Residential architects who specialize in the hot, humid, southern climate

Custom Furniture Design

custom walnut headboard

Did you know that we design custom furniture? We designed this walnut headboard that is book-matched with curly maple insets. It was made by Michael Sanders with Sanders' Woodworks  Below is a close up of the headboard.

custom walnut headboard
iron & marble tables

We designed this pair of matching foyer tables with scrap slabs of marble.

Sometimes you need a skinny table that is just the right size. This is a steel table we designed that Pender Brothers made for us.

Sometimes you need a skinny table that is just the right size. This is a steel table we designed that Pender Brothers made for us.

big table

Likewise, a really big table to feed a crowd outdoors is pretty nice, too. Pender Brothers made the base for this granite top table.

large custom outdoor dining table
corrugated table

This funky corrugated metal coffee table is perfect in a corrugated metal Quonset  hut.

Best practices to mitigate stormwater runoff

Here is an example of a rain garden that Thomas Angell, of Verdant Enterprises, designed for the Cole Residence.

Here is an example of a rain garden that Thomas Angell, of Verdant Enterprises, designed for the Cole Residence.

In David Lauderdale’s interview with Al Segars in last Sunday’s paper, Al said that we need to “go above and beyond. See that your homeowners’ association maintains it storm-water retention ponds so they function as promised.” You can read Lauderdale's article here.

Beaufort County has a storm-water runoff management ordinance for new single family houses in unincorporated areas of the county that are not in an approved community storm-water runoff system and single family houses that are renovated in excess of 50% of the appraised value of the building. The ordinance requires the mitigation of the storm-water within the property limits.

For the rest of us, we should all go above and beyond by reducing the amount of storm-water on our properties that needs to be mitigated. The easiest way to reduce runoff is by reducing the amount of impervious surfaces on the property. This includes: using gravel or pervious pavers for your drive; and limiting the amount of patios and terraces or paving them with pervious pavers.

The best management practice is to collect and store the rainwater for reuse or slow infiltration. There are two options for collecting rainwater; either a rain barrel or a cistern. Both are connected to your gutters and downspouts. A rainbarrel is used to collect water for use in your garden. Be sure that the rainbarrel has a cover so that it is not a mosquito nursery. A cistern is larger and is the storage tank portion in a complete rainwater harvesting system that filters and stores water for any normal household use. If the water is to be used for potable needs it must go through additional filtration and water purification.

Another option is a raingarden which is a shallow bowl shaped depression of loose absorbent soils that is planted with deep-rooted native perennials and grasses. The runoff slowly soaks into the ground and reduces the amount of runoff entering our marshes and rivers. The design of the rain garden should be incorporated with the entire garden design. According to Garden Design Magazine rain gardens can help reduce storm-water waste by up to 99 percent.

The county has a very easy to use on-line worksheet that calculates how much runoff needs to be mitigated.  To determine the total excess runoff to be mitigated you will need to know the following information before you begin: the square footage of your roof; the square footage of other impervious areas; the square footage of your lot; your soil type, sandy or clayey; and the area of your lot that is irrigated. You next enter the number and size of storage and reuse systems want to use. The worksheet then computes the natural infiltration capacity of the lot to control runoff. If the first two practices do not control all of the rainwater, the worksheet determines the size of a raingarden to capture all of the runoff.

Jane receives her ASID credentials

palecek bar stool

In order to better serve our clients, Jane recently received her American Society of Interior Designers credentials. This is an advantage for our clients in multiple ways. 

As an architect, Jane brings a integrative approach to interior design. Sometimes architects focus on the "architecture" of the building without thinking about how you live in the spaces. She is always studying our designs for how usable and functional they are. How can the flow of the space enhance your life and how will the room be furnished because an unfurnishable space is wasted space. 

Providing interior design services in-house creates a seamless transition between the architecture and the furnishing of the home. As we design the house we are also designing the interiors.

As a design professional, we receive "to the trade" discounts which we pass on to our clients. 

Finally, whether the client needs help finding a few additional pieces of furniture, or everything from art to window treatments working with the same team from day one to moving day simplifies the process making life easier.

