The Chauvin residence is set comfortably back off a country road just north of Lake Ponchartrain in Southern Louisiana, woven into a site that is notable for the large oaks that are characteristic of the region. Its owner, an artist, was open to architect Jeffrey Smith’s interpretation of the site. Smith, principal and director of design at Holly & Smith Architects, considers it important to take cues from local building styles. “The Chauvin residence could be called Country Vernacular,” he says. “We stuck with traditional hips and gables, and metal roofs.” Brick is used, but sparingly; it appears on small portions of wall, as well as on chimneys and the foundation. Inside, the house is open and contemporary.
House of the Month: Country Vernacular Meets Regional Modernism
Smith likes to explore the philosophy of regional modernism and made sure that the house responded to its climate and context. Therefore, two defining elements of the design became its umbrella roof and its raised floor. The roof, having deep overhangs, protects the home’s siding and glazing from rain and sun damage. Smith explains, “I like to get the house up off the ground, using a crawl space, to keep it away from moisture and insects. The Chauvin residence has a wood floor on brick piers.” Smith points out that the increased height enhances the overall elevation and “gives nice eave lines.”
Smith wanted to create an east/west axis for the house, to limit the amount of sun exposure. To accomplish this, and also to work around the many existing oaks, he developed a linear organizing scheme. The completed residence consists of a series of "pods" linked by transparent bridges. The central pod contains the kitchen, dining room, and living room. Bedrooms lie to the east, and a guest room and garage lie to the west. Deep porches, awnings, and overhangs shade the southern entrance elevation.
“The intention was to make a two-story house,” says Smith,“but the percentage of space that the clients wanted first-floor access to led us to design a smaller, open art loft as the second-story element.” The loft is located in the home’s central pod.
Another creative solution had to be found after the house was initially considered to be complete. In 2006 – three years after the original completion date – the Chauvins welcomed a child into their family and needed an additional bedroom. Several factors helped to ensure that the bedroom addition would fit seamlessly with the rest of the house. “We had originally planned to build four pods," Smith says. "Then the design got scaled back. So we ended up adding that fourth pod back in. We already had the spine of bridges, and a small gabled closet on the end of the house which aligned with that. We used that point to continue the spine, putting a corridor through the existing master suite and connecting it to the new room.” The addition became the new master suite, and the original pod was used to accommodate a nursery, large bath, and hallway library.
Smith considers the home’s greatest success to lie not in its functionality or even its expression of regional modernism, but in the owners’ enjoyment: “The client said to me, ‘Every day I wake up, and I feel like I’m on vacation.’ That, to me, is what is most meaningful.”
Kristin graduated from The Ohio State University in 1988 with a B.S. in architecture and a minor in English literature. Afterward, she moved to Seattle, Washington, and began to work as a freelance design journalist, having regular assignments with Seattle’s Daily Journal of Commerce.
After returning to Ohio in 1995, her freelance activities expanded to include writing for trade publications and websites, as well as other forms of electronic media. In 2011, Kristin became the managing editor for Buildipedia.com.
Kristin has been a features writer for Buildipedia.com since January 2010. Some of her articles include: