Modern Shotgun House on Hull Street
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Modern Shotgun House on Hull Street
Modern Shotgun House on Hull Street. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

A modern interpretation of a shotgun house is finishing up construction on Hull Street in Phoenix Hill. The project was designed and built by Shed Design+Build and will soon be home to one of the partners in the business. Graham Clark and John Bajandas recently completed the now fully occupied Franklin Flats in Butchertown with a similar modern interpretation of traditional massing. The modern shotgun house could eventually serve as a prototype for infilling vacant parcels in many of Louisville’s neighborhoods.

Graham Clark came to the realization that he wasn’t fully living in his 2,000 square foot condo in Crescent Hill. Realistically, he says he was only utilizing about 900 square feet on a regular basis. This led him to ask himself, “How do I live all over my house?” The result is a modern shotgun house where every bit of space has a use. The house sits on a 21-foot-by-111-foot lot and has 1,438 square feet. Extra space in the basement and outdoor living spaces bring the total up to about 2,200 square feet. There’s still room on site for a carriage house and backyard as well.

The house is narrow at only 14′-5″ clear distance between exterior walls, but it has been designed to open up the interior spaces and create a flow to connect all parts of the house. Walking inside, high ceilings and tall windows help to push the walls out and make the house feel larger. Graham intentionally left the ground floor as a single open space with no interrupting walls to help heighten this effect. A half bathroom in the center of the house doesn’t quite reach the ceiling and provides a degree of visual separation between the living and dining areas of the house.

The half bath will be clad in the same hickory planks that cover the floor and a frosted glass clerestory will connect it to the ceiling. Built-in bookcases and storage units will help make the most of the small urban dwelling while keeping a clean, modern interior. In this way, even the bathroom becomes a piece of modern furniture placed inside the house rather than an afterthought tucked in a corner.

Privacy has also been unobtrusively designed into the house. Horizontally-oriented windows placed on the upper half of the side walls provide natural light while ensuring privacy on a narrow lot and recessed lighting keeps the space well lit without cluttering the ceiling. Since this is his own home, Graham was able to take risks he might not otherwise as a builder.

Perhaps the best spot in the entire house, though, is on the second floor. The dramatic butterfly roof set back from the front facade is revealed in the interior space and allows light to flood the two upstairs bedrooms. Salvaged 150 year old doors will be used to partition spaces. The master bedroom features a large terrace overlooking Downtown Louisville.

The modern shotgun house is situated high atop Phoenix Hill which rapidly falls away across Hull Street providing panoramic views of the entire city. Graham described the scene as an intensely urban one. City life unfolds in an action packed drama as city lights twinkle at night and various modes of transportation weave through the city just down the hill. Thunder Over Louisville this weekend is expected to put on an especially nice show from the terrace.

Graham Clark hopes to take his experiences with this house and apply them to a prototype modern shotgun house that can be built affordably as infill. He said the key aspects of the house are its open design, modern materials, traditional proportions, and urban scale. The house makes the most of its narrow lot while offering amenities common in modern design. The open floor plan and ample outdoor living spaces make this house extremely livable. Perhaps one day similar modern shotgun houses will fill missing teeth across urban Louisville.

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Branden Klayko

20 COMMENTS

  1. The house is not being LEED certified, but many LEED principles are present in its design and construction including its central location and infill nature, salvaged materials, heavy insulation and energy efficiency, etc.

  2. It’s disrespectful to build such a horrible looking thing anywhere, but especially among other buildings that have actual character and dignity.

    Shameful and selfish.

    -Kurt

  3. I'm not saying we should try to build things with false age to them, but we shouldn't throw out all of the traditional design that we have used for centuries. I don't think that building relates to humans. It definitely doesn't relate to the other buildings on the street. Building is a social contract. It is not just personal expression. The public realm is the most important part of the building and it should not stand out or draw attention to itself unless it is a public building or has some greater purpose. A modest shotgun, even a new one can look "new" and still not stand out like this abomination does.

    That building is not of our time. It looks like every other modern Bauhaus-inspired building. That style is already a parody of itself. Buildings shouldn't be designed relative to their time. They should be timeless.

