Gobbler’s Mountain House
23. June 2014
The state of Missouri is crisscrossed by a number of rivers making their way to the Mississippi, a few that have been dammed to create reservoirs and lakes that are also popular vacation spots. The snaking Table Rock Lake, formed by damming the White River, is an especially popular area near the state's southern border with Arkansas and the famous theater town Branson. Table Rock Lake is the setting for a vacation house Dake Wells Architecture designed for a couple they worked with on a previous commission. The architects took advantage of the site as much as possible to create a pleasing retreat that can also be converted to a primary residence. The architects answered a few questions about the project.
Approaching the house from the north, the entry is recessed between the two programmatic bars. The central skylight, nicknamed “the mowhawk,” is clad in flat seam metal shingles and signifies the primary vertical movement in the house. A glass beacon marks the entry foyer.
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
In 2009, we were asked to design a new office space for a sales representative of an aluminum curtain wall supplier. The business owner was a husband and wife team, Cory and Kerry Watts, who had seen some of our other projects and even supplied glass and aluminum framing for some of them in the past. The program was small, only 1500 square feet or so, with four offices, conference table and plan room, located in a suburban strip retail center. During the design of that project, we challenged them to think beyond their original expectations for what that office space could be. We talked about the ability of the architecture to brand their company, exploiting the transparent and reflective qualities of glass and aluminum, and using the architecture to educate their clients and tell their corporate story. The project was successfully completed and they loved the new space. The project received some awards and was published which brought them some added attention. A few months later, they asked if we would be interested in designing a weekend house on the lake for their young family. Of course we jumped at the chance, not only because it was a great design opportunity on an incredible site, but because it was such an enjoyable experience working with them.
Thin, broad overhangs recall the boat docks that line the lakeshore.
Please provide an overview of the project.
Cory & Kerry told us they had purchased an existing house at Table Rock Lake and wanted to know if we thought they should demolish it and start from scratch. We suggested we all visit the house and site together before making a decision, thinking there must surely be some redeeming value in the existing structure that could be celebrated and improved. Upon visiting, it was apparent that demolition was in order, given the condition of the vacant structure.
The site was a steeply sloped and narrow, wedge-shaped lot at the apex of a peninsula, within a 1960’s subdivision. A gravel road at the top of the slope provided access to the lot on the north side, while another gravel road accessed the lot along its southern edge and provides the only separation between the lot and the lakeshore. Neighboring houses on each side were only a few feet away.
Entry to the house is by way of a narrow, elevated wood plank, as if stepping from the gravel shore onto a nearby boat dock. A glimpse of the lake view is revealed at the narrow entry.
The couple described their goals for this weekend retreat, which included the ability to make it a primary residence, if necessary. It would need to be small, but functional and efficient, maximizing the relationship to the lake and providing a comfortable place for guests and socializing with friends and family. The program includes a master suite, two bedrooms for kids and one for guests, a kitchen, dining and living area that works well for entertaining, a game room for kids and a single car garage. There was also a strong desire for outdoor spaces to experience the lake, so it includes a large elevated deck along the south end of the house.
As one enters the house between the bars, expansive lake views are gradually revealed. A linear skylight over the stair admits generous daylight to both floors of the house. Views to the lake are framed while views to the neighbors are concealed.
What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?
The primary design approach was derived from the organization of programmatic elements responding to the specific conditions of site and overall lakefront context. The design solution organizes the program into two, slightly askew bars, one public and one private, with a skylit single run stair in the resulting space between the bars. We used the house to obscure the view of the lake when approaching from the north so the view could be gradually revealed to visitors as they approach and enter the house. We wanted to build in a sense of anticipation for visitors.
Subtle references are made to the nearby boat docks. The north entry is made by stepping from a bed of river rock up onto an elevated wood plank, similar to stepping from the lakeshore onto a floating dock. Similarly, the roof form is inspired by the thin, gabled, metal roofs of the docks that line the lake perimeter. Steel angle trusses are exposed on the interior and help keep the roof thin while referencing the tectonics of the docks and nearby Kimberling City bridge.
