Both the High Dunes House and the Breezeway House are designed to serve as a get-away to share with family and friends.
Design elements important to us include the following:
Method of Construction
Most beach homes are built on a raised platform. Typically, pilings are sunk into the sand, and a platform deck is built on top of the pilings.
Then, conventional frame construction is used to build the house on top of the raised platform. We researched various construction methods and,
influenced by a government study, decided to a different method: integral-pole post-and-beam construction. Using this method, pilings are sunk into the
ground and extend all the way up though the house to the roofline.
In addition to greater structural integrity, this also gives the house
the unique visual feature of exposed natural poles rising through the house, like the masts of old sailing ships. Joints where the poles
and structural beams meet the floor, ceiling, and walls are finished using thick natural manila rope. This combination of natural
wood and natural rope adds a great sense of warmth. It also provides a nautical touch that is integral to the house itself, not an
added-on decorative effort to impart a nautical theme to a home.
A Feeling of Spaciousness
For better and for worse, I am 6'8" tall, which means that most homes are not designed to suit me. Doors throughout the house are 8' tall,
and ceiling height ranges from 10.5' to 14' in height. This provides a wonderful sense of spaciousness and openness without relying on
barn-like rooms to give a sense of space.
A Very Solid and Secure Feel
For several years prior to designing the High Dunes House, we made frequent visits to the coast. In that time, we rented more than 40 different
beach houses, and we were careful to pay close attention to things we did and didn't like about each one. Among the attributes we wanted to avoid was the sense of
flimsiness that we found in many beach houses. In our experience, the fact that beach houses are typically built on pilings often
showed itself in unpleasant ways that are not evident in a simple walk-through. For example, in many beach houses, using the washing machine (or in some cases,
even the dishwasher) will cause the whole house to vibrate. Sometimes, simply walking across the kitchen causes glasses in the cabinets to rattle.
Based on this, one of our goals
was to ensure that there is "No house-shaking flimsiness!" We accomplished this by over-engineering the structure, using more pilings and poles than necessary.
For example, a simple count at the High Dunes House shows 39 poles extend from the ground, with most rising to the top of the structure. At the Breezeway House,
there are 33 structural pole pilings. In both cases, our engineer
told us we were over-building the house, and he was exactly right. We wanted the house to feel very solid, and to us that made the extra structural support worthwhile.
The fact that the homes have weathered several hurricanes without any damage also speaks to the solid design.
Not "Just Another Box"
Most beach houses are simple rectangles, with perhaps a bay window tacked on for a bit of visual interest. Often, bedrooms open directly off the living room,
removing any sense of real privacy. We wanted a home with a special, inviting feel to the spaces within. The designs feature a variety of angles which provide both
pleasant offsets to the interior spaces and panoramic views that wrap across the horizon.
Nooks and Crannies
As guests go to bedrooms on the second and third floors of the High Dunes House, the stairway twists and turns, and winds back on itself. Built-in bookcases
adjoin the stairway path on all three floors. Cozy hallways separate bedroom entrances from the main stairway. We smile
whenever first-time guests pause at a stairway landing, wondering which way to turn. While the layout is intuitive and guests
quickly become acclimated, the sense of "wandering" to one's bedroom adds to everyone's sense of privacy. Each house can be full of
guests, yet they never feel that way. Everyone feels that they have their own private space.
Porches and Decks Everywhere
Time at the sea is special because of what's outside the home. The site of each house is remarkable. The High Dunes House sits high atop the secondary dunes.
The location, and the height of the lot, provides panoramic views for miles and miles. The Breezeway House is behind the primary dunes, with an unlimited view
of miles of undeveloped beach to the East. Both homes present breathtaking vistas of both the sea and a National Wildlife Refuge. To honor the settings, we built porches and decks everywhere.
Descriptions of the various porches and decks are provided on other pages in our detailed tour of the two houses.
Modern, but not Shiny or Trendy
The current fashion for luxury beach houses calls for faux-stucco exteriors, shiny polyurethane-coated hardwood floors, and sliding glass doors.
For many folks, this is fine. But we wanted none of that. Rather than a trendy "McMansion", we wanted to create a place that is homey,
vaguely old-fashioned, and somehow both cozy and spacious all at the same time. The exterior siding of th High Dunes House is nature's best solution for
seaside environments: genuine, swamp-grown cyprus. In both houses, rather than shiny, synthetic-finished hardwood, the floors are high-grade, tung-oiled pine with beautiful knots and grain.
In the kitchens of both homes, high-end appliances are installed in white custom-built cabinets with beaded-board sections and simple nickel-plated bin-pulls. Natural manila rope
trims the joints where beams and poles meet floors, ceiling, and walls. Door and window trim is simple white boards adorned only by simple,
classic rosettes at the corners. Bathroom and closet doors are themselves architectural antiques: unpainted heart fir from old buildings with natural slats for ventilation.
We knew what we wanted to do. We wanted to create homes that are both old and new, both spacious and cozy, both innovative and traditional.
We wanted to create "the beach house you wish your grandmother had had when you were a kid", updated for modern times. Much to our satisfaction, we succeeded.
Everyone who visits the homes loves them. Many first-time guests to the High Dunes House ask (with a puzzled expression), "How old is the house, and when did you renovate it?"
They are amazed to hear that we built it from scratch only a few years ago.
If you want to stop by and view the property, you are welcome to visit...
but, please, it is very important that you work with us to make arrangements in advance.
Please understand that we cannot accommodate unplanned drop-in visits.
A Rare & Special Place by the Sea
An exclusive, informal refuge...
Call or e-mail
Russell for information
Web site designed by Dannon Baker