Sullivan's Island beach house

Porch detail at Sullivan's Island beach house This morning, I was out at a Sullivan's Island beach house that we designed a few years ago today to oversee a few changes to the master wardrobe. It was a pretty nice day, but unseasonably cold.  The baseball gloves remained on the shelves, and the manicured sod shed a frigid tear.  I am generally pleased with the detailing of the porches on this residence. We enjoyed working with Neil Sawyer of Daly and Sawyer, the contractor on this beach house.

Beach access stair, rendered in galvanized steel and Ipe.

Cast in place concrete pier caps begin a rhythm of structural pairs that carries from foundation to roof.



Sullivan's Island: Before and After Photos

Waterfront elevation, post renovation Rear elevation of Sullivan's Island residence, before

We were happy to receive the call a couple of years ago from Peggy Norris, a top interior designer and furniture designer in Charleston.  Some clients of her boyfriend, the veteran realtor Olin Chamberlain, had just purchased a residence on a great Sullivan's Island lot that needed help, and lots of it.  Subjected to a couple of previous renovations and additions, the residence was flat and lacking in distinction, particularly along the waterfront elevation.  A gas fireplace vented into the adjacent screened porch, just a couple of beneath a wide plywood ceiling. The windows leaked badly during rainstorms. These were just the highlights.

The house was given a thorough renovation, particularly focused on the exterior.  New siding, trim, sheathing, Marvin windows and doors, porch decking and ceilings, columns and rails, and brick wrapping the existing concrete piles.  Inside, we added substantial wood paneling, refitted baths, updated the kitchen, new mantle, and designed other cosmetic improvements. We're very happy with the results of this renovation and excited to have the chance to spend some time with the clients at their summer home on Martha's Vineyard next month.

These are some of the first finished photos that I have posted, but there are others available by clicking on the "Sullivan's Island" category to the right.

We're especially pleased with the way that the master bedroom in this Sullivan's Island residence came together with the renovation.  I designed a bed custom designed to float off of any wall within this particular space, images available here.

Entry Elevation of Sullivan's Island residence, before renovation

Entry Elevation, post renovation

Rear porch, kitchen, and deck area, before.

Rear porch, kitchen, and deck area, post renovation

Sullivan's Island entry porch, before

New entry porch at Sullivan's Island residence

Screened porch, before expansion to allow for new outdoor dining space

Renovated Sullivan's Island screened porch

Sitting area, before

Renovated sitting room adjacent to kitchen, fitted with simple paneling beneath a plate rail; windows facing a neighboring residence were eliminated.

Second master bath, before

Second master bath, after

Second Master bath tub and shower, before; vaulting the ceiling in this space was key.

Second Master bath shower, after

Corner in Den, before

Same corner in Den, the location of the only heated space added to the residence during the renovation; capturing a small area of adjacent porch enabled more flexible seating here.

Custom Bed for Unique Sullivan's Island Bedroom

Bed custom designed for Sullivan's Island bedroom space. There is no question about which came first: it was the bedroom space, which was a porch at one time, enclosed during a previous renovation.  However, I like to think that the bed that we designed as a part of this complete renovation has a presence enough to hold its own as an anchor in this unique space. The bed completes the space and wouldn't make as much sense on any other room.

Bed as viewed from master bedroom entry approach.

The raw material with which we had to work for the bedroom was stunning: a wide space of moderate depth with three walls addressing a majestic marsh view.  The Intracoastal Waterway runs so close to the property as to give the impression of being in a boat.  The Ben Sawyer, Pitt Street, and Cooper River bridges provide visual landmarks from right to left.

Headboard, positioned beneath a dropped beam, completes the transition between the entry and principal bedroom spaces.

While the views from the bedroom were outstanding, the proportions and layout of the space as we found it were odd. The bed was positioned against a wall to one side.  On the other side of the bed wall was an office only accessible through a closet and an adjacent bedroom.  The entry to the master bedroom was off center with the space, which was finished with bland, painted drywall on the ceilings and walls.

Existing conditions in master bedroom, before renovation.

We suggested several important changes to the space that would leave the room mostly intact, building upon its strengths while tailoring it for a better fit.  The windows were replaced with two-over-two Marvin double hung units, coordinating with the complete renovation of the rest of the residence. We eliminated two of the existing ten windows, leaving the six in the center of the view, to make it more feasible to furnish the narrower flanking walls. The entry vestibule was renovated to incorporate a built in office and line storage capabilities, removing the principal desk from the bedroom.  A new vaulted dormer with round window was added int he center of the space, giving order and volume to the space from the interior and exterior perspectives, and the entry door for the master was centered in the dormer and the wall into which is was integrated.

Long water and marsh views from the master bedroom entry on Sullivan's Island.

Lastly, the wall and ceilings were fitted with shiplap paneling and v-groove material, respectively, for interest, texture, and long-wearing durability.  The existing oak flooring was refinished.  Outside, the existing deck was completely rebuilt and enlarged.

View of Sullivan's Island Master Bedroom toward the deck.

