Great Escapes: New South Patio

Southern architecture traditions inform this unconventional backyard space.
Old and new architectural styles combine in this striking backyard Southern pavilion.

Old and new architectural styles combine in this striking backyard Southern pavilion.

Old and new architectural styles combine in this striking backyard Southern pavilion.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Lightroom

Image courtesy of Lightroom

Old and new architectural styles combine in this striking backyard Southern pavilion.

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Margaret Mitchell was famously inspired by “Sherman’s sentinels,” the chimneys that remained standing after General William T. Sherman’s scorched-earth march through Georgia during the Civil War.

“If you’ve ever explored the back-roads of Georgia, you still see these old, free-standing chimneys, sometimes smothered in vines, that become almost like sculptural art objects themselves,” says William Carpenter, founding architect of Lightroom, a multidisciplinary design studio in Atlanta.

“With this space, we tried to blur boundaries between minimalist sculpture, landscape and architecture, making abstract references to Southern vernacular precedents such as shotgun houses and dogtrots, seen in the split elements of the carport and pavilion, which encourages the flow of southeastern breezes.”

  1. The focal point of the pavilion, located in Decatur, Georgia, is the chimney, and the resulting glow surprisingly is not gas-powered but derives from aromatic firewood. In another nod to old-timey authenticity, logs are stored in the recessed bin next to the Semperian fireplace. “It was inspired by the Usonian ‘heart of the home’ concept,” Carpenter says, alluding to Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for synthesizing outdoor and indoor American homes, “and it cross-references those burned-out chimneys in the surrounding countryside.” Other soft illumination – just enough for curling up with a good book -- comes from 4” recessed halogen lighting in the ceiling.
  2. Building materials consist of recycled concrete blocks covered in natural Hard Coat stucco along with porous concrete slabs that allow water saturation for tree roots. “It was important to all of us to save that white oak tree, so the concrete around it is permeable to water,” Carpenter says. A resilient, woven seagrass throw-rug softens and accents the floor. In keeping with a Southern locavore approach, the walls and ceiling also make use of 4” tongue-and-groove cypress from a sustainable forestation program in the swamps of south Georgia. “I don’t understand why more architects don’t work with cypress because it’s so flexible and resistant to the elements,” Carpenter says, shaking his head.
  3. The weather-resistant furniture comes from the Kolo Collection, a retailer based in Atlanta. “These clients have a new baby,” Carpenter says, “and this room converts easily enough to a comfortable play area for a child. They’re devout fans of the Case Study House program of the mid 1940s, which encourages universal space and outdoor living." Both architecture and minimalist sculpture were influences.  "The works of Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Alvar Aalto, and Richard Neutra inspired both the clients and our design team,” affirms Carpenter.
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