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

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 we did 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.


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.

Lowcountry Architecture

This Lowcountry contemporary house is based on Lowcountry design principles. The large overhang keeps water off the walls and blocks the sun in the summertime. The one room wide house allows light and cross ventilation. The metal roof reflects the sun. The tabby foundation is a local material found in ruins just blocks from the house.

This Lowcountry contemporary house is based on Lowcountry design principles. The large overhang keeps water off the walls and blocks the sun in the summertime. The one room wide house allows light and cross ventilation. The metal roof reflects the sun. The tabby foundation is a local material found in ruins just blocks from the house.

Many new houses are designed in the Lowcountry style without considering the “why” behind the style. It is common to see large porches on the north façade, just because it is the front of the house. These porches are dank and block light from entering the house. Shutters are screwed to the house with no intention of ever protecting windows from a storm. The mass of the house can be so large there is no cross ventilation to cool the interiors or provide natural light on both sides of the room.

Early Lowcountry architecture evolved to respond to the unique characteristics of our hurricane-prone, hot, and humid climate.  Large porches on the south façade kept out the hot summer sun; large overhangs protected the walls and windows from rain and blocked the harsh sun; single width rooms provided cross ventilation and natural lighting; high ceilings kept the rooms cooler in the summertime; exterior window shutters provided protection from high winds; and a raised first floor protected the house from flood waters. You can follow these time-tested principles, which still make sense, and have an open modern floor plan that accommodates contemporary living.

Materials particular to the Lowcountry should be used instead of foreign materials. Have you noticed how completely out of place stone fireplaces and walls look since there is no stone in the Lowcountry? Instead, use brick, stucco, tabby, cypress and/or heart pine, which are all indigenous. Local clays made into bricks have a color palette that blends into the landscape. Cypress is naturally rot resistant and perfect for siding, soffits, and exterior trim. Reclaimed heart pine is beautiful and a sustainable choice for floors and interior cabinetry. Modern tabby is based on the local historic material of lime, sand, and oyster shells. Metal roofs reflect the hot sun and allow leaf trash to wash right off of the roof during our heavy rains.

Hurricanes, heat, and humidity are natural parts of our environment and the houses we design must respect this. Your house should respond to views, vegetation, wind, sun, and neighbors. Here in the South, our land defines us and our architecture. A house that recognizes its place seems to belong.  Many people move here because of the natural beauty of the landscape, so, work with it and create a home that is rooted in the Lowcountry landscape.




On the Boards

We are designing a major renovation for a house in Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island. The house sits on Broad Creek and the new owners want to be able to take better advantage of the gorgeous view.

Front Elevation detail

The exterior updates include new doors and windows, changing the columns and handrails, removing the arch above the front doors, adding a water feature and landscaping. The dormer windows will be changed so they are functional from the upstairs bedroom, they currently have a sill- height at about 5 ft!

3D elevation
rear before

The addition of a screen porch and roof terrace will give the family plenty of outdoor living space.  I bet they will spend more time here than anywhere else in the house!

First floor plan

The floor plan has been reconfigured to provide more of a connection between inside and out. We are removing nearly every interior wall and giving this dated home a major refresh! The large multi-slide doors between the living room and deck will make the space so much brighter and airier. 

Second floor plan

The fireplace surround will be a single stone slab, which will be a dramatic, modern and sleek look and a BIG contrast to the dated, faded paneling and built ins that is there now.

Site Selection

Jane recently received a call from a potential client who had very defined requirements; the property had to be high for Beaufort, South Carolina, on deep water, large enough for his antique Jaguar collection, and room for a baby grand piano.

Jane and Michael guided this client as he explored properties in Beaufort. Since the client lives in Philadelphia, Jane and Michael reviewed potential houses and vacant sites to determine if they were suitable. The first house the Fredericks reviewed was essentially a tear down and the asking sales price was too expensive for a tear down. They recommended that the client not pursue that property.

“Each of our custom home projects has a unique set of criteria that we have to incorporate,” Jane says. “With this one, one of the challenges was having all those cars.”

Then they reviewed a vacant lot on a 25 foot bluff on deep water, and that was the winner. Just enough room (and proper zoning) for three buildings - a house, a carriage house for the clients’ daily-used cars with a guest suite above, and a garage for his many antique cars.

Jane commends this client for seeking out an architect early on in the process.

“A lot of the times clients don’t think about hiring an architect before getting started on a project when we can offer valuable advice on investing in the right property,” she said.

Under Construction

We are all excited about the construction progress at the Factory Creek house. Howell Builders is doing a great job!

The garage and carriage house

It is exciting to see the form of the house taking shape, as the second floor framing goes up.

There is quite a nice view of Factory Creek from the second floor. 

Tom is checking out the window framing

Tom is checking out the window framing

This Palmetto Bluff House is almost finished.

The Berkeley Hall project is almost completed, too.

Kitchen Trends

contemporary kitchen

Kitchens are trending more contemporary according to the Kitchen & Bath Business (KBB) research. Some of the trends are great looking, but are they practical for your lifestyle? One hot trend is floating shelves instead of wall cabinets. They look cool if you have attractive coordinating dishes, but, not so cool with peanut butter jars and chip bags. Open shelves also collect dust and grease so there is additional cleaning. Another is no wall cabinets, which works if there is a large pantry close by to house the misplaced items.

waterfall countertop

Kitchen islands are becoming the focal point in the room. Waterfall countertops are stylish and add drama to the island. Dropped island counters for chairs instead of raised for bar stools is on the rise. A combination of counter materials, such as quartz and wood, is chic.

Some trends are driven by the desire for low maintenance such as slab cabinet doors, large format tile backsplashes and engineered quartz countertops. The flat smooth cabinet doors are easy to clean since they do not have anywhere for dust and dirt to accumulate. Likewise, large tiles have less grout for cleaner lines. Engineered quartz has the beauty of natural stone and is almost indestructible. It is also non-absorbent, so there are no worries about stains.

kitchen island designed as furniture

KBB reports that side-by-side refrigerators are on the decline and French door with bottom freezers are the most popular because of the large width for eyelevel refrigeration. Completely separate refrigerators and freezers are gaining popularity. We have also noted a preference for additional point of use undercounter refrigerators next to salad and bar sinks. French door ovens and side opening ovens are new on the market. They can make the kitchen more accessible when mounted at counter height. Many of the appliance companies are now offering a darker stainless steel, often called slate or black stainless steel, which is perfect for the trend in gray colored kitchens.

island as furniture

Trash compactors are almost obsolete, and warming drawers are on the decline. Built-in coffee stations are “meh” for our clients who think it is just one more built-in item that would need repairs. The hot new appliance is a convection steam oven. They can cook in multiple modes, steam only, convection only, or a combination of steam and convention. The steam oven cooks vegetables to be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It is great for defrosting and reheating leftovers. The steam oven cooks more quickly at a lower temperature. The combination setting is perfect for meats by keeping them moist and tender.