ORGANIC TEXTURES THAT SING
While the Southern Coast offers a bounty of organic materials from which to draw visual inspiration and structural soundness, Jeffrey Dungan, a Birmingham, Alabama-based architect, loves working with pecky cypress — so much so that he even created his office foyer out of it. Pecky cypress, also known as swamp cypress and bald cypress, is symbolic of Southeastern coastal style.
It’s naturally resistant to decay, taking on unique grain patterns thanks to the conditions in which it grows, primarily in marsh and swamp. Its “pecks,” or divots, are thanks to a naturally-occurring fungus that disappears after the trees are harvested, often from waterbeds. Architects and designers love using it for paneling, trim work, flooring, doors and accents because of its rustic elegance. “It has what I call a wonderful nonchalance,” says Dungan.
Rokicki adds, “It can feel old, rustic and traditional, but in different contexts, it can feel super modern, clean and be a great counterpoint.”
Bradley Odom, an Atlanta-based designer and owner of Dixon Rye, is currently working on a home where the entire ceiling is made of pecky cypress that had been shellacked. He’s stripping it back to its original beauty and rawest state, and using it to inform the rest of the design. “Pecky cypress is storied in itself,” he notes. “It’s a go-to material if the architect hadn’t already placed it in a home because it has so much character. I love to use it for something unexpected like a daybed paired with a sumptuous covered cushion.”
For a lighter, more Mediterranean element, designers and architects sometimes turn to cut coral, which is very similar in look and feel to limestone; however, it’s light, textural, and extremely porous. It often allows organic material to accumulate in the pores. Rokicki loves the organic nature of it. “Every piece is different, and you can see imprints of plants, shells and fossils in it. It’s suited for a Mediterranean or even Caribbean feel,” he explains.