Home showcase: Heart of glass
Walls of windows and a breathtaking modern approach cast Palmetto Bluff luxury in a new light.
Story by Barry Kaufman + Photography by Kim Smith
There’s a certain vernacular to Palmetto Bluff that, at this point, has become the de facto style of the Lowcountry. As imitated as it has become in everything from Old Town commercial projects to Hilton Head Island beach houses, this kind of elegant rusticism is still synonymous with the May River enclave.
And while this aesthetic is often enforced with rigid discipline by the neighborhood’s design review board, homes like this prove that there are still plenty of ways to interpret the rules.
“The owner likes a very minimalist style, and her inspiration was an architect named Hugh Newell Jacobsen,” said Evan R. Goodwin, project manager with Pearce Scott Architects.
The famously geometric, modern-by-way-of-Northeastern language that Jacobsen used in projects such as Jacqueline Kennedy’s Martha’s Vineyard home may not have been in line with Palmetto Bluff’s vernacular, but Goodwin was able to make it work.
“The review board wanted something more Lowcountry, so we designed a blend, but stuck with the idea of clean lines and high light,” he said. “We’re so used to working on the standard Lowcountry vernacular that it was fun to take on a new challenge and play around with materials.”
The result was a home that dazzles with clean geometry while using its outdoor spaces and generational design to reflect the best of the Palmetto Bluff style.
Greeted with light
One of the most thoughtfully designed elements of the home is also one of its most visually enchanting – the wide glass foyer that serves as both a window from the front to the back as well as the connective tissue between the two wings of the home.
“From here you can actually see all the way through the great room into the screened porch, out to the back gardens and even into the bedroom with the curtains open,” he said. This open feeling was one of the first parts of the home’s overall vision to fall into place, created by a foyer that not only frames a pair of treasures – small scale wooden ships at either end – it adds a dimension to the home’s generational appeal.
One way in which this home joyfully embraces the design philosophy of Palmetto Bluff is in its sense of time. As with so many homes in the neighborhood, the idea was to tell a story by setting elements off in such a way that they look like additions that were later made to the original home, like in the way the roofline steps down as it transitions to the screened porch.
“You can almost imagine that this all started as one wing, and then the foyer was added to connect it to another building, or a bump-out was added to give more function to the bedroom,” said Goodwin. “Even the garage feels like it was added onto with the pop-up dormers and the exterior stairs up to the carriage house.”
Not all storytelling elements passed the design review board’s muster. A proposed faux wall by the garden would have lent a compelling mystique of a former property on the site but was shot down.
A study in minimalism
If there’s one room that embraces the Jacobsen-esque minimalism that the owner pursued with such passion, it’s the great room. Here soaring geometric lines guide the eyes up to towering skylights set in dormers.
“She almost never has to turn on the lights during the day just because it’s so bright in there,” said Goodwin. “And there’s no trim anywhere, which is a nod to that minimalist aesthetic. It was tough to do, but I think it was executed really well.”
The home team
Designer: Pearce Scott Architects
Builder: Shoreline Construction
Interior Design: Linda Conklin