Where do you work? The answer varies as much as the business models of the multiplicity of individuals who make up the remodeling and design industry. It could be from the cab of a truck at the jobsite, a highly visible showroom, a storefront, a home office or a variation on those themes. It might be ordinary, or it might make a bold visual design statement.
The owners of Savannah, Ga.,-based consulting and design firms opted for the work-at-home solution but still managed to keep the office at arm’s length — physically and conceptually — from the main residence while complementing the dwelling. Equally important, it is a practical solution to site restraints and functionality.
The home with which the free-standing office space is associated is a mid-century modern residence in Savannah’s Magnolia Park neighborhood. Previously owned by the same family for 55 years, the house had fallen into disrepair but was restored by the new owners and won an award from the Historic Savannah Foundation.
Additional Space Needed
The new occupants had recently returned to Savannah after living in a larger residence, and additional space was needed for their extensive design library and for office space. Unfortunately, the original main residence was only 1,800 sq. ft., and an addition was impractical for two reasons.
First, “the way the house was built does not really allow for an addition unless you start bastardizing the house,” says Celestino Piralla, principal of CSCP Design, designer of the new office space and half of the team that occupies the space. Cornelia Stumpf of CSCP Consult, which offers public relations, marketing and creative design services for the design and building industries, is the other half. The two complement one another: Piralla does design work for Stumpf’s consulting side of the business, and Stumpf, in turn, takes care of public relations for Piralla.
“You would have had to create hallways where there were none,” Piralla says, explaining why an addition would have been a poor choice. “There is no circulation that would go all the way through in the existing house.
“We wanted to maintain a little separation between the living area and the work space, even though you cross only 20 ft. of yard and you’re in the office. When clients come in, they don’t have to come through the house,” he adds.
Second, joining the two structures was out of the question. Piralla discovered, because the property occupied a flood plain, the new structure would have to be elevated 6 ft., making a connection impractical and awkward.
The design strategy for the free standing structure, to paraphrase National Historic Trust Guidelines, was not to replicate the original design of the existing structure but to “sustain a sense of continuity in architectural language” and achieve “a balance between differentiation and compatibility, but weighted in the favor of the latter.”
“There are strong horizontal lines that complement the look of the existing house, but mainly it’s more of a philosophical relationship than a visual one,” says Piralla.
“The office space is based on a modular construction system,” he continues. “There was a lot of experimentation with this idea in the ’50s and ’60s, a leftover from the International Style idea that you can put a building in any context and it still serves a purpose. With the birth of postmodern architecture and great wealth of the ’80s, when people went in for bigger and bigger ideas, this kind of disappeared.”