A comprehensive renovation and addition were required for the Pecan House, a pastoral dwelling outside Baton Rouge, LA.
Previous owners had relocated a 1930’s Acadian bungalow from its original location to a remote wooded site in St. Gabriel, LA. In its new location, the original house had been modified and expanded to include new outbuildings and an adding living room and second-floor screened porch, but the home remained dark and closed to its lush green surroundings.
Project Name -Pecan Addition + Renovation
Studio Name -emerymcclure architecture
Project size– 3418 ft2
Project Budget – USD 400,000,00
Completion date– 2020
Building Level – 2
Location– Saint Gabriel, Louisiana, United States
Photography– James Osborne IV
The home’s new owners desired for its small rooms to be opened to allow contemporary open-plan living, a large main bedroom suite, and the addition of new back porches and views from inside the home to embrace the property’s bucolic landscape.
The Pecan House was a puzzle. Working within the existing spatial limitations and unknown conditions would demand a surgeon’s precision. The design had to be adaptable throughout construction as walls were demolished, joinery exposed, and different construction methods were revealed.
The new stair structurally, spatially, and visually connects all the public areas within the home. Its lightweight cable materiality and an opening between the kitchen and living room work together to maximize views and light transition throughout the primary spaces. While the color palette is neutral overall, the stair’s blue color highlights it as a focal point in the home.
The stair also delineates the crossing of the home’s two primary circulation axes: a public front-to-back axis and a more private cross-axis. The public axis was created by flipping the existing front door and window locations, creating an ordered entry sequence through the dining room, kitchen, and living room, and a clear view through the house to the trees beyond. In addition, removing the previous addition’s east wall allowed the living room to be elongated, and large new windows in this space provide expansive views of the back porch, pool, and surrounding landscape.
The more private cross-axis runs from the existing detached garage through the mudroom, living room, and main bedroom suite. A narrow “bridge” along this axis creates acoustic and visual separation between the living room and the new main bedroom suite. The passage through the bridge terminates as a cozy pop-out reading nook. Walk-in closets flank the main bedroom entry, providing additional acoustic privacy from the public realm, and one is again greeted by views of nature along the back and side walls.
On the front and side facades, the additions are clad to match the existing home’s lap siding, while on the back, cypress board and batten siding create a material connection with the existing barn. Materials excised from the demo were also reused in the renovation – cypress paneling removed from the living room was reused to protect ground-level rooms in case of flooding, and existing kitchen cabinets were reused in the laundry and mudroom. The reuse of existing items extended to purchased items as well: all new interior doors and beams were purchased from architectural salvage, and the kitchen counter is made from a rescued swamp log. If the owner could reuse a material, she made the contractor save it.
The Pecan House is a puzzle. It demanded an intricate union between new and old, a joining of disparate entities, efficient reuse of materials, and a celebration of beautiful surroundings. It embodies the current Louisiana conundrum: how to simultaneously embrace the historical past, work with the natural environment, and satisfy the needs of contemporary life.