Trends and Timeless Design

Hilton Head Long cove house

I recently was at the High Point furniture market and starting chatting with a woman at the shuttle stop. She told me that she is a trend spotter. I asked her what the new trends are. She was very coy and said that she could not tell me. But she said that gray is passé and subway tiles are horribly out of fashion. She expounded by saying that anything that you see a lot of - is already old news.

Maybe being a trend setter is not desirable. A friend of mine is friends with a New York-based trend setter. He describes her as looking completely strange and out of place, because she is wearing a look before anyone else. Think about the first people who wore ripped jeans as a style and we all thought they needed to throw out that pair of worn out jeans.

Hopefully, this isn’t spreading “old news” but I did spot some trends at the High Point market. First was the color blue. It was everywhere and in every shade. Sherwin Williams has announced their 2018 color of the year as “Oceanside,” which they describe as a collision of rich blue with jewel toned green.  The other popular color was a pale pink. Organic shapes and patterns were on everything. Texture was popular on furniture and fabrics. Bright brass hardware is back and furniture pulls are big and flashy.

One of the most innovative products I saw was Crypton fabric. This performance fabric is indestructible, yet looks and feels great. I saw a demonstration where the sales rep poured red wine on a piece of white Crypton fabric and it wiped right off. Residential textile brands that offer Crypton frabics are Thibaut, Kravet and Robert Allen Duralee Group.

I agree with Caroline Herrera who said, “I don’t like trends. They tend to make everyone look the same.” The opposite of trendy is timeless. My discussion with my shuttle companion turned to timeless design. She said that when a house is integrated with the landscape it becomes timeless because it belongs to it’s place. I agreed especially since site specific designs are what we do.

This project in Long Cove on Hilton Head Island was built on the last waterfront lot. It was full of beautiful live oaks and most people thought it was unbuildable because of the trees. We nestled the house among the trees and all the neighbors were amazed that we didn’t remove a single tree from the lot. You can see more photos here.

Long cove House hilton head

Colors of the Year

Photo provided by Sherwin Williams

Photo provided by Sherwin Williams

Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore Paints have both announced their Color of the Year for 2018. Earlier Pantone predicted that the new palettes for 2018 will be intense colors and this holds true for the two colors selected thus far. 

Sherwin Williams describes their color Oceanside “as a collision of rich blue with jewel-toned green, a color that is both accessible and elusive. A complex, deep color that offers a sense of the familiar with a hint of the unknown.  Blues are universally perceived as intelligent, honest and interesting - making blue the most beloved color worldwide.”

Ellen O’Neill, of Benjamin Moore said, “Caliente is the signature color of a modern architectural masterpiece; a lush carpet rolled out for a grand arrival; the assured backdrop for a book-lined library; a powerful first impression on a glossy front door. The eye can’t help but follow its bold strokes. Harness the vitality.”

Photo supplied by Benjamin Moore

Photo supplied by Benjamin Moore

Before and After

It is not often that we have the opportunity to work on one house many times. We designed Shrimp Pond house in 2000 for a client from Chicago. He sold the house and in 2014 the new owners hired us to design the  Shrimp Pond studio found here.

Spring Island Shrimp Pond House

This year we re-did the front porch. We removed the gable wall on the porch, replaced the doors with wood and glass doors and added a new window in the gable. It looks so much better - it made us ask..What were we thinking when we designed the house initially? The original house is below.


We also redesigned the master bath last year, that project can be found here.

Help! How do I choose the right paint color?

master bedroom in blue and gray

Painting a room is the cheapest and easiest way to update a space. The most difficult part of the process may be deciding on the color. The options seem to be endless and can be overwhelming. For success in choosing the best color follow these seven steps.

1.       Don’t pick the color first. The paint color should be determined by the furnishings in the room. A large piece of art, an oriental rug or a fantastic fabric should be the inspiration for the wall color. Choose a color in the inspiration item that will highlight the piece. The goal is to create a visually harmonious space. The eye blends colors so the color does not need to match exactly but it should coordinate pleasantly.

2.       Think about the 60 -30-10 rule when choosing the wall color. One color should be sixty percent of the room. This is often the walls and rug. Thirty percent is the secondary color and ten percent is an accent color. These colors can be drawn from the inspiration item. Don’t forget to consider all the finishes in the room including the wood in floors and furniture and metals in light fixtures. Rooms with large windows have the landscape as an additional color.

