In 2005, Hurricane Katrina decimated the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including the beach town of Bay St. Louis. A 30′ storm surge reduced the housing stock by 50%. After years of stagnated growth, redevelopment is booming. The BSL2 house is part of this boom, redeveloping a 50’ by 155’ urban site. The project’s basic goals are to create a small 3-bed 2-bath, spatially efficient, low-maintenance house that maximizes exterior spaces.

Project Name -BSL 2
Studio Name – emerymcclure architecture
Project size– 1660 ft2
Completion date– 2017
Building Level – 1
Location– Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, United States
Photography– James Osborne IV

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©James Osborne IV

The more complicated goals include designing a house that can be open to the beach environment when occupied and closed when not, as it is 300′ from the Gulf and must resist violent storms. For anyone who lives in hurricane zones, “boarding up the house” is an essential part of storm preparation. The clients, who live far enough away and along the contraflow evacuation routes makes “boarding up” even more difficult. Thusly, they requested that BSL2 negotiate this complex site environment with grace and ease.

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©James Osborne IV

The clients wanted large openings, but they did not like the prefab hurricane shutters. The resolution was to fabricate custom shutters that protected the house at not only at the scale of the windows, but also the doors and the porches. The shutters are scaled to these openings and mount to the exterior with barn door hardware. They are composed of galvanized metal, stainless steel hardware, and stained treated lumber to create the material stability needed to resist the Gulf’s salt and winds. Because they open and close in tracks that ring the house, their positioning continually changes the home’s appearance and spaces. The house can be closed (for storm or absence), partially open (to block the sun or create privacy), or completely open and stacked. This flexibility captures all the characteristics of a true working shutter and makes them a significant design feature of the house.

The house’s interior is designed to capture the exterior space of the porches and support vacation activities. The bedrooms are small, private, and dark for sleeping late when vacationing. The living space connects to the large side porch as one continuous room through a series of sliding glass doors and large glass transoms. When closed, the exterior living and interior living spaces visually act as one; when open, the spaces physically become one. The kitchen, dining, and living areas (interior and exterior) are combined to facilitate family gatherings, game nights, feasts, and lying about. On the front porch, a fixed ladder provides access to the kid’s loft which runs from end to end, directly centered over the main floor. The 10’x10’x62′ loft is constructed with box truss framing, which provides for the loft, the open floor plan in the main living area, and the exposed, accent-lighted framing in the porch and living area ceilings. Openings between the trusses allow the children to look down over the exterior porch and create a draft airflow from the porch floor, through the loft, and out through the end wall windows.

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©James Osborne IV

The rear porch is designed for beach activities. It houses the outdoor shower, the beach closet (hidden behind another more solid sliding wall,) the towel hooks and rails, and the area to remove sandy footwear. As with the rest of the house, it can be closed off with shutters when the owner is away or a storm is coming.


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