Past Hold Answers to Future
A Shotgun house for those of us not from the South is a long, narrow house usually no more than 12 feet wide with doors at either end. Very popular in New Orleans, the style can be found all over the South and as far away as Chicago, Key West and California. The houses were originally built by middle class folks, but eventually became a symbol of poverty by the middle of the 20th century.
There is a theory that the style can be traced from Africa to Haiti and then to the United States. It has a strong connection to the folklore of the South. Superstition says that ghosts and spirits are attracted to these box-like homes because they can pass directly through them. Some people purposely placed doors out of alignment to discourage spirits from passing through! The Shotgun gets its name from the idea that a shotgun blast could shoot straight through the house.The size and simplicity is attractive. From the porch you pass into the living room and then to the bedroom and then to the kitchen and bathroom at the back. Typically there is a back porch as well.
These houses are generally one story and raised above the ground 2 to 8 feet. There is also a Double-barrel Shotgun, which is basically a duplex or two separate Shotgun houses sharing a single common wall. The Camelback is a Shotgun with a second story built above the rear rooms of the structure. Both the front and back porches as sheltered under a roof.
Far away in Sydney, Australia architect James Fitzpatrick built his version of a Shotgun house on a narrow lot that allowed him just a little over 12 feet fence to fence. With a little more than 893 square feet to work with he had the added challenge of living on a busy street. He basically flipped the house around 180 degrees and accepted the fact that he'd enter his home from the carport instead of a gracious old fashioned porch. By doing this he blocked out the noise of the street.
The view I'm showing you is looking into the length of the unit from the entry side of the house towards the dining and kitchen space. Behind the kitchen wall is one of the bedrooms.
James uses state-of-the art equipment to coax his little space into offering sophisticated amenities. Notice his pioneer plasma TV and the fireplace created by using one of the burner units sold by EcoSmart fireplace. It is a compact burner that uses Denatured Ethanol, an environmentally friendly and renewable fuel. "Storage is a huge priority and you've just got to use every square millimeter of space."
The entry into the master bedroom is a bit unusual and required a walk through the bathroom that also doubles as a laundry. An under-counter type washing machine and clothes dryer combo is hidden under the lavatory counter. In the traditional Shotgun, you have to walk through the bedroom to reach the kitchen and bathroom. In both styles of the end user simply has to accept a couple of unorthodox traffic patterns.
When we look to our past there are hundreds of ideas about our built environment that worked once and can work again. The idea of a narrow little house is not new. Some architects working on the renewal of New Orleans have re-visited this style of house as an affordable replacement for destroyed homes. The model is still viable and attractive whether done in traditional style or ultra modern as shown here. There is new life ahead for the under-1,200-square-foot home both here in the U.S. and abroad. One of my readers actually took the trouble to look James Fitzpatrick up when they were traveling in Australia! James e-mailed me to let me know about his visitors from California! We are one small world, aren't we?