3.       Use the paint manufacturer’s paint fan deck to narrow down the shade options. Often it is difficult to determine the undertones of lighter colors. Look at the darkest color on the strip to see the undertone color.

4.       Get single color paint chips to compare with the inspiration item. The hues look different when they are not next to the colors in the fan deck. Also remember that a bright color on a small chip will be intensified as it gets larger.

5.       Paint one or more test colors on large test boards to view in the room. The advantage of test boards is that you can view them on all the walls and one at the time. The quality of the natural light will affect how the paint is perceived. Live with the test samples at least twenty-four hours to see how the paint looks at different times of the day. Warm colors are often used for rooms facing north and cool colors in rooms facing south or west.

6.       Remember the ceiling, it does not have to be the standard ceiling white. Painting the ceiling 50% lighter than the wall color is a good rule of thumb.

7.       Finally, do not approach color in a vacuum. Consider the progression through the house and make sure the color changes are coherent.

Under Construction


We have some great projects under construction. Benjie went out today to see the house in Port Royal Plantation being demo'ed. This project started as a small remodel, but after Hurricane Matthew last year, they decided to rebuild. Benjie described the partially demolished house as looking like a cake with a slice out of it. 


Factory Creek House

The Factory Creek House is progressing very nicely. Framing is complete and siding is being installed on the garage and carriage house. 


Fripp Island Renovation

The owners of this Fripp Island house were able to breathe a sigh of relief after Hurricane Irma. Had we not raised the house out of the flood plain, it would have been flooded. They were also fortunate in that the impact glass windows were already installed. 


Adhering to building codes decreases damage from hurricanes

Our clients on Fripp Island invested in complying to the building code by raising the first floor by about 6 feet. Flood waters were reported to have been up to 4’ under their house, which would have certainly flooded their house prior to raising it. 

Our clients on Fripp Island invested in complying to the building code by raising the first floor by about 6 feet. Flood waters were reported to have been up to 4’ under their house, which would have certainly flooded their house prior to raising it. 

Have you seen the photographs of Florida neighborhoods showing houses devastated by Irma next to intact houses? The difference is the intact houses were built to the current building code. After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992, the Florida Building Code underwent significant revisions. The success of those changes was apparent during the 2004 hurricanes of Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne. Structural damage due to wind was minor in buildings built to the new code but rain entry became an issue. After the 2004 hurricane season, control of rainwater entry became a priority.

The codes adopted for use in South Carolina, the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC), incorporate the wind, rain, and flood aspects of the Florida Building Code. This includes the following:

·         Keep the building from blowing away by tying the building together from the roof rafters to the foundation and designing to withstand wind shear.

·         The windows and doors need to be impact rated or otherwise protected from flying objects.

·         The exterior finishes should be securely fastened to the structure to resist the hurricane winds.

·         Keep the rain out by flashing all windows, doors and other penetrations.

·         Drain the water away from the building.

·         Elevate the building above the flood plain.

·         Build with material that tolerate soaking.

·         Design the exterior walls to easily dry when they become wet.

It is common to hear someone lamenting, contractors add an upcharge because I live in “NAME ANY DEVELOPMENT IN BEAUFORT COUNTY”. This is not true. It costs more to build in Beaufort County because building to meet the code for hurricanes costs more.

We are fortunate that Beaufort County and our local municipalities building departments are very strict in enforcing the IBC and IRC. This is not true in all communities. We were talking with a contractor for a project on St. Simons Island, Georgia and mentioned that we would use impact glass. He said, “Well, we don’t use impact glass very often. We usually just have plywood cut to fit the windows for the building inspector and then we reuse the plywood on the next job.”

Through stringent adherence to the building codes, the destruction from hurricanes can be reduced. The goal is expressed best by City Manager Jim Scholl of Key West when he was interviewed about his experience during Irma on NPR Wednesday morning. Scholl said that he rode out the storm in city hall which is a brand new building built to the Florida Building Code and they did not have any damage to the building. They were fine. Everybody here, myself and my team felt very safe.

Some fun lights we are using

school of light.jpg

We love finding unique, interesting, gorgeous, inspired lighting for our clients. Here are a few favorites from a current project. We cannot wait to see them in the finished spaces.

