The night Hurricane Katrina charged toward the coast, Jocelyn Turnbough left home to head inland with only the clothes on her back, expecting to return the next day. Over the decades she’d lived in the Gulf Coast town of Long Beach, Mississippi, she had seen storms come and go, most only knocking down a few trees. This time was different. A 20-foot storm surge and winds topping 150 miles an hour demolished the house her late husband had built decades earlier.
2 of 8Photo: Courtesy of Jocelyn Turnbough
Hurricane Katrina Destruction
When she was finally able to return days later, only a slab remained where her home once stood. “She wanted to start rebuilding immediately,” says her son Mitchell, an interior designer in New York. Even convincing her to come stay in New York for a few days after the storm was a difficult task. “I grew up nearby, appreciating this abundantly beautiful natural environment and accepting that hurricanes are a part of it,” says Jocelyn. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Pictured: Jocelyn Turnbough in the days after Katrina, standing on the slab where her house once stood.
So Jocelyn moved into an Airstream trailer on the property while Mitchell got to work on plans for a resilient house that would sit on the same plot of land where he was raised. With an eye to Caribbean design (for its hardiness in storms), as well as traditional Southern architecture (for its local significance), Mitchell envisioned a home that would reflect his mother’s love of spending time outdoors. The resulting 2,500-square-foot house features as much living space on its symmetrical wraparound porches as it does inside, plus a wading pool, fire pit, and pool house overlooking the Gulf.
For all that was lost to the storm, something important was gained. Privacy fences knocked down by Katrina were never rebuilt, strengthening friendships among neighbors. “Everybody had experienced the same thing and had similar losses. It created this enormously strong sense of community that continues to this day,” says Mitchell. “Now, my mother entertains or goes to dinners at some- one’s home every night, and I can barely keep up with her when I visit.”
Mitchell brings his children, ages 6 and 8, back to Long Beach each summer “to do everything I grew up doing,” he says. “We swim, we fish, and we take the boat out.” More than anything, they appreciate their renewed life on the coast. “Those of us who have built back are proud of what we’ve done and are focused on enjoying the present moment,” says Mitchell. Here, he shares lessons for building a strong and enduring family homeplace.
Pictured: This waterfront home is crafted of cement blocks, which were filled with concrete for stability and then sandblasted for texture.
4 of 8Photo: William Colgin
Give Walls Extra Strength
“I was never under any impression I would build a hurricane-proof house, but my intention was to build one that would put up a good fight,” says Mitchell. In lieu of a simple drywall finish indoors, for example, he used 8-inch Southern pine boards that run parallel to the outside blocks. “Fastening this wood to the interior framing creates extra reinforcement against wind and water,” says Mitchell.
Pictured: The French doors in the living room and throughout are designed to blow open during a storm surge and allow water to rush through, reducing stress on the walls.
The large dining table in the kitchen was constructed of scrap lumber from the build, and though it was intended to be a temporary solution, Jocelyn fell in love with it. “The room is just the right size for hosting drop-in visitors or informal card games,” she says. The floors are crafted of 18-inch heart pine boards coated in tung oil for a water-resistant finish.
Pictured: The hardware in the kitchen is marine-grade chrome.
6 of 8Photo: William Colgin
Make Room for Outdoor Entertaining
The house has 2,500 square feet of covered porches, equal to the home’s interior space. “The layout allows me to host a surprisingly large number of people without it feeling crowded,” says Jocelyn, “but when the house is not full of people, it doesn’t feel empty the way a bigger house might.” Though Gulf breezes are plentiful, ceiling fans throughout keep temperatures comfortable.
Pictured: The symmetrical wraparound porch has a traditional haint blue wood ceiling, which was screwed into place.
A petite pool house functions as a spot to slip into a swimsuit during a pool party or as sleeping quarters for overnight guests. The easy-to- maintain, long-lasting sandstone flooring continues through the wraparound porch and pool deck. The indoor/outdoor flooring and full-length French doors help the pool house connect to adjacent open-air living areas.
Pictured: The pool house’s sandstone flooring is water resistant. The walls are 8-inch painted Southern pine planks affixed horizontally to the cement-block frame.
8 of 8Photo: William Colgin
Upgrade to Marine Quality
“The roof framing was reinforced at its joints with gussets, and we drilled everything in with stainless steel screws,” Mitchell says. Visible on the underside of the eaves, the bolted gussets also add a layer of texture to the ceilings. A roof deck surrounding the cupola is encapsulated in the same fiber-glass used in boat construction.
Pictured: Glazed mahogany windows and doors offer expansive Gulf views from the cupola, which opens to a narrow wraparound roof deck.