The design of the bed picks up on the paneling details in another way.  It was designed with open slats to allow a sense of transparency, allowing peaks of the view upon the approach to the bedroom, or while sitting at the deck in the entry vestibule. Lower wings designed to serve as a back for the integrated bedside tables, which seamlessly continue the slat lines around from the back of the bed to the front. The electrical system was integrated into the structure to allow swing arm lamps to mount to the headboard and outlets to mount below the tables.

Sullivan's Island bed detail

JP Byrne and his team at Four Corners Woodworking did a nice job in crafting and installing the bed.

Please take a few moments to see some of the other furnishings that we have designed to integrate with our architecture in a renovated nursery, a bench lining a Kiawah Island deck, and seating for a Sullivan's Island front porch. More can be found by following the Custom Furniture Design category to the right.

Deck off of Master Bedroom with Intracoastal Waterway below and the Ben Sawyer Bridge in the distance. The end of the old Pitt Street is to the left.

The complete renovation by Brown Construction included all new siding, windows, and roofing.

The porches were rebuilt and enlarged, allowing an outdoor dining room at the main level and expanded master deck, above.



Sullivan's Island Master Bedroom

Redesigned master bedroom in Sullivan's Island residence overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, bed custom designed in house by Tyler A. Smyth, Architect. The renovation of the master bedroom in this Sullivan's Island renovation was among the more successfully improved spaces in the house.  We began with a relatively odd space comprised of a former porch infilled during a previous renovation.  Much wider than deep, the space has panoramic views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the broad marsh beyond.  The house's position close to the water's edge impacts the feeling of being in a boat over the water.   When standing more than several feet back from the window walls, the lawn and adjacent marsh grass are invisible, with water and the marsh on the opposite side of the waterway filling the frame.

When we came upon the space before the renovation, the bed was off to the side against a wall.  This wall was shared with a space that was intended for use as a study, but which was only accessible from an adjacent bedroom or through the master closet. The walls and ceiling were a sea of painted drywall, and there was an odd truss-like beam dividing an entry from the balance of the space.

First, we determined to move the bed from the corner of the room into the center to maximize the enjoyment of the views. This would allow us to open up the wall to the study and close the other entry doors into this space.  This cleaned up the master wardrobe and the adjacent bedroom at once. Then, we pursued incorporating a new vaulted dormer centered in the room and over the bed, to give more volume and establish a clear order to the space. The aesthetic improvements from the dormer extended to the composition of the waterfront elevation as well. Lastly, we elected to panel the walls and ceiling with 8" shiplap and 6" v-groove material, respectively, lending a great texture and depth to the finishes and space.

I designed this bed specifically for the space to serve as both headboard and spatial divider with the bed in its unique positioning.  Designed with open slats for a sense of transparency when approached from the entry, the bed also has integrated bedside tables with drawers and electrical systems for lighting and supplementary outlets.  Great work by the crew at Four Corners Woodworking on the fabrication of the bed.

Master bedroom before renovation began.

Sullivan's Island Porch

Sullivan's Island screened porch, recently completed. Photo: TAS I visited the recently completed total renovation of a Sullivan's Island residence on the ICW this week and took a few photos.  This renovated and enlarged screened porch turned out very well and is a wonderful place to take in the long views.

For more about this this renovation, visit this post for before and after images, as well as this one for images of a custom bed designed for the master bedroom. This redesigned spaces keys upon its panoramic views of the Intracoastal Waterway, built so close to water as to feel as though one were on a boat.

Sullivan's Island Renovation: Seeing the Light

Living Room coming together at Sullivan's Island residence

In life, you find yourself in contact with people with an broad assortment of attitudes: poor, indifferent, cheery, Tony Little, and all ranges in between.  Attitudes are infectious no matter the variety.  And I have to say that I am consistently impressed by the attitude of our clients on this significant Sullivan's Island renovation.

Railing installation underway at front porch of Sullivan's Island renovation.

Though the easy winter of enjoying the renovated residence and boating on the harbor has transitioned into something more arduous, their attitudes have been consistently excellent, at least as far as is evidenced to me.  It has made a very positive impression, giving me a great deal of respect for these good people.

We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on this significant renovation project.  The interior painting is complete, with special thanks to Peggy Norris for the valuable assistance in color selection.  The cabinetry and counter tops have been installed.  Floor refinishing is underway.  Outside, they are closing in on the porch trim n the front and rear, with the custom balusters and railing systems being installed in the front.  There will still be a good bit of exterior painting to be completed, but at least they will be outside.

At the same time, the renovation of the landscaping has begun.  Nearly all of the weary, salt-burned plant material has been removed by Jerry Poore in advance of the installation of the new driveway and plants.

This renovated bath is vastly improved over the uninspired original condition.

Long views from the master bedroom deck over the ICW include the old Pitt Street and Ben Sawyer bridges.

Porch screening, custom column brackets, and paint will help to complete the redesign of the rear of the Sullivan's Island residence.

The front elevation is more evident now with the removal of a couple of decrepit crepe myrtles that were put out of their misery.

