Dezeen Magazine

Victory Bay House by Habitable Form

Habitable Form creates vertical house for woodsy site on South Carolina island

Local architecture studio Habitable Form has created the timber-clad Victory Bay House to minimise disturbance to oak trees and to endure the storms and flooding that can strike its location along the Atlantic Seaboard.

The dwelling is located on Kiawah Island, a barrier island near Charleston, and is tucked within a grove of mature oak trees. Adjacent to the property is a neighbourhood park.

A house with a driveway out front
Habitable Form has created a timber-clad house on Kiawah Island in South Carolina

The site conditions drove the design by architecture studio Habitable Form, which has an office nearby, on Johns Island.

It was designed for a retired couple who wanted a retreat-like home where they could spend time with their adult children and grandchildren.

A house in Charleston
The house is nestled under the site's oak trees

"The design concept quickly became about nestling under the protection of the shaded oaks and connecting outward toward the surrounding neighborhood park," the studio said.

Habitable Form also took cues from the vernacular buildings found in the Lowcountry, the geographic and cultural region along South Carolina's coast. While embodying a diversity of architectural styles, Lowcountry homes often have large porches and sun-protection elements like shutters and deep eaves.

A house surrounded by vegetation
Its design was informed by vernacular buildings found in the Lowcountry

Habitable Form conceived a three-story house that totals 2,888 square feet (268 square metres). The home's vertical orientation and L-shaped footprint reduced disturbance to the oak trees.

Exterior walls are wrapped in modified wood from the Oslo-based company, Kebony. The siding is Monterey pine treated with a bio-based liquid to "give it the properties of a hardwood".

Wooden beach house
It incorporates large porches and deep eaves

"Left to weather, the wood will develop a silvery sheen, further blending the home into its natural surroundings," the architecture studio said.

The home's main level is lifted above the ground, a government requirement due to the area's potential for flooding.

A kitchen area that leads out onto a porch
The house features an L-shaped plan so as not to disturb the surrounding oak trees. Photo by Emily Heezen

In turn, the ground level holds non-conditioned spaces – a garage and storage area for bikes and beach gear, an outdoor shower, and a dining terrace.

The ground level has a central breezeway that is located on the lowest point of the property and serves as a drainage pathway. Moreover, it offers direct access to the storage areas when approaching the house from the beach.

The first floor holds the public zone, which consists of a living room, kitchen, dining space and outdoor living area. A guest bedroom is also found on this level.

On the top floor, one side holds the primary bedroom suite and the other contains a space envisioned as a private apartment, with two bedrooms, a flex room and a "treetop porch".

A wooden kitchen and staircase
The main living space is lifted above the ground to protect it from flooding. Photo by Emily Heezen

The home has two staircases and an elevator. One of the staircases is enclosed within a tall, gabled volume lined with wooden slats and visible along the front facade.

While most of the house has concrete and timber framing, the stairwell volume has a steel moment frame due to "the high wind conditions that can arise in a hurricane", the team said.

A sunlit wooden staircase
A staircase enclosed in wooden slats is visible on the facade. Photo by Emily Heezen

The team noted that the layout is configured to offer privacy and autonomy. The clients desired a home that would "never feel too small, while at the same time not too large, with only two people for the majority of the time".

Other dwellings in South Carolina include a Charleston house by Workstead that features brick walls splattered with plaster and paint, and a residence by architect Marica McKeel that merges contemporary and traditional styles to satisfy the conflicting tastes of a husband and wife.

The photography is by Kristian Alveo unless otherwise noted.

More images

Architectural plan drawing
Architectural plan drawing
Architectural site drawing
Architectural section drawing
Trees surrounding house
A house with walkways along the perimeter
Wooden house in the tres
A house in Charleston
Wooden beach house
A wooden house in a Charleston
A house with a driveway out front
A wooden house lit up at night
A large window in a wall
Staircase with wooden slats
A walkway concealed under a wooden tunnel
A house with large floor-to-ceiling windows
A large tree in driveway
A large tree next to a house
A light coloured kitchen
Photo by Emily Heezen
A wooden staircase
Photo by Emily Heezen
A wooden staircase
Photo by Emily Heezen
A sunlit wooden staircase
Photo by Emily Heezen
A staircase with table and plant
Photo by Emily Heezen
Wooden cabintry
Photo by Emily Heezen