The central stair occupies the gap between the programmatic bars while allowing daylight to filter to the lower level. A wall of maple anchors the vertical slot of space with oak stair treads that extend the upper level floor to the lower level.
The skylight between the gables is exaggerated vertically, hinting at the interior spatial quality. Responding to the need to drain water, we developed large crickets between the gables and the skylight and then expressed those crickets on the interior, rather than hiding them. This move expands the interior space and allows the skylight to admit daylight more fully across the open interior. The open stair below it admits daylight to below grade spaces, and when sliding doors are opened, allows breezes from the lake to flow up through the house and out.
The east and west elevations are more solid, shielding views to and from the neighbors while the south end of the two bars are fully glazed to focus views across the lake.
The nearby Kimberling City bridge and floating boat docks inspired numerous details throughout the house.
To what extent did the clients and/or future users of the building influence the design and the outcome of the building?
We worked very closely with our clients, from the first visit to the old house on the site all the way through the design and construction of the new house. At one of our earliest design meetings, we actually presented two different approaches to the formal expression of the house. As we talked about our logic in developing the two schemes, Cory and Kerry really identified with the gabled roof forms, which emerged as the scheme that we developed. Then, as we began to develop details such as the glass railings, and steel trusses, we talked a lot about how contemporary architecture should work for a family with young children. We avoided sharp corners and railings that kids could climb, and we provided a long bookcase that serves as fall protection for the stair while being a place for storage of children’s books and board games. There’s ample floor space for playing with toys or accommodating guests for a dinner party.
In addition, our clients have many contacts for glass and aluminum products. With their help, we were able to use some large sliding glass doors that are not commonly available.
The ceiling of the house peels away from the steel trusses, expressing the shape of the roof crickets flanking the skylight, and allowing daylight to reach across the space.
Were there any significant challenges that arose during the project? If so, how did you respond to them?
The site was very limited and steeply sloping. As the old house was removed, it became apparent that the presence of subsurface limestone rock had limited the size of the old basement. The design of the lower level plan for this new house would require significant rock removal, which would have been extremely expensive. In response, we worked with our clients to redesign the lower level plan to reduce the amount of rock that would have to be removed. The rock that was removed was then used in site retaining walls and landscape features, which further connects the house to its site.
The openness of the interior, with its vertical and horizontal connections to the exterior, supports the owner’s desire to share the space with guests.
How does the building relate to contemporary architectural trends, be it sustainability, technology, etc.?
The house employs a number of sustainable strategies including a ground source heat pump system, spray foam insulated walls and roof, conditioned crawl space, LED lighting, high performance glass and glazing systems and recycled and recyclable materials. In addition, it is equipped with an app based systems control feature that allows the owners to monitor activities at the house while they’re away.
The private bar terminates in the master bedroom with direct access to an elevated deck overlooking the lake.
How would you describe the architecture of Missouri and how does the building relate to it?
Architecture in rural Missouri is honest, resourceful and straightforward. Many of the most interesting buildings had no architect involved. These are the agricultural and utilitarian structures that were conceived out of necessity, with ingenuity and clever problem solving in order to sustain one’s livelihood. There is beauty in their economy and restraint, but sometimes oddly composed making awkwardly unique forms. Pragmatism supersedes decoration. This house builds on that tradition by responding to specific site conditions and user needs and celebrates the resulting idiosyncrasies. The form of the skylight against the simplicity of the two gables illustrates that. In addition, the material palette is familiar, making use of common, locally sourced cedar, concrete, glass and rock.
Email interview conducted by John Hill.
The public bar terminates in a living space, also with direct access to the elevated deck. Large sliding glass walls extend the interior to the exterior.
View from the south looking northeast.
View from the lower level entrance looking south toward the lake.
Gobbler's Mountain House
Reed Spring, Missouri
Cory & Kerry Watts
Dake Wells Architecture
Andrew Wells, FAIA
Mark Wheeler, AIA
Bethany Henry, Matt Trtan
Meridian Structural Works, Ken McClure, PE
Kenson Goff Homes
3,600 sf, including garage
Gayle Babcock, Architectural Imageworks
Dake Wells Architecture