Georgia’s ‘Historical Concepts’ wins 2013 award
by Clay Neely
Georgia-based architecture firm Historical Concepts won this year’s best exterior makeover for a home in Hobe Sound, Florida.
The annual Southern Living awards honor the best architects and designers in the South and longtime resident of Newnan, Terry Pylant, was the designer for the project and is a principal with the firm headquartered in Peachtree City.
Following his graduation from Clayton State with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, Pylant formally started with Historical Concepts in 1989, the same year he moved to Newnan.
Pylant went right to work with president and founder of Historical Concepts, Jim Strickland, who was an architect he had admired for some time.
“Seeing the houses he was designing; there was a level of detail and quality that was unseen at the time” recalls Pylant.
“I was a huge fan of Neel Reid (a prominent architect in Atlanta in the early 20th century) and I studied his work. Seeing Jim’s work for the first time, I actually saw how through new construction the elements that were of similar detail to what Reid was doing back in the 1920s.”
Pylant shared just what is involved with the process of converting an ordinary house into an award winning home.
The project was requested by a repeat client of Historical Concepts who purchased the older home in Jupiter Island.
In regards to the creative process, the story and sensibility of Jupiter Island was the first thing to be examined. Its history lies in being a retreat for those from the Northeast who wished to enjoy the warmth and experience of Florida without necessarily being seen — from the likes of Katharine Hepburn in the past to present day residents like Celine Dion.
Due to the influence that Jupiter Island’s transient residents brought from the Northeast, the island developed its own vernacular of style — nothing ostentatious, just shingle-style, simple and subtle.
The current resident of the renovated home hails from the Northeast and wanted a summer home. The home itself was built in the 1930s and was considered to be a very simple house.
“Time was a key issue,” explains Pylant. “Sso we didn’t want to do anything too disruptive.”
“We wanted to maintain the shell and the great elements such as the staircase but the interior was taken down to the studs. We reworked the living areas so it would flow better and work better for today.”
Construction took around two years from the initial meeting to completion.
When restoring a house such as this, one wonders about the potential for obstacles. With the rules and regulations on Jupiter Island being so restrictive, it forced Historical Concepts to work within a very strict parameters. However restrictive and strict the regulations were at first actually turned out to be a blessing. By being limited what they were able to do, it focused them on integrating all the architectural influences from the area, thus keeping the character of the home intact but revitalized.
However, before any of these issues could be addressed, the home needed to be brought up to code — which meant raising the house in order to rebuild the foundation.
“The client wanted to move in as soon as possible and with the process of tearing down and rebuilding the house being a four to five year project, it was simply not an option,” expressed Pylant.
The exterior updates to the home, coupled with the landscape improvements that incorporate indigenous tropical materials, have brought back the grace and elegance of the past.
Pylant expressed that this is a “once in a while” project.
“I’m blessed to work on a project such as this — something of this nature. Having a client with the means to not only bring this house back to its former glory but also add to it, including the landscape, made for an incredible project,” Pylant said.
So what does the present and future for Historical Concepts?
At the moment, expansion throughout the Southeast and beyond is currently under way with home projects completed in Idaho, Sun Valley, Missouri, Maryland and into Long Island.
“Our clients have taken us there,” explains Pylant.
Studying precedent is one of the main facets to the company’s success, explains Pylant.
“Studying precedent in each area in which we work is one of the main facets to the company’s success. We like to actually go through, photograph and study the surroundings of each area we are proposed to work in order to study what would be a good fit.”
“We are country mice and its astounding to see where we have been able to work. You have to pinch yourself.”
Historical Concepts has worked with a multitude of media such as magazines Southern Living and Garden Gun, and the company has been involved with Southern Living’s Idea House program that included two homes in Senoia in recent years.
But it’s the old tried and true method of word of mouth that keeps their reputation sterling.
Historical Concepts has had quite a lot of involvement in Senoia, starting when the Senoia Downtown Development Authority hired the company in 2006 to come up with “design guidelines” for new construction and renovations in the historic district. The company did the design work on both Idea Houses, as well as the new downtown buildings at 42 and 48 Main Street, and is the designer for the Gin Project adjacent to downtown.
Amongst my praise for his work, without hesitation, Pylant makes a special point to note that Historical Concepts is a “we” company and not an “I.”
“There are so many, younger smarter folks that work here that make it happen,” expressed Pylant. “I’m only a part of this wonderful historical, team.”
Pylant is still very proud to call Newnan home Living just off the Court Square, he and his family enjoy the Sunday walks to First United Methodist Church. As the father of twin sons, they are also heavily involved in Boy Scouts.
However, when broached on the subject of pastimes and hobbies, Pylant admits that architecture still ranks high amongst his loves.
“When we travel, my wife gets onto me because we come back with photographs of architectural details with a few family pictures scattered in,” he chuckles.
“It’s more than just a job. There is a real love and passion for it.”