A house with 2 front doors

Typically, a house has a main door somewhere on the front facade (or elevation, as architects call them).  In most cases, this elevation faces the nearby road.  There are exceptions to this, however.  One exception of particular note is when a home has a significant natural feature on or adjacent to the property.  drayton hallFor instance, the historic plantation home Drayton Hall was constructed with two front elevations.  One faced the Ashley River and the other faced the main road.  Many believe that the river-facing elevation was considered to be the primary front of the home as the river was the more preferred mode of transportation in the 1750’s.

Drayton Hall

Few people today utilize water features as essential means of transport.  However, homes adjacent to bodies of water can present design opportunities to create a home with two fronts: a street front and a water front.  In the Charleston area, we often work with properties which face both a road and water.  If you are a water front property owner, we would love to help you design your home (no matter which side you consider to be the primary elevation!)

Andrés Duany presentation on Charleston

Last week I attended a presentation by Andrés Duany, Andrés Duanya well known urbanist and architect.  Andrés and his team were hired to assess the City’s Board of Architectural Review (or B.A.R.) and offer suggestions for possible improvements.  The presentation did offer suggestions for the B.A.R., but delved into countless other areas including architecture, zoning, society, public safety, and education.

A colleague and fellow member of the Charleston AIA Board of Directors, Steve Ramos, wrote a pragmatic and relatively unbiased summary on his blog.  If you have an interest in the architecture of Charleston, I would encourage you to take a few minutes to read his post.

King’s Highway: An update

Back in November 2013, we shared with you a post about our project located along side of King’s Highway. I just happened upon an article from The Post and Courier about this historic path: Not just any dirt road: Protection sought for old King’s Highway. Given the feedback we had on our original post, we thought you might enjoy an update!


At TMD Architects, we have a passion for both architecture and people. We hope that you will consider us for your architecture project in Charleston, South Carolina area and throughout the Lowcountry.

Carlton Simmons

Last week, I shared with you about Philip Simmons…today, I’m excited to share with you about his nephew, Carlton Simmons.

Carlton was busy working when we arrived at the Philip Simmons Museum and Shop. There was only one other car in the parking lot when we arrived and since the house is tucked away, we decided to stop by the museum to make sure that it was OK to continue around to the back of the house.

Carlton greeted us as we entered the small shop which was covered in black soot, but didn’t miss a beat as he worked his way between the blazing fire and the two anvils in the middle of the shop. We all said our hellos and then watched in awe as he hammered and pounded the piece of iron.

After a few minutes of watching, Carlton offered to answer any questions we had…what he didn’t realize is that I am the queen of questions.

First, of course, what was he making? Carlton’s reply: “A plant hanger.”

Next, the anvils…there were two, what was the difference? He explained that one was older (used by Mr. Philip Simmons himself) and a better quality. However, because of the many years of use, it wasn’t square and he had to use the newer anvil if he needed a flat edge.

photo 1

As he pounded the piece of iron on the older of the two anvils, I couldn’t resist but ask…have you ever pounded your finger? (By this point, I think he was catching on that I was pretty good at asking questions) To my amazement, he hadn’t. He said he was more concerned about the iron getting too hot and catching first than hitting his thumb/finger. As he reminded me, he could control the hammer, he couldn’t control the flame.

Then, the hammer/tools…what was the difference and how did he choose which one?  Carlton explained that it all depended on what he was trying to do with the iron as to what tool he was going to use. He also shared that a lot of the tools were handed down to Philip Simmons by his mentor Peter Simmons (no relation), so some of them were over 100 years old!  He continued by explaining that if Philip Simmons couldn’t find a tool for what he needed to do, he would make the tool himself.He then pulled a pulled a large piece off the wall and explained that Mr. Simmons would use patterns for some of the larger pieces. This was only after he would create a very tight circle at the end of the iron (you could say that this was his “signature move.”)

But, how did the patterns “work”?  I asked…So he walked over to another area of the shop, leaving the piece he had been working on in the fire, to show how you can literally pull the iron around the pattern to create the look you want.

