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

Good Design Can Lead to Better Health

traditional kitchen palmetto bluff

Did you know that a white kitchen can make you eat more? Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, published his research on kitchen designs in his book, “Slim By Design.” His research discovered that white- and cream-colored kitchens agitate us and cause us to eat too much, too quickly.

More and more architects are looking at research that measures how design affects our health and happiness. A recent study by Susan Rodiek analyzed the implications of well-designed outdoor spaces on the health of older adults. The research confirms that time spent outdoors creates health benefits such as better sleeping patterns, less pain, better recovery from disability, and even increased longevity. Important outdoor features identified in her research included high accessibility, clear indoor-outdoor connections, safe paving, good maintenance, and comfortable seating areas.

outdoor living

Natural light and restful views are critical to our well-being. Being in day-lit spaces has many positive effects — research shows children learn better and our psychological health is enhanced. Richard Stevens found that the natural 24-hour cycle of light and dark helps maintain alignment of circadian biological rhythms to help our bodies function normally. Certain types of artificial nighttime lighting, he found, can adversely affect our health.

Do you love the water? Mathew White’s research confirmed that a view of water (even a functioning fountain) decreases stress levels and restocks mental energy.

The color temperature of light also effects us. Martine Knoop’s study showed that we are more relaxed and creative in warm light. Cooler lights are more energizing, so for a better workout, put 5,000K light bulbs in your exercise room.

mud room

Abundant storage is a common request from our clients, because it seems we naturally sense what Rachel Kaplan has proven: visual clutter is stressful. Kaplan found that visual clutter creates anxiety and can impede the function of the space. In the kitchen, Wansink determined that people with cluttered countertops ate 44 percent more snack food. Likewise, he found that a raised counter in the kitchen that hides the sink and prep dishes from the table creates a more enjoyable meal.

Good design does matter and some architecture may, over time, produce the same health benefits as meditation. But, according to Dr. Julio Bermudez, with much less effort by the individual.

See the story in the Beaufort Gazette here

Shrimp Pond Studio Addition

Spring Island

This home was originally designed by Frederick + Frederick about 15 years ago. The new owners contacted us last year to design a studio, renovate the existing guest house, and create more outdoor space. The original guest house was designed for a golf foursome with two separate guest suites and an exterior stairwell. The guest house now has an interior stair that mimics that original staircase in the main house, a sitting room, kitchenette and 2 guest rooms. We added a small studio building which creates a courtyard and houses the client's hobbies. There are custom shoji screen sliding doors to separate the two spaces, made of 3Form and river-recovered cypress. Michael designed several pieces of furniture to coordinate, all made of the same cypress, with live edge walnut slabs used as a desk top and vanity top. 


Before the Addition

Design for the Addition and Renovation

Here is the courtyard after the addition

Cast Your Home in a Flattering Light

Lighting can make a big difference in your home. A stunning chandelier and the perfectly located accent light both add beauty and drama to a space. Residential lighting is best when a variety of light sources provide the necessary illumination for daily activities and complements your lifestyle. 

There are five types of lighting that, when layered, provide usable light for day-to-day activities. Remember, all spaces might not need all types of lights.


This is the gentle, overall lighting for a room. This light fills a room with a warm glow. The nicest ambient light comes from an indirect light source that is bounced off the ceiling. Cove lighting, ceiling-mounted lights, pendants, recessed cans, track lights and wall sconces are fixtures that provide ambient lighting.


This is lighting that illuminates the area where you are working or reading. These fixtures include under cabinet lights, recessed lights and portable reading lights.


This type is the dramatic light. These lights highlight works of art, give depth to a room or  wash over interesting textures in your home. Recessed adjustable ceiling fixtures, track lighting and uplights are types commonly used for accent lighting.


I call this type “eye candy.” The main purpose of decorative lighting is to look pretty. Most chandeliers and some wall sconces are for decoration. These fixtures should not be too bright or they will overpower other design elements of the space.


This light comes straight from Mother Nature. Windows, light tubes and skylights give great light during the day and can reduce the need for electrical lighting.

I like to incorporate the following lighting scenarios in almost all of my projects.

• In bathrooms, do not place a wall-mounted fixture over the mirror. It will cast harsh shadows and prematurely age you. Instead, use two wall sconces mounted on either side of the mirror. The fixtures should be at eye level, which is generally 5 feet above the finished floor. Tall narrow fixtures accommodate most family members.

• The traditional design for bedside reading lights is a wall-mounted, swing-arm fixture that should be mounted at the right height for actual reading. A better solution is two recessed, adjustable LED ceiling fixtures located over the bed. The lamps should have a tight beam spread, such as a MR-16 ESW. The fixture on the right should be aimed at the left side of the bed and vice versa to prevent your head from casting a shadow on your book. The switches should be located accordingly. The fixtures should be located roughly 18 to 24 inches from the wall and two feet from the center of the bed.

• Chandeliers over dining tables often do not provide the lighting necessary to show off the sparkle of your crystal and silver. Instead, opt for the same recessed ceiling fixtures that were used as reading lights in the bedroom. Install these over your table as accent lights. The bulbs should have a wider beam spread than those in the bedroom. They should be located on the long axis of the table, about three to six feet from the middle.

• Add dimmer to almost all fixtures throughout your house. This will help control the amount of light and extend the life of the lamp.

Spring Home Tours

There are lots of great tours throughout the South this Spring. 

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