Imagination Takes Flight
A house by Scott Hughes spreads its wings on Florida's Jupiter Island
Saxon Henry -- Interior Design, 10/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
For travel agents and spiritual gurus, the phrase "footprints in the sand" is awash in sentimental connotations. But for designers working along the sandy Atlantic coast of Florida, the word footprint can mean the difference between building and not building. Such was the case in Jupiter Island when SH Arc was hired to design a beach house on an 80-by-250-foot site where zoning regulations would normally have prohibited new construction.
"Restriction lines from the ocean and the street overlapped, leaving no buildable area," principal Scott Hughes explains. Fortunately, salvation came from two preexisting elements: a foundation of a 1980's house that was never fully built and a reinforced-concrete seawall, neither of which would be legal today. After incorporating the seawall and footprint into plans for the new house, reducing the square footage that the clients had initially requested, and ensuring that the first floor was elevated enough to let the water run underneath during the worst storms, SH Arc gained permission to go forward.
The position of the foundation allowed Hughes and managing partner John Umbanhowar to build much closer to the ocean than usual, a definite plus for an interior intended to relate to the beach as completely as possible.
Their 3,500-square-foot structure is shaped like an asymmetrical H, with a pair of two-story wings connected by a single-story section.
Hughes thought of the group as "three objects that had washed onto the beach together."
One side of the H is a glazed cube that contains the double-height living area and an office topped by a loft. "The glass box presented definite hurdles," Hughes admits. "We had to satisfy hurricane ratings, achieve adequate sun protection, and protect hatching sea turtles, which might confuse interior lighting with moonlit water."
First, he researched tinted glass, but he soon discovered that it would look too "Darth Vader-ish."
Instead, he chose fritted glass; its subtle patterns fulfill the requirements without being too dark.
The middle section, only a single story, contains the open kitchen and dining area. Inside, maple establishes visual unity ' through horizontal lines: two parallel runs of kitchen cabinetry and the treads of two opposing stairways. These angular flights slice across a backdrop of louvered windows, which cast late-afternoon shadows on the French limestone floor. Mechanical shades can cover the sliding glass doors directly opposite. Open, they let in the Atlantic breezes. SH Arc cleverly built a 32-foot-long lap pool on the roof of this middle section and, in a particularly inspired move, brought the reflective undulations of water indoors by putting a pair of skylights between the kitchen and staircases, right in the path of swimmers.
"The skylights create dynamic sun effects," Umbanhowar says. "Plus, there's the surprise factor. In Florida, no one expects a pool on top of a house."
A commanding two-story stucco cube, almost twice as large as the glass box, forms the other side of the H. This is the sleeping wing, with two guest rooms and baths upstairs and the master suite on the first floor. In a corner of the bedroom, in front of the huge windows, a lounge chair's blue fabric echoes twilight gradations of sky and water. And the immense horizon line renders the room raftlike, like it's adrift on open water.
With luck, that will remain just an illusion.