Interior progress on Sullivan's Island

As we see the light at the end of the tunnel on a near-complete renovation on Sullivan's Island, I have met with our client a few times in recent weeks to review the progress.  Coordination meeting like this including the contractor's team--ever shifting in this case-- is  the best way to ensure that expectations are being met and the contractor understands the important directives. We are glad to see that significant progress is being made, particularly on the interior trim installation.

One of the chief directives of this design project was to renovate a somewhat second rate 1980's residence into a beach house with the character befitting Sullivan's Island and our sophisticated clients. We elected to keep the interior palate simple, using wide shiplap paneling for the walls in most of the principal spaces and custom milled v-groove paneling for the ceilings.  In other spaces, we deviated with the use of regular plaster walls and ceilings or simple applied stile and rail paneling over plaster.

The master bedroom is coming along well.  The space has astounding views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the long marsh expanse toward Mt. Pleasant.  The Ben Sawyer and Cooper River bridges are great features of this layered view. The position of the house so close to the edge of the water means that, when standing back from the window wall by only a few feet, one doesn't even see the narrow yard or marsh grass in the foreground before the water comes into view over the short window sills.  It is really an encompassing view that gives the feeling of being on the water itself, a real pleasure for out clients who are avid boaters and experienced competitive sailors.

Renovation and Addition in Mt. Pleasant Well Underway

We were retained a few months ago to undertake the design on a complete renovation and addition in one of Mt. Pleasant's older neighborhoods.

Our clients found the residence standing on Barbara Street in a neighborhood close to the Ben Sawyer Causeway, near the former location of Mama Brown's BBQ.  It was by appearances a simple structure: a rectangular form 8' ceilings, a low-sloped trussed roof and a tiny front porch.  A poorly built addition in the rear was screened and contained a (very nasty) bathroom.  It had little to recommend it except its location close to Sullivan's Island on a nice corner lot.

Among the first determinations made for the renovation were that the screened porch addition would have to go and that the ceiling ht in the existing residence should be raised.  It makes little sense to undergo a complete renovation of a house while retaining a chief liability: the constricting eight foot ceilings.  The resourceful developer/contractors worked with Structural engineer Matt Wilks and myself on a plan to raise the trussed roof two feet.  And the screened porch, along with its tiny front porch cousin, were out.

Eliminating the aesthetic liability of the 8 foot ceilings in the structure created a set of challenges that would need to be overcome.  Chiefly, to avoid the need to completely re-frame the exterior walls to 10 feet, we would have a knee wall framed above the existing walls.  This creates a pinned connection--a point of natural weakness--that would need to be addressed, particularly in Charleston County where the two pronged spear of hurricanes and potential earthquakes constantly threatens structural stability.

We devised a bracket system which would address this situation and serve as a key aesthetic role on the residence's exterior. Structural brackets fabricated from standard dimensional lumber will connect the ends of the roof trusses, extended to enhance the overhang and provide a more ideal angle, to the bottom of the knee wall in order to bracing the entire assembly.  The brackets will be contributors to the craftsman flavor of the architecture, with the attachment point serving as a natural division between the cedar shingle siding below and a clapboard band above.

The existing footprint of 1,200 sf was considered to be too small for the new vision for the house.  The lot contained plenty of room to the rear to allow for a significant addition, however, so we determined best to add on to the back of the house.  The 600 sf addition contains the new master suite, a laundry and mud room space, and a den, as well as a sizable covered porch addressing the side yard.

The addition was built upon a concrete slab, which will be stained and finished for a contemporary touch to the architecture. Dropping the addition down will also enhance the sense of variety in the living spaces and a feeling of separation for the master suite, tucked away in the back of the lot and way from the adjacent streets.

We're hopeful that our client, the developer of this speculative construction project, will find the right buyer when it is completed. The interest in the project has already been very high with many interested buyers approaching the builders. I am hopeful that it will turn out well for everyone.





Sullivan's Island Renders Out

I'll be performing a site visit this morning on Sullivan's Island to check over the progress on 7 Conquest Avenue.  This is the complete renovation on the west side of the island over looking the ICW and the Pitt Street Bridge.  Jay Brown, the contractor, had some renderings commissioned for the front and rear elevations.  It is a powerful tool for envisioning the final intent.  Many thanks to Jay for passing these along.

Sullivan's Island Renovation: windows and doors being installed

Good progress is being made at the renovation project that we designed on Sullivan's Island.  All of the new windows have been installed, the new roof framing is complete, and the modifications to the electrical and plumbing systems are underway.  Stephen Caskie has been easy to work with for the structural engineering design services.  He is flexible and creative in proposing alternatives that will work in concert with the architectural design.


Some elements of the design have evolved a bit, which is not unusual for the property of this age and spotty renovation history.  One of the elements that we wanted to pursue was a dressing of the existing concrete pilings.  While being strong enough to carry the loads of the residence, they were too narrow and out of proportion for the house.  The new brick piers are of a much better proportion, and the play in the brick has allowed us to address some slight alignment inconsistencies and pilings that were out of plumb.