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More of a good thing: when this couple found their dream home for retirement, the only thing they needed was more space for weekend guests and the right architect for the job.

John Beard, AIA, a principal partner of the architectural firm of Beard+Riser, PLLC, in Greenwood, likes to get to know his clients before beginning a design task like this one, which was an extensive addition to an existing house. A 1991 graduate of Mississippi State University, he has 20 years of experience of working with modern design and historical preservation--a background that perfectly prepared him for the "Spring Hill" project.

In the case of this residence, located in a rural community about 13 miles from Eupora, he knew both the clients and the house well. In fact, Beard had designed and built the 1,100-square-foot rustic contemporary for himself. In 2006, when he decided to move and open his own firm in Greenwood, he found ready buyers. Betty and Jack Harpole, then of Hattiesburg, were seeking a weekend country getaway. They instantly fell under the spell of Beard's airy, cozy home, which is situated on six wooded acres in Webster County.

The Harpoles liked what Beard had created so much the couple wrote into their offer that Beard himself must agree to mastermind any future additions! Thus began a creative architect-client partnership that was a resounding success. In fact, the final result garnered the firm the prestigious "Best of Show" award from the Mississippi chapter of the American Institute of Architects (MAIA) in 2010.

When Beard bought the acreage, there was an old dogtrot farmhouse on the property. At first, being an ardent preservationist, his plan was to renovate the house. "But it was too dilapidated to salvage," he concluded, after a thorough inspection that revealed rotted sills and a foundation that he recalls was "completely gone." So, it was on to Plan B--the salvaging of as many materials as the old house would yield for reuse. This created the philosophical starting point for the design of the replacement structure, dubbed "Spring Hill."

The old tin roof was refashioned into the ceiling for the new living/dining/kitchen area. He reclaimed old heart pine and cypress boards for use in various ways--as wall cladding on some of the interior walls and kitchen cabinetry, including the island that separates the workspace from the great room beyond. Modern-made fiber-cement material and corrugated tin combined with rough-sawn pine, harvested from the property, formed the exterior. New floors of white oak hardwood were stained to give an aged, patinated look while functioning as a nearly indestructible surface for country living.

Beard not only dislikes wasting usable materials, he's also committed to avoiding energy waste. Just as building designers did in the years before artificial central heating and cooling, he carefully planned the new house's orientation and interior configuration to take full advantage of nature.

Placing the house on an east-west axis optimizes the sun's role in naturally controlling the comfort level. A deep south-facing overhang allows for solar warmth in winter--while shielding the house from the sun's harsh summer rays. A vast screened porch on the rear has a high-pitched slanting ceiling, whose height extends upwards from the 18-feet-high point of the living room indoors, maximizing airflow and helping to disseminate the summer heat. Translucent fiberglass panels form a protective apron from the porch's roofline, providing northern light to the main rooms year-round.

The Harpoles were delighted with their newly purchased "cabin in the woods," as Jack, retired CFO of South Mississippi Electric Company, liked to call their secluded weekend spot. With only one bedroom, however, they realized right away that they'd need more space. With two children and two grandchildren regularly visiting from Houston, more sleeping space was definitely in order. "And too," says Jack, "we came to like this place so much that we decided to promote it from 'cabin' into 'home' and make it our full-time residence!"

Betty, a retired school teacher, couldn't have agreed more enthusiastically. "I'm originally from Eupora, and I liked the idea of coming back permanently. And we both love country living." And so they put their Hattiesburg house on the market and then called John Beard to start drawing plans for the addition of two more bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as a three-car carport.

Beard drew plans for a bedroom wing that would extend straight behind the original kitchen and laundry rooms. For visual interest and citing practicality, he placed the large open carport at a slight angle to the main block of the house. The total added heated/cooled indoor space came to about 900 square feet, with an additional 1,000 or so in the car shed and adjacent entertaining area.

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Completed in March 2008, the addition proved to be exactly what the Harpoles had in mind. Having the original architect in charge meant that the new phase blended seamlessly with the original, both aesthetically and practically. As Beard puts it, "The architectural language of this addition was meant to be an extension of the original design, referencing the Southern 'shed' vernacular in the exposed wood framing, tin, and clapboard siding.

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" The clients have nothing but good memories of the entire process, asserting that Beard was a consummate professional and a pleasure to work with. Jack chuckles, "As John put it after it was all over, 'this was the perfect storm!'" The MAIA clearly agreed by bestowing their top honor to the project.

The house is now complete, "well, except for a few little things I'm doing," says Betty, who has fun working in the yard, and the Harpoles are outdoors a lot these days. They have created walking trails in the woods and enjoy their patio and fire pit a little ways down a stone path from the house. They are having a good time adding to the existing landscaping of the place. They are thankful that Beard, when building the original house, was meticulous about preserving the old plantings from decades ago, like large holly, mulberry, and Japanese magnolia trees. Jack, an avid deer hunter, loves the fact that he can walk across his property line and avail himself of 160 more acres of woodland, with the permission of his neighbors.

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The Harpoles conclude simply, "We love it here!"

photography by don beard
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Author:jones, brenda ware
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:May 1, 2011
Words:1037
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