The House of Eight Porches: A South Carolina Beach Home

A Southern beach house eight miles from Charleston becomes an eco-friendly home away from home.

| January/February 2005

  • Rives Yost wanted a beach house with plentiful porches from which to enjoy the wild island setting. Porches, including this one off of a bedroom, open off every room, providing a perfect perch for any time of day or night.
  • The Yost house is designed for indoor/outdoor living, with porches on the front, back, and corners of the house that provide outdoor living space and permit windows and doors to be left open for constant access to island breezes and the sound of birds, rustling trees, and crashing waves.
    Photography by Michael Shopenn
  • An asymmetrical deck and bridge zigzags around the live oak trees that are protected by the strict environmental regulations protecting Dewees Island’s natural resources. The bridge leads to an open-air pavilion that stands on a small rise surrounded by wetland. From here, the Yost family enjoys watching the many bird species that populate the island’s densely grown landscape.
  • The Yost’s dining room has its own porch that serves as a plein-air dining room on pleasant days. The table is actually made of two matching pieces that can be pushed together for large meals or divided between the dining room and porch.
  • Porch-sitting is one of the favorite pastimes of all members of the Yost family, whether Lottie and Robin look for a quiet place to read or their parents enjoy a cup of coffee while listening to morning birdsong.
  • ‰ Lounge chairs that double as outdoor beds furnish screened porches that open off the bedrooms. These multi-use porches and furnishings were inspired by traditional sleeping porches popular in southern beach houses before the days of air conditioning.
  • A screened porch devoted solely to clotheslines that opens off the laundry room was a special request of Rives, who considers automatic clothes dryers a waste of electricity, especially in a breezy beach climate.
  • The 32 by 20 foot living room and kitchen area has an open plan that creates a sense of togetherness for the family. Simply decorated with functional furnishings, it provides a favorite spot for reading, playing games, or sitting and cloud watching. The long island dividing the kitchen from the living space is a perfect place for casual family meals and for spreading a buffet for larger parties.
  • Transparency is one of the reigning principals of the house—anyone in the dining room can look through plate glass windows into the living room, out through the trees that separate the house from the beach, or down into a porch opening off one of the bedrooms below.
  • Kitchen cabinets with glass sides (viewed from the central staircase) help maintain a sense of unobstructed transparency and ease the flow of light throughout the house.
  • The Yost house is designed for indoor/outdoor living, with porches on the front, back, and corners of the house that provide outdoor living space and permit windows and doors to be left open for constant access to island breezes and the sound of birds, rustling trees, and crashing waves.
  • The Yost house is designed for indoor/outdoor living, with porches on the front, back, and corners of the house that provide outdoor living space and permit windows and doors to be left open for constant access to island breezes and the sound of birds, rustling trees, and crashing waves.
  • The Yost house is designed for indoor/outdoor living, with porches on the front, back, and corners of the house that provide outdoor living space and permit windows and doors to be left open for constant access to island breezes and the sound of birds, rustling trees, and crashing waves.
    Illustrations by Gayle Ford

Rives and Wally Yost had spent many summers on the beaches near Charleston, South Carolina, where Wally had family ties, but the Pittsburgh residents had never been quite satisfied with the houses they rented. The homes were clustered too close together, thirsty lawns replaced natural vegetation, and energy-inefficient designs demanded constant air conditioning. “When you walked outside, the first thing you heard was the drone of air conditioners,” recalls Wally. Adds Rives: “The houses had wall-to-wall carpeting, fireplaces, mirrored walls, too much furniture, and no clotheslines. I kept thinking I’d like to build a proper beach house.”

In 1999, when the couple and their teenage children, Robin and Lottie, were summering on Isle of Palms, northeast of Charleston, they spotted a sign for Dewees Island. They discovered a small boat landing and a guide who offered to show them the island. Soon they were aboard a ferry gliding through the Intracoastal Waterway. After passing a coastline densely studded with large houses, the ferry moved into an open inlet. The water spread wide, the sky became vast, shore birds soared overhead, and porpoises breached the waves. Small hummocks covered with bright-green sea grass punctuated the waterscape, their edges patrolled by lanky white egrets fishing in tidal pools.

Sustainable, Irresistible

Once docked at Dewees Island, the Yosts discovered a “green” community founded in 1991 by visionary developer John Knott. With only 150 home sites allowed on its 1,206 acres, 92 percent of the island is protected from development. Houses can be no larger than 5,000 square feet, must be set well back from the shoreline, and cannot disturb natural wetlands. Lawns are not permitted, protected trees cannot be cut, and only native plants may be cultivated. No cars are allowed on the sand roads, which are traveled by foot, bicycles, and electric golf carts. Building guidelines recommend the use of durable, energy-efficient materials and site planning that takes advantage of prevailing winds and avoids overexposure to the sun.



“We weren’t really looking for beach property,” Wally recalls, “but when we saw this place and learned about the protective covenants and overall approach to development, we thought it was just too good to be true. Two days later, we owned a lot.”

The Yosts’s property had been overlooked by several potential buyers because it was so densely grown with oaks. A wetland further diminished the buildable area, but Wally paced across the plot, looking up and envisioning a house built among the trees. Their architect, Charleston-based modernist Whitney Powers, understood the family’s dream of a house nestled into the natural landscape. “They didn’t want a beach decoration,” she notes.

daniel
11/14/2013 7:22:22 AM

Really a nice house. And the technology behind the house making is simply fabulous. I have seen some nice houses at West Palm beach. Just want to share with you, have a look http://www.charlestonscbeachfronthomes.info/.







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