, this space takes on a more contemporary feel. "This house reflects that people's tastes are not stagnant," says Kevin, "but they change as the times change. Carolyn has done a nice job illustrating this in the design."

The new master bedroom has higher ceilings and a larger closet. The adjacent bath is also bigger, not only to provide for a whirlpool tub and shower, but also to address any accessibility concerns that may arise in the future. The garage could come now or, again, wait until budget permits. At this point, the original 780-square-foot Starter Cottage has grown to a little more that 3,700 square feet, not including porches or the garage.

The Next Generation

The final phase requires no additional construction unless you opened the kitchen in Phase 2, but it provides for life in the house after children have moved out. Moving the master bedroom to the first floor in Phase 3 creates the perfect home for empty nesters. By locking one door in the Starter Cottage, you have a first home for the next generation. Once that family grows, you can unlock the door and lock two doors in the hall of the main house and provide a four-bedroom, three-bath house for them. All the while, keeping just less than 2,000-square feet for yourself. The Life-Point concept may not be for everyone, but it should make us think about the importance of family, architecture, neighborhood, and sense of place in our everyday lives. For the thought it provokes, the change it might bring, and the details it possess, the Life-Point House is a classic.

A wraparound porch in the South Carolina Lowcountry is a must. The 10-foot depth provides plenty of space to stretch out and protection from the hot summer sun for the interior. Kevin incorporated details such as heavy shutters and chunky hardware and the elegant copper lanterns to add timeless appeal.

What are TNDs?

Traditional Neighborhood Developments such as I'On were conceived as a reaction to suburban sprawl. Towns such as Rosemary Beach, Florida, and others all continue the values started with the first TND: Seaside, Florida. For more, visit AOL keyword: Southern Living