 Lucci Argentati, School of Light  by Terzani makes a graceful statement over the dining table. The owner is an angler, and the School of Light is a nod to his interests, without being too obvious.


Terzani’s Mizu, Flowing Light features droplets of light encased in handmade crystal shapes. The staircase will be illuminated with interesting water-like light refractions.


Guests will be surprised and delighted by The Caravaggio Triptych in the powder room. Three different hand gestures drawn from Caravaggio paintings support glass forms that are lit with hidden LEDs.


The interior elevation of the stair hall shows placement of the Mizu and the three Rings by Global Lighting. One ring provides illumination for the piano, and the other two at the base of the stairs add a dramatic touch.

Lighting Your House

gallery lighting and step lights

Have you ever had the experience of arriving for a visit at someone’s house and the porch light wasn’t on? We end up wondering, ‘Are they expecting me?’ Let’s say it turns out that they are expecting you and you are ushered into a kitchen to chat under bright lights and then into a dining room that is somewhat dim.

Contrast this to pulling into a well-lit space on the driveway and following a path of attractive footlights up to a front porch that has a welcoming glow. Inside, sofas and chairs bathed in the glow of nearby lamps as well as some ambient lighting from above. When you step into the kitchen to help the chef, task lighting eases your vegetable chopping. Upon being invited into the dining room, the chandelier is the centerpiece over a dining room table on which the crystal and china seem simply lit up. Wondering how this has been accomplished, you notice two spotlights shining down onto the table from the ceiling, adding luster to the scene.

The cues we get from lighting color our experiences. In the first scenario, the impressions are: unclear, harsh, enigmatic. In the second, all seems arranged for your pleasure and comfort.

But let’s say you are working on a task one evening and entertaining the next. We like to use layering of the lights to achieve the desired effect. This way you are able to use ambient lighting so you can see to get through a room, task lighting for just those areas where you need it, ‘jewelry’ lighting like chandeliers for special occasions, and spotlighting to heighten the attention or effect. They can be used separately or in combination, particularly on special occasions.

Now, let’s say you’ve figured out or worked with a lighting designer to determine how to get just the right combination of lighting for a dinner party. That can be programmed into a control panel, as can several other lighting combinations. Then, it’s just the press of a button on a control panel or iPad to get the same arrangement again. Of course, we still like to have traditional switches on the wall so that visitors or grandparents will know how to work the lights.

gallery lighing

Most of our local houses have large windows to take advantage of the great views of the Lowcountry landscape. Without the proper landscape lighting the windows become black mirrors at night creating a boxed in feel. Layering light in the garden connects you to the outside even at night by visually expanding the interior space.  It is important to remember that you are not recreating daylight, but a dynamic composition to enliven the outdoor room. 

Like interior lighting, you want to use different levels of lighting in your garden.  Task lighting is used for grilling or reading. These lights are typically down lights and should be switched separately from the other exterior lights. Ambient lighting is indirect lighting that softens shadows.  Accent lights provide depth and dimensions and should be used sparingly.  Finally decorative lighting is the finishing touch welcoming you to the house.

Lighting is essential to being able to use your house in multiple ways and create the appropriate atmosphere for the occasion.

On the boards

We have a new project on St Simons Island. The client read Jane's blog post on dogtrots and vernacular architecture, and recognized the Shackleford family name from her own family tree! Turns out she and Jane are third cousins! We've had great fun getting to know them and designing their beach house.

To present our preliminary design, we began with the elevation drawings and floor plans. Then we showed them the design in virtual reality. At this early phase, it is so helpful for the client to experience the design in virtual reality. With a clearer visualization of the spaces and design elements, the client can make a confident decision to move ahead, or to move in a different direction. In this case, we are moving full steam ahead, with a few changes.

We've moved away from the traditional two dimensional elevation drawings in favor of three dimensional elevations. They are more informative, and more fun to draw! 

With so much coverage of the lot, storm water drainage is a concern. We have proposed several rain gardens to remedy this issue. Guests would park along Seventh Street and be lead through the peaceful entry garden to the front door. 


The front entry separates the master suite from the public living spaces. The indoor and outdoor living areas are open and spacious, with a more enclosed living room for a cozy feel. 

The views from the roof terrace will be spectacular!

The ground floor has storage for kayaks and bicycles off the garage.

The exterior fireplace will be finished with tabby.