  4. kurtis, i understand where you’re coming from when you campaign for keeping old things old and being a steward, but new things should also be new, no?

    the older neighbors have character and dignity RELATIVE TO THEIR TIME. copying them now is cheap mimicry, undermining the integrity of both new and old.

  5. there’s certainly nothing bauhaus about it.

    and i’d argue that PUBLIC buildings are more obligated to a social contract – a larger public being among the stakeholders.

    a PRIVATE house should be more free to draw attention to itself – or not – at the discretion of the owner. i think you’d find it hard to get much agreement that the public realm is the “most important part” of a private house.

    i don’t absolutely love this house and won’t defend all of the decisions, but i’m glad someone is trying to make affordable modern building in an urban area. having lived in and renovated two old houses (1890 and 1910), and having spent almost as much as an infill house would cost on the renovations, i know that to recreate a new shotgun well would NOT be affordable. this house has some special-ness to it, much more than the standard vinyl-sided bland infill we see so often. i’m for it.

    point of note: in 1709, 1809, and 1909 people built the most modern thing they could imagine, ‘fit’ and traditional appearance be damned. why have we started looking backward so much just in these past few decades? keep what’s good of the past and make the new stuff, well, NEW.

  6. I think this house is a great design. Someone called it disrespectful. I think wrapping a beautiful shotgun house in vinyl siding disrespectful! I would love to see more modern houses in Louisville. Maybe it will inspired people to restore their own architectural gems.

  7. Glad to see you posted as ‘shotgun’ house could be future prototype as the title. I am looking for some samples for ‘shotgun camelback’ to do my studio project and came across your webpage. It surely added to my idea/wish list to start my studio project.
    FYI – our school went down to New Orleans – the Lower 9th Ward, with architectural students from 3 other universities and collaborate to come up with a master plan. One of our project is to provide a design concept of affordable/traditional housing for the displaced residence to rebuild this community.

  8. Glad to hear about your project in New Orleans, Nancy. A friend of mine worked on a similar project for the Central City neighborhood after Katrina. I moved the comment over to this post as it corresponds with the title in your comment, I hope you don’t mind.

    Louisville and New Orleans have quite a bit of linked history as they were historically trade partners over the years. In fact, Louisville has the second largest collection of shotgun houses after New Orleans. My friend tells me that Louisville’s most common shotgun typology, the three bay shotgun, is actually not as common in NOLA where the two bay or even one bay shotgun houses dominate.

    Good luck with your project.

    The house was finished this year (2009), Tate. These photos were taken in mid April during construction. As it’s a private home, I unfortunately don’t have photos of the finished product.

  9. Hi–I am in love with making a small footprint as we prepare to retire. I think the shotgun style is a wonderful way to have something new within a budget. I'd like to see a half bath added as well as a "garden room" at the back off the kitchen. Above all else ONE floor living is the best idea for retirees planning to stay on into later years. My best to you and your efforts!

  10. Some folks may be interested in seeing my renovation project in Raleigh NC. These shotgun houses were falling down. Four of them were renovated and camelbacked keeping the same basic form of a shotgun house. The two wider houses were not true shotguns to begin with, they were rebuilt as larger (1,500 & 1,700) Charleston style houses.

  11. By the way – as the blog indicates, I’ve just started construction on a new, but traditional looking camelbacked shotgun – 16″ wide, 6″ thick walls – certified green built. This house will generate more electricity than it will use, will have domestic hot water provided almost entirely by the sun and will have solar thermal radiant floor heating. It will also have a rainwater harvesting system for flushing toilets and laundry as well as irrigation.

  12. I own a shotgun in Irish Hill on the other side of Hull Street, and I’m considering renovating. I’ve really enjoyed watching this one develop over time, and I would love to see photos of the finished product. Any suggestions or resources for designing the remodel? Recommendations for a good structural engineer?

  13. @Kurtis – How is this horrible? Have you been on that street? Its the best looking house on the block. If anything, that house will improve comps in the neighborhood.

  14. I recently drove by this house and was disappointed in its lack of addressing the local vernacular of Irish Hill or even just basic design principles. The grey entrance epitomizes all things bad architecture. Just plain ugly! This thing can’t be compared to a shotgun (even a contemporary one; note to author,”modern” is a style unto itself which this isn’t) even considering only circulation.

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