Charleston architecture is perhaps best known for the single-house; found throughout many of the downtown historic neighborhoods. The design concept is still being used today in new construction, not only in Charleston, but in other areas of the country. Although it is a great look, and a design that is a southern as sweet tea, the original concept was more for its functionality than anything else. I recently read an article in Charleston Magazine and I wanted to share what I learned. Let’s take a look!
What is a Charleston single house? The original single house is one room wide, with two rooms to each floor, and central hallway and staircase. Of course, these homes vary in size, number or rooms, etc. When the city was first developed in the late 1600’s, the lots were developed long and deep, with little frontage. This allowed for the best use of space and required the single family homes to be built deep from front to back. Building the homes sideways was also the best concept for catching the southerly breeze; which was important with no air conditioning.
The Piazza – If you walk around historic Charleston, you will notice many of the Charleston single homes have piazzas on each floor, that run the length of the house. If you look at the ceilings of the piazzas, chances are they are painted blue. The color blue is used because it is thought to deter wasp and other insects.
The front door, or is it? – Entry into the actual home often requires knocking on two doors. The first door from the street opens up to the first-floor piazza. This door is mainly used for privacy. The second door is the actual door used to enter the homes living space.
Neighborly Privacy – If you look at the front of the house and the back of the house, you will notice a difference in windows. Toward the back you will find less windows. This was done to provide privacy between neighbors since many of the homes were built so close
Hidden – Behind many of the single-homes are servant quarters, horse stables, and kitchen houses. Many times these dependencies go unnoticed from the road because they were built to be hidden from the public eye. Today many owners use these dependencies as guest houses and rentals.