This fee-simple townhouse is designed to provide two income sources for the owners who would live in the two story loft unit above the shop. The ground floor houses the gallery/café, originally known as Studio 210. Off of the alley and above the garage is positioned a studio rental unit. This studio was booked by the day, week or month by a steady stream of guests making incursions into the high-demand world of the vigorously growing new beach town. It would be this rental unit’s income which would give the pioneers the staying power needed to keep the gallery/café in operation long enough to establish it as a well known meeting place in the town. With the rental unit, the owners would also develop a guest list over time that would be instrumental in the development of the business plan for the launching of the Pensione, a new bed and breakfast at Rosemary Beach.
The townhouse and the Pensione would both be built by Mark Dragonette. That is, Dragonette played a central role in the construction process including the production of all wooden formworks for the cast-in-place concrete; he directed and managed all pouring and finishing of the concrete, CMU and plaster work. He worked with local shops for all of the metal work and with local carpenters for all of the timber framing at the balcony, doors and windows. He and his wife and partner Penny would go on to finish and equip the loft space to suit the commercial dimension of the building, opting for painted block and exposed concrete interior finishes. The cinder-brick chimney houses wood-burning stoves at all three floors.
The volume is a simple rectangular prism measuring 22 x 50 feet and 32 feet tall. It has one party wall. The balcony, garage and studio as well as the roof garden penthouse are forms applied to the central volume and each is distinct in its construction. This is not only a reflection of the complex and diverse program of the house, it is also a working strategy that allows for further consideration with respect to the construction phasing of each of the parts. The site fronts Ruskin Square where the generous café entrance is to be found. It also fronts an alley which crosses the square, and finally another service drive sits at the rear. The alley is the location of the second public entrance to the house, where a small covered stoop gives way to the rear of the shop, the studio and the residential unit above. The private garages are accessed from the service drive.
The house is introduced to the Ruskin Square site in the manner of the urban houses of the French Quarter in New Orleans: immediately upon the street or square and with a ground floor shop. Those houses too are often equipped with balconies and porticos added over time. This house fulfills the intention of the master plan for the square which is programmed for mixed use buildings developed to make the most of a living and working environment, with the hope that the rich arts and crafts culture of the Panhandle would find a home here in the new beach town.