When his 80-year-old cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains burned to the ground a few years ago, South Carolina homeowner Jay Hicks saw it as an opportunity to rebuild with modern-day enhancements.
His charming but leaky cottage near Caesars Head State Park had embodied rustic 1930s construction that meant plenty of cold drafts and high utility bills. For the new structure, Hicks worked with Greer, S.C.-based Addison Homes to devise an old-fashioned aesthetic with a more current mix of high-performing comfort, durability, and efficiency that meets EarthCraft House Gold standards. The first step for the design/build team was to deal with the mountain-top site’s challenging topography and granite subsurface. Workers followed the flow of the mountain’s rock shelf to form the foundation using concrete footings with recycled content placed directly on top of the granite and anchored into the rock with steel rods. They placed rigid foam insulation under the slab as a thermal break beneath the concrete floor for added protection against the cold mountain climate.
“The lay of the land dictated how we would build,” says Addison Homes president Todd Usher. “We made the floor plan fit the topography.”
The walls and roof received similar treatment. Usher utilized advanced framing techniques and insulated walls and ceilings well beyond code requirements—to R-23 and R-40, respectively—with Owens Corning blown-in fiberglass insulation. He also installed a radiant barrier in the attic, sided the building with fiber cement and sustainably harvested poplar bark shake, and topped it with corrugated metal and CertainTeed Landmark shingles. Low-E Jeld-Wen windows with argon gas-filled double-pane glass enhance the envelope’s efficiency.
Other modern-day amenities include a Mitsubishi CITY multi-variable refrigerant flow heat pump with ducted air handlers, a programmable thermostat, Velux sun tunnels, and LED lighting equipped with motion detectors and timers. The duct system—installed predominantly in conditioned space—tested to less than 2 percent leakage.
To help evoke an old-fashioned ambiance, Hicks tracked down a variety of reclaimed materials, some as old as the 18th century. “He was passionate in his search for reclaimed materials as well as his desire to maintain the spirit of the original cabin while making sure the new one was as efficient as possible,” says Addison Homes communications coordinator Diane Jackson.
The focal point of the family room is a fireplace made with bricks reclaimed from a pre-Civil War era schoolhouse. Paneling in the den was crafted from a fallen walnut tree, while wainscoting in the dining room was made from hand-planed heart pine reclaimed from an antebellum house in Blythwood, S.C. Dining room ceiling beams and the fireplace mantel utilize chestnut timbers from an 18th-century East Coast house. Hardwood flooring is butt-jointed reclaimed heart pine, and pocket doors were fashioned from antique beveled glass doors from an early 20th century house in Asheville, N.C. Other repurposed items include a walnut breakfront from the late 1800s for the wet bar and an antique crank phone which serves as an intercom from the kitchen to basement bedrooms.
The vintage touches continue in the kitchen, with custom cabinetry enhanced by an eclectic mix of antique doors and furniture, reclaimed hardware, and copper pendant lights crafted by a local artisan. The powder room features a wooden sink with antique beer tap for a faucet.
Usher relied on building science practices to retrofit many of the found items into the new construction. For example, the beer tap fixture wasn’t low-flow and was prone to dripping, so he installed a mixing valve beneath the fixture with a flow regulator and separate shut-off.
“The inclusion of so many reclaimed materials – in exterior design and interior finishes -- automatically created an old-style character,” he says, noting that even the front porch is outfitted with antique gas lanterns and 1920s wall fountain. “There’s a nostalgic feeling before you even walk through the door."