59 McGee Drive Bursting with Vibrancy and Coastal Charm
A renowned group of well-established talent joined to collaborate on the design and build of an exquisite coastal residence in an architecturally famed community along Northwest Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A corridor. Aptly named Bougainvillea, 59 McGee Drive boasts vibrant blooms along its white masonry walls. The residence epitomizes the luxury lifestyle found in Alys Beach. Renowned architect David Stocker of SHM Architect, known for his meticulous attention to bespoke detail and a passionate obsession for his craft in curating lifestyle, collaborated intimately with the homeowners on their vision and brought forth an inspiring Alys Beach show home. We had the pleasure of sitting down with David recently as he shared how the vision of Bougainvillea bloomed to life.
How did you discover 30A and specifically Alys Beach? Tell us about your first visits here.
DAVID STOCKER: My wife is from Jackson, Mississippi, so the Gulf Coast has been our preferred vacation spot for the past 32 years. We initially spent more time in the Gulf Shores area, but I was aware of Seaside and all the great work of Duany Plater-Zyberg. I convinced my wife that driving two additional hours eastward with a Suburban full of restless kids was going to be worth the effort. Of course, once you stay at a place like Seaside, the magic happens. You immediately feel the greatness of being in a place of beauty and community. I also began going to the annual Seaside Institute Town Planning Conferences. DPZ would often present the newest 30A projects that they were working on, so I had a chance to see the very beginnings of Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach. My first visit on site to Alys Beach was on vacation sometime in maybe 2007 or 2008. I fell in love with the whole look and feel (plus the coffee at Fonville Press, now Raw & Juicy) and really wanted to find a client to do a project there one day.
Having an established portfolio of designs along Scenic 30A, tell us about what makes Alys Beach so unique and notable for an architect.
DAVID STOCKER: I love the sense of permanence at Alys Beach. Storm or sunshine, it feels like its going to be there a long time. Its an incredible thing to require houses to be built with the methods required by the codes of Alys Beach. I remember staying in Seaside, when much of its construction was still being done, and having the sounds of construction be primarily the nail gun. With Alys Beach, the construction sound I hear is the sound of the trowel. I find comfort in architecture built for a thousand years. It makes me want to give every solid concrete wall a hug.
What were the original visionary elements and features that you wanted to bring to life in this project? What are the unique highlights
of this exceptional residence at 59 McGee Drive?
DAVID STOCKER: Alys Beach has a term they use which is “gift giving.” The gift, in this case, is really to the street and everyone and anyone who walks through Alys Beach. With this project, we are the end cap of a street of courtyard homes. We had the option of either internalizing or externalizing the courtyard, so we chose externalizing courtyard to the street as our “gift.” The home is a U-shape with inner part of the U looking onto the street. The site restrictions gave as the ability to have a lower courtyard and an upper pool courtyard. We liked the layering that gave to the house both in its aesthetics and intimacy — the lower court becoming very integrated with the street and the upper pool courtyard, with its partially see-through gate, more privatized to the house but with a slight tease of a peek through the gates. I recently stayed at the house, and my wife and I noted how many people drove by or rode by and stopped to take a picture. It seemed to me “that” was the gift of a memory that Alys Beach has in its vision.
How did you focus in on capturing the stunning defining elements of the community of Alys Beach?
DAVID STOCKER: With the courtyard open to the street, one of the defining elements was the trellis that stretches across the courtyard. In the end, the trellis, while subtle, becomes the location of the wonderful bougainvilleas, which, of course, gives the house its name. The other thing that the open court gave us was the wonderful natural light levels that we get throughout. I texted the owner on my recent stay of how the spaces just make you feel happy. It’s hard to be sad when you are surrounded with natural light and a beautiful view of Alys Beach.
What special particulars do you have to share with the future owners of the 59 McGee Drive?
Of course, I love all the physical beauty of Alys Beach and of our projects there.
That said, the most special particular to share is the metaphysics of the place. Beyond the mere physical, there exists something that at one time shaped the most beautiful cities of the world. Almost always, these cities were just built by the most common of man but with an understanding of this “something.” DPZ rediscovered this “something” by way of Christopher Alexander, Leon Krier and Jane Jacobs. The Stephens family saw the “something” in the land of along 30A. The town architects (Khoury Vogt) saw the “something” in designing and implementing the vision. Our owner saw the “something” in building the home and participating in the design. We saw the “something” in designing the “something” into the home. So, to the future owners, the “something” is now our gift to you. Use it well and pass it on.