As he made his way back to the fire, I found myself with a host of questions about the fire! But I thought better of it and decided to visit the museum instead. But, before leaving I had one more question….would it be if we stopped back by after visiting the museum to see what he had gotten done. He politely agreed.

So we went inside to take a look around and learn more about the life of Mr. Simmons.  And after just a short period of time, Carlton came into the house to let us know that he was about to do something we were “going to want to see.”  And then he hurried back to the shop…..you know I was close behind!

As we came in to the shop Carlton was just pulling the iron out of the blazing fire and began putting it into a clamp. After the iron was secure he began twisting it with what looked like a huge pair of pliers.

photo 4

After finishing this step, he chiseled a P, S, C, and another S (for Philip Simmons and Carlton Simmons) into the piece and was it was complete!

The entire experience was amazing. I love talking with people about their passions. The opportunity to ask questions and learn first hand from others is simply inspiring! And the best part of it all?? We are now the proud owners of a Simmons piece that I got to see be created first hand!

If you haven’t done so already, I’d highly recommend you visit the Philip Simmons museum (30 1/2 Blake Street – Between America and Drake, and between Columbus and Cooper Streets – Charleston, SC 29403). I’d suggest you give a quick call before heading over to make sure they are open. The curator is amazingly nice and will let you know, too, if the demonstration will take place (usually at 2:00 pm on Saturdays).


Philip Simmons

A few weeks back, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, we made our way downtown to explore. We didn’t have any real plans, but I had seen on the Philip Simmons Foundation website that they had both a museum and a Saturday afternoon demonstration; I had decided that if it worked out, we would try and stop by.

I’ve been fascinated with the life and work of Philip Simmons since I first saw his portrait by Molly B. Right, bottle camp portrait artist, in the Ashley River Tower at the Medical University of South Carolina (portrait below).


I learned quickly that Mr. Simmons was the most celebrated of Charleston ironworkers of the 20th Century.  I love how Stephanie Hunt, of the Charleston Magazine, describes Mr. Simmons in her article from June 2009, the month he passed away: “You’d be hard-pressed to find a Charlestonian more beloved than Simmons. He’s the darling of preservationists, the epitome of artistry, the king of craftsmanship, and the hallmark of humility. And besides all that, he’s just plain endearing.”

If you have ever visited Charleston, you know that beautiful ironwork adorns the streets welcoming locals and visitors like arms opened wide.  Considering the type of man that Mr. Simmons was, it would be easy to say he is partially responsible for all of this hospitality!

Since  it was a beautiful morning and we had some time before the ironworking demonstration, we  decided to first take a stroll around the Peninsula to see what we could find on our own of Mr. Simmon’s “hearts, gates, and grates.” The Foundation even provided a map with a sampling of his work.  Of course, if you are interested in something more official, there are a handful of walking tours you can sign up for.

Here is the Heartgate, which is at the entrance to Philip Simmons Garden at 91 Anson Street (please note that I am borrowing this picture from the Philip Simmons Foundation Website).


After searching out a handful of his pieces, I was beyond excited about seeing his home, which is now a museum, and watching the demonstration.

I can’t wait to share with you about our experience at Mr. Simmons’ home and shop, but I will save that for next week since this blog has already gotten long. But, in the meantime, be sure to check out these resources to learn more about Mr. Simmons and his work; I think you find his legacy as endearing as those who knew him personally.

Philip Simmons Foundation, Inc
Charleston Magazine’s Tribute
Sunhead Projects’ Tribute Video


How to build a Joggling Board

We have had some great response to last week’s “Custom Living: Joggling Board” post including a handful of requests for plans/how to. So, here is a quick run down for the basic instructions on how to build a joggling board:

First, your shopping list for the lumberyard:

  • (2) 8′ 4×4 posts
  • 14′ of 1″ to 1-1/4″ dowel (in increments of 24″)
  • 2×12 for the seat – this can be almost any length you wish.  Ours is 12′ long.
  • Fasteners to attach the 4×4’s together on the supports

Basic Joggling Board Instruction

Step 1 – Cut the 4×4’s into (8) 24″ lengths.

