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As seen on TV

This south-end villa renovation was featured on HGTV’s ‘Beachfront Bargain Hunt.’

Story By Barry Kaufman

Ryan Chowansky, director of marketing and client experience for Bluffton Builders.

Everywhere you look, there’s a sense of revitalization sweeping Hilton Head Island. Not only are our public spaces being transformed through millions in investments, savvy property owners are realizing how much of a difference a fresh renovation can make for their rental property’s bottom line. As such, demand is red hot for builders, and the world is catching on to the new energy buzzing on Hilton Head Island. 

So what does it take to stand out from this crowded field and capture the attention of HGTV?

“Everyone thinks it was my idea because, well, they know me,” said Ryan Chowansky, director of marketing and client experience for Bluffton Builders. 

As the face of a company fueled by his father, Gary’s, 40 years of experience building and renovating high-end homes, Ryan brings a P.T. Barnum-tier showmanship to the company, showing off projects and properties through online videos and social media. 

Perhaps that’s why Realtor Sherry Thomason signed up to have this gorgeous renovation at 5 Tanglewood Drive featured on HGTV’s “Beachfront Bargain Hunt.” Not only does Chowansky do a marvelous job of presenting the home, much of it speaks for itself. Take a look inside and see what it took to make this beachside villa ready for the camera, and for renters.

Reclaiming space

Like so many south-end villas, this Tanglewood property does as much as it can in as little space as possible. Finding ways to squeeze extra use out of that space is a huge part of a renovation. That included turning an entryway space in a mudroom through the clever use of a bench, sliding closets around in the master bedroom, opening up the kitchen and looking over every square inch to see how it could be used best. 

But in some cases, like the window seat beside the dining room table, the question wasn’t how best to use the space. The question was why the space was left unused in the first place?

“Why even go through the effort of bumping out that window just to have an empty space there?” he said. And while the window seat idea with the storage below is one they’ve used in higher-end homes in Palmetto Bluff, “it isn’t a crazy expensive thing to do.”

Balancing act

For Bluffton Builders, the move into south-end condos was a distinct change of pace from the Palmetto Bluff homes and cottages that have been its hallmark for years. While the physical footprint might be smaller, the philosophy remains the same. It needs to look great, but it needs to take a beating.

As Ryan puts it, if it can survive him, it can survive renters. But it still has to pass his dad’s standards for quality.

“A lot of the homes we do in the Bluff are rentals, so it’s more the thought process,” said Ryan. “Luxury vinyl plank versus naturally durable hardwoods. Finding the right stains. Finding products that aren’t pine or a barn door. It’s a methodology of finding that middle ground.”

Think like a renter

Prior to coming to work for his dad, Ryan spent a lot of time on the road. As it turns out, that gave him some keen insights into renovating a villa to make it more short-term friendly.

“I get to think like I was on the road again,” he said. He points to the ingenious built-in shelves in the owner’s suite, including a set of slender built-ins on either side of the flat-screen TV. “If I’m only here for a week or a few days, I don’t need a closet. I just need a place to hang things for a few days.”

That mentality extends throughout the villa, with drop zones and communal areas deliberately placed to provide the perfect experience. “When you’re doing one of these you think, ‘Is there room? Is it too cluttered?’ There’s going to be kids’ stuff everywhere. There needs to be a place for their boogie board. You have to think like a renter.”