Lowcountry creek

Renovation on St. Helena

This house sits on a fabulous lot overlooking Chowan Creek on St. Helena Island, but could use some improvements. The plan is choppy and the kitchen is small. The outdoor living spaces are disjointed. Our plan opens the living, dining, kitchen areas and creates a pantry/mudroom space by adding on a master suite.

Existing First Floor Plan

New First Floor Plan

Existing Second Floor Plan

New Second Floor Plan

Site Plan


Pond at Auldbrass

Auldbrass

Auldbrass pool

We had the pleasure of attending the Beaufort County Open Land Trust’s biannual tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Auldbrass Plantation, in Yemassee, South Carolina. It was a real treat to see this property. It has been so lovingly cared for, both in restoration of the original construction and in fruition of many of Wright’s plans that were never realized by the original owner.

The property is Frank Lloyd Wright’s only “plantation,” which in this case means that it is a sprawling compound with multiple outbuildings, barns and pastures. All the buildings are unassuming from the exterior, designed to fit into the landscape of large live oaks and a cypress pond. In fact, the buildings are famously devoid of right angles, the exterior walls angled to mimic the monstrous oaks that surround them.

There are a number of other design elements that reflect the locale. The Auldbrass symbol which is cut out of the clerestories throughout the house is said to be representative of the Yemassee Indians in a boat. The copper downspouts are sculptural homages to the spanish moss that drips from the oaks all around. The plan of the main house is regionally appropriate, designed to lessen the heat gain in the hot, humid climate.

Wright’s signature Cherokee red is prevalent, from the gravel (which we were told is painted to match now!) to the custom cars that Wright commissioned.

See an older post about our visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broad Margin” house in Greenville, South Carolina by following this link.


December Construction Update

December Construction Progress

Fripp Island

The beach front house on Fripp Island is going up! Second floor walls and ceiling are being framed and the sheathing is being installed. Remember when this house was on the boards (click link to see the preliminary design)? We made some changes from that original design, which is very typical of how we work; always morphing the design to fit the clients needs, wants, and budget.

 

St. Simons Island

The house on St. Simons Island is getting pretty close to completion and is looking fantastic! Benjie visits the site once a month, since it is farther from our office than most of our projects that we visit weekly. The fireplace photo is from last month, there has been more progress, but the photo from last month was better. How gorgeous is that bookmatched quartzite stone??

 

St. Helena Island Renovation

A major renovation is under way on St. Helena's Island, see this project on the boards here.

Got to love a good dog on the job site!

 

 


3D drawing lowcountry cottage

On the Boards- Lowcountry Cottage

There is something very satisfying about a compact and efficient cottage, especially here in the lowcountry where most of us would rather be outside most of the time. This little house will serve as a guest cottage with rental potential after the owners build a bigger place on their land. It's really got everything you need though, and with all those solar panels on a house that is just over 800 square feet, you can bet it'll be net-zero!

The clients on this project are interested in using hempcrete, which is a lightweight, cementitious insulating material made from the stalks of hemp plants and lime. We are still learning about hempcrete, but it seems like a wonder-product. The raw materials are renewable, it sequesters carbon, it insulates well. We are very intrigued, and will report back about the practicality of using it.

 


Cane Island House

Our latest project on the boards is a new house on Cane Island, right down the road from our office. The clients requested a light filled spaces and clean lines. They like lowcountry style, but want a more contemporary take on the tradition. The inspiration photos they shared with us featured symmetrical elevations. Because the lot is fairly tight, we couldn't achieve perfect symmetry. We chose to bring this element in with "local symmetry" instead.

These are the drawings for the Cane Island House. The site plan is where we start, then we create floor plans and elevations, along with a large pile of balled-up tracing paper in the recycling bin.


master bathroom

Master Bath renovation

Before & After

Here is a master bath renovation that we completed a couple of years ago in the Shrimp Pond house. The Shrimp Pond house is at Spring Island, South Carolina. We designed the house in the 90's, then new owners hired us for the Shrimp Pond Studio addition and for a remodel of the master bath.

See the side-by-side comparisons in this master bath renovation:

Shower:

The addition of the round window in the shower and the new tile make it so much brighter and prettier.

Vanity:

master bath floating vanity

The floating vanity gives the space a contemporary feel. It's a cleaner aesthetic, and easier to clean too!

Tub:

free standing tub

The tub area is updated by swapping the drop in tub for a free standing tub, new tile and loosing that dated brick accent wall.


Rooftop Solar in South Carolina

The state legislature passed a bill this week that signals a win for rooftop solar in South Carolina! It's called the SC Energy Freedom Act. The bill will allow the expansion of the solar market, both large scale and for residential installations.

Solar panels on custom spring island house
This house on Spring Island has a 10.50 kW solar array

In 2014, a state law passed that made South Carolina a viable market for solar power by enacting tax credits and net-metering requirements. To appease the power companies, the 2014 law included restrictions (or caps) on the amount of rooftop solar allowed in the service areas of SCE&G (now Dominion Energy) & Duke Power. These caps were reached this Spring. Without the bill that passed this week, the solar market would have collapsed in SC because net-metering would no longer have the same benefits.