Step 2 – Cut the dowel into (6) 24″ lengths and (4) 8″ lengths.

Step 3 – Using the Joggling Board Support Drawing below for dimensions, drill three holes on (4) of the 24″ length 4×4’s. It is easiest to drill the holes in the vertical 4×4 posts with a drill press and a good drill bit.  I would recommend drilling a hole this is slightly larger than the diameter of the dowels, if you plan to paint the pieces before final assembly.


Joggling Board Support  Drawing 

Step 4 – Use the remaining (4) 24″ 4×4’s to create the rocking bottom of the two supports. Leave a small area in the center that is flat, so that the joggling board will stay in place when not being used – roughly 3 1/2″ should be plenty wide enough.  We used a band saw to cut the arcs into the rocker pieces.  The arcs need to be more or less the same, so be sure to use a template to transfer the arc shape between pieces.

Step 5 – Center the vertical 4×4’s on the rockers and attach them either with pocket holes and screws from the top side of the support or with a couple a longer screws directly through the bottom of the rocker (countersunk).

Step 6 – Take 2 of your 4 rocking 4×4 posts and connect using (3) 24″ dowels through the three holes previously drilled. We set the 24″ dowels so that they extend 1-1/2″ beyond each 4×4 support.

Your two supports will look like this:  


Step 7 – Drill 4 holes (two on each end) into the 2×12 seat for the 8″ dowels. (diagram shown below)


2 holes at one end of 2×12 seat

 Step 8 – Insert the board between the upper two dowels of each support before inserting the outer dowels in the seat.  We used a jigsaw to round off the corners of the bench.


Custom Living: Joggling Board

A few tips:

  • Be sure to let your wood dry out as much as possible before starting.
  • Using a rubber mallet may be helpful in getting the dowels in position.
  • As you can see from the picture above, you should individualize your joggling board by modifying decorative portions.
  • Please be sure to always operate your tools in a safe manner and wear all appropriate eye and ear protection when operating power tools.


At TMD Architects, we have a passion for both architecture and people. We hope that you will consider us for your architecture project in the Charleston, South Carolina area.

Custom Living: Joggling Board

One of my favorite “custom living” projects from this past fall was building our joggling board for our front porch!

our joggling board & porch decorated for Christmas

our joggling board & porch decorated for Christmas

For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, a joggling board is a long, pliable board that is supported on each end by wooden stands that rock back and forth. The board is springy so a person sitting on it can easily bounce up and down and rock back and forth. In her book “The Vanishing Coast,” Elizabeth Leland has a delightful description and account of the joggling board’s history.

“It’s pretty simple, really. A joggling board is a piece of Charleston history that measures up to 22 feet long and 13 inches wide, a supple piece of pine usually supported between wooden rollers two feet off the ground. It looks like a giant tongue depressor and acts like a trampoline,” Leland writes.

It is thought that the original plans for a joggling board were sent from the Scottish relatives of Mary Esther Kinloch Huger after learning that her rheumatism kept her from being able to do much more than ride in her carriage for exercise. Her relative sent her a model of a joggling board recommending that sitting and gently bouncing might help her rheumatism.

And, now, as Ms.Leland’s mother would say, “a joggling board is to a piazza [porch] what mint is to a julep.”


King’s Highway

We just started a new home renovation and addition project near Awendaw, South Carolina. The overall project is exciting (think horses and a log cabin), but I recently learned that it is literally on the edge of history.

The property is in delightful gated community which is settled along the banks of a creek. And, running through the front edge of the property is the historic King’s Highway.

King's Highway

The King’s Highway is a route over 1,300 miles (2,092.1 km) in length in the eastern United States that connected the original 13 colonies; it runs all the way from Charleston to Boston, MA. It was named after Charles II of England, who in 1650 directed his colonial governors to build it.

Today, a big part of the King’s Highway, the stretch from Fredericksburg, Virginia, to Charleston, South Carolina, is Highway 17.

We love the uniqueness of this property and love even more that each project we work on and every client we work with is just as unique and wonderful

– mtd