Sometimes, the answers we need to the challenges we face are right in front of our nose. Literally, in the case of the "single house" type for which Charleston, South Carolina, is famous. The single house can resolve homebuilding challenges, if we look closely at what it has to teach.
We're big fans of narrow lots; they make such interesting neighborhoods. But they do come with challenges. Front entrances in narrow homes steal furnishable space from the rooms and diminish the potential for windows to pull light into the space. Front-loading driveways on narrow lots pass directly under the home's side windows without buffering the home from the automobile. And side yards of narrow lots become impoverished. Who wants to landscape a five foot wide slice of yard that one rarely sees or uses?
None of that is the case with the single house. The single house design turns the house ninety degrees so the home's entrance faces the side of the lot. For formality and privacy, a new "front" door is created that separates that side yard from the street. Typically, the new street door enters onto a piazza, or porch, that runs along the length of the house. The visitor uses the piazza to reach the home's entrance, which traditionally opens onto the home's center hall. The upshot? The home's street-facing rooms span the full width of the home and maximize the natural light they can gather from the street.
In this arrangement, the piazza becomes more than a place for porch-sitting and taking morning coffee. It serves as a buffer between the home and the driveway (if present), which typically passes the piazza to reach the garage in back. And what happens to that driveway? It frames the entrance now, so it gets a level of attention that other driveways lack. An entry gate, a narrow planting bed, and brick or stone give the driveway the feel of a garden room.
When we're working with a small lot, we need to squeeze the most possible value from the space that remains after the home is placed on the site. There just isn't space to waste. Enter the piazza and the double duty driveway. A long piazza increases a home's living space generously by extending it outdoors. When the driveway is well landscaped and adjacent to the piazza, the driveway becomes high-quality living space, too.
When carless, the single house driveway can host events such as garden parties that might otherwise be hard to squeeze into your home. Easy access to the indoors when nature calls and freedom from the trouble with high heels and grass - what more could we ask of an outdoor room?
Photo credit: Jennings King for Charleston Magazine
A well-built porch will give you shelter from the elements, but the benefits run still deeper. The piazza funnels cool air along the facade, past the home's windows, improving ventilation and cooling the home naturally for a longer stretch of the season. And it entices us to spend more time outdoors. Our comfort zone expands as we live in season. Better energy economy, better health... Porch life is good life, and the single house type is ripe for that.
We'll admit it: compact neighborhoods can diminish one's sense of privacy. Piazzas help mitigate that by creating a buffer between the single house and nearby homes. Not a visual buffer, but a psychological one. We might see our neighbor's windows, but the porch and its railings mediate that view and amplify the distance, making the proximity more comfortable. Good fences make good neighbors, as the saying goes. Good porches do that, too.
With all of those benefits, we think the single house type has room to grow beyond Charleston and even beyond the South. If you agree, examine the house plan for the Anson Lane, below. It's a beautiful single house design that's coming soon to Liberty House Plans from Geoffrey Mouen, Architect. Contact us for early access if you'd like to build the Anson Lane in a project of your own.