What is Net-metering?

Net-metering is the process by which a home with rooftop solar sells excess energy to the utility company, and draws energy from the grid when the solar system is not producing energy (like at night). The customer will always have electricity, provided the grid is functioning properly. The new legislation requires that the utility companies buy power from customers producing excess energy at the same rate that they sell to consumers.

What about battery storage for solar energy?

Batteries like the Tesla Powerwall can be connected to solar panels to store excess energy. At times when the solar panels are not producing energy, the consumer can tap into the energy stored in the battery. These batteries are really cool, but they may not be practical for the average consumer. They are expensive and one battery probably does not have the capacity to power a whole house. The technology is rapidly advancing, and battery backup may soon be a more practical option. We have a number of clients who have installed solar connected batteries in order to keep essential appliances and lights on in the event of power failure. In our hurricane prone area, I think this approach is smart. Often, the days following a major storm are sunny, but it may take utility companies days to weeks to restore power. A house with a solar array + battery would be sitting pretty!

Two Tesla Powerwall2 batteries at a recent project
Two Tesla Powerwall2 batteries at a recent project

Net-metering is an essential piece of the growth of solar power in South Carolina. I congratulate the legislators that championed this bill. Alternative, renewable energy will continue to be a sound choice for South Carolinian's; both for our wallets and for our environment!


Bathroom Trends 2019

Accessibility

The American Institute of Architects’ most recent home design research focused on bathroom trends. The findings report that 62% of new and remodeled projects have larger showers that are designed for easy accessibility. This includes a shower seat, a curbless entrance and grab bars. As a result, manufacturers are responding to the increase in the demand for grab bars with great looking options. Standalone showers without a separate bathtub continue to increase in popularity. Homeowners are only installing bathtubs as a personal choice and not in response to future resale.

 

Luxury curbless shower with mosaic tile
Here is a large curbless shower in a recent project with a seamless transition from bathroom to shower.

Technology in the bathroom??

When shopping for plumbing fixtures it appears that smart toilets are the wave of the future. But the research shows that the demand is not there. Only 13% of respondents reported an increase in requests for these easy cleaning, one-piece toilets with heated seats, Bluetooth technology and foot-warmers. I am certain that the high price tag is reason enough for the low demand. The list price of Kohler’s top of the line smart toilet is eight thousand dollars (Kohler Numi)!

Design Styles

The web based company Houzz.com also conducts consumer research and reports that contemporary design is the most popular style for bathrooms followed by transitional design. Over 60 % of homeowners match the finishes of the faucets, hardware, bath accessories and light fixtures. Brushed or satin nickel are the most popular, followed by polished chrome. Oil-rubbed bronze is losing popularity and might soon join avocado appliances in the graveyard of dated finishes. Since 2016 the specification of oil-rubbed bronze finishes has dropped by 40%.

In master bathrooms, double under-mount sinks continue reign supreme. Houzz reports that vessel sinks popularity grew 50% since 2016. This is not consistent with our clients who find vessel sinks difficult to use and clean around.

Master bathroom with undermount sinks and custom walnut cabinetry
Undermount sinks for bathrooms and kitchens remain very popular for a sleek look and easy cleaning.

Tile Trends

Tile shapes and patterns are making strong appearances with hexagons, large-format shapes, mosaics (like the gorgeous mosaic in the photo of the first shower), herringbones, and chevron patterns. Full accent walls of decorative tiles that spill down on the shower floor are replacing horizontal strips of deco tiles.

Decorative tiled wall makes a luxurious statement in this master bath
The curved, tiled wall makes a statement and separates the walk-in shower from the tub

Finally, LED back-lit mirrors are all the rage in contemporary bathrooms.  They provide the perfect light for applying makeup or shaving. The mirrors are anti-fog and easily cleaned.

Bathrooms can be a great place to make a design statement, and while I've titled this post bathroom trends, these design elements have staying power.

You may enjoy our previous post on the hottest trends in kitchen design too!


Sketch to site- Spring Island

It's always really exciting to watch our designs come to life. Here are a few elevation watercolors from way back at the schematic design phase of this Spring Island house, paired with photos during construction. See the house from sketch to site!

Exterior

 

front entry Spring Island Architecture

A unique and gracious entry, well executed by Esposito Construction.

Spring Island front entry

FoyerCustom stair, lowcountry SPring ISland Architecture

custom stair lowcountry architecureWe used "Subway Stone" from Lowountry Pavers for the foyer floor and in various hardscape applications. We love the unique shape of the pavers!
kitchen concept, lowcountry Spring Island architecture
Custom Kitchen, Spring Island South Carolina

 


On the boards with House in Colleton River Club

Here are preliminary design sketches of a new house in Colleton River Club in Bluffton, South Carolina. The owners requested zen-like spaces with lots of natural light and good airflow.We begin every project with an analysis of the site and a site plan. It is critical to correctly place the house to take advantage of prevailing breezes, sun angles and the views. The sun path diagram allows us to consider the sun angles at different times of the year.

Site Plan colleton river houseElevation colleton river

 

interior elevation

 

Interior View