Homeowners Sabrina Terry and John Lamb were tired of the cold winters of Boston and decided to relocate to the South. They found a strip of land densely wooded with oak and pine trees on St Helena Island near Beaufort, South Carolina. A feature of the site was a 200 year old live oak tree with seven trunks which they named "Seven Sisters."
The site offered good exposure to the south with views of the Marshes of Harbor River and Hunting Island. It is located in a flood zone where living levels must be 14 feet above sea level. Another great advantage the clients brought to the table: They had lived on the site every summer for three years and knew the pros and cons of Southern tidewater living – warm days, balmy night, mosquitos, and high humidity. Also, John was available to help with construction and had already built structures on the site.
John and Sabrina asked the Frank Harmon Architect team for a comfortable spacious house on a tiny budget. To achieve this, Harmon recommended that they make as much of the house as open air as possible. Screened porches can be built for a fraction of the cost of heated space, and since the climate in Beaufort rarely freezes, they could live outdoors for most of the year.
Seven Sisters rests lightly on the edge of the coastal marsh and is built on 14 foot pilings to protect against flooding. With a large southern overhang, the house is designed to maximize solar orientation and remain naturally ventilated nine months of the year. Half of the square footage is open-air living area, most of which is protected from cold North winds by a sliding door.
The cypress rain screen and reclaimed heart pine floors were felled and milled within 50 miles of the site. The home operates on a whole-house tankless water heater and a mini split HVAC system is used to condition the interior space during peak hot and cold weather.
Matt Phifer of Phifer Contracting in Beaufort, SC, built the house.