A quiet vacation home is built with respect for the South Carolina landscape
One visit was all it took to entice Christie and Jim Bogrette to build a vacation home along the peaceful banks of the May River near Bluffton, South Carolina. “We weren’t even looking for property,” Christie says. “We made a trip with friends and were overwhelmed by the beauty there. When you walk along the river at low tide, you can hear the dolphins breathing. You have to listen carefully, but you really can hear them.”
Within a matter of months, the Philadelphia couple purchased a lot and began designing their sustainable and energy-savvy home in Palmetto Bluff, a planned resort community that prides itself on protecting the environment.
“The main appeal was the extraordinary natural landscape,” Christie says. “And we were aligned with the developer’s vision to preserve, protect, and enhance that incredible environment.”
Jim, an architect, and Christie, an interior designer and fine artist, collaborated with Joel Newman, a Beaufort, South Carolina, architect who designed many of the resort buildings at Palmetto Bluff. The team’s goal: Build a comfortable house that would take advantage of the natural setting without negatively impacting the environment.
The eco-friendly approach was from the ground up. A geothermal system that taps into the earth’s consistent underground temperature was installed to heat and cool the house. The system is extremely energy efficient and quiet.
The painting above the fireplace hangs on a moving panel that revolves to expose the TV mounted on the other side.
Photography: Emily Jenkins Followill
Produced by Andrea Caughey
Architects: Jim Bogrette, Kimmel Bogrette Architecture, 151 E. 10th Ave., Suite 300, Conshohocken, PA 19428; 610/834-7805; kimmelbogrette.com , and Joel Newman, Thomas & Denzinger Architects, 138 St. Philip St., Suite 200, P.O. Box 20157, Charleston, SC 29413; 843/723-6651, thomasanddenzinger.com .
Builder: J. T. Turner Construction Co. Inc., 2250 E. Victory Drive, Suite 104, Savannah, GA 31414; 912/356-5611, jttconst.com .
Landscape architect: Michael S. Small, Michael S. Small, LLC, P.O. Box 1788, Tybee Island, GA 31328; 912/704-1118.
Living Room Chairs
“Every bit of wood in the house, including what was used to build the windows, was either reclaimed or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified,” Jim says. Interior walls are FSC-certified horizontal pine boards butted together. “We were looking at durability,” he says. “This is a very old way to clad walls, and it’s a timeless look.”
Solid heart-pine floorboards from a South Carolina cotton mill were used for the house’s rustic wide-plank floors. “We were able to cut each of the original 3-inch-thick boards lengthwise to create three boards [each 1 inch thick] for our floors, tripling the usage,” Jim explains.
Some of the heart pine was used to build stair handrails, risers, and treads, resulting in a new staircase with the character and texture of a centuries-old home. “You grab the rail, and you can feel the holes from old nails,” Jim says. “It’s like it has a memory. The house really is like a big storybook.”
The story continues on the living and dining room ceilings, which are finished with beams and panels of pecky cypress and reclaimed river cypress. The smoky gray flat panels were made with cypress boards milled from trees pulled from rivers and lakes.
Simple linen-covered dining room chairs and a table made of salvaged wood are from RH. French doors connect the dining area to a screened porch with a fireplace.
Pecky Cypress Detail
Structural beams are boxed in the pecky cypress, notable for its pockmarked texture, created by a fungus that attacked the tree.
A high-efficiency induction cooktop and Energy Star appliances were installed in the kitchen. Virtually every fixture in the house has LED bulbs, which are more efficient than incandescent and provide a warmer quality of light than fluorescents, Jim says.
A two-level island topped with Caesarstone divides the kitchen and dining area. Stools are from Williams-Sonoma and appliances from Sub-Zero and Wolf.
Regional craftspeople and materials were used as much as possible. The copper hood, for instance, was crafted by an area artisan. The cooktop backsplash is made with oyster shells (a local by-product) and resin.
Even the colors of the home were chosen to align with nature. “We wanted the color scheme to serve as a backdrop to the view and to harmonize with the floor and ceiling materials. It needed to be very soft and soothing,” Christie says.
The South Carolina natural light affected paint choices, too. “We worked on paint colors in Philadelphia, but when we brought them down to the Lowcountry, they weren’t the same," Christie says. "It’s a softer light there.”
In the bedroom, a cottage-style bed is dressed with “Ruched Linen” bedding from Pine Cone Hill. A dainty bent-rattan writing desk from Lexington Home Brands offers a quiet place to read, write notes, and work on a laptop.
Carrara marble tops the custom-built bath vanity, which was made with certified sustainable wood. Sinks are from Kohler and faucets from Newport Brass.
The home’s orientation and floor plan were influenced by the environment and the desire to enjoy it. “It’s all about the view and connecting with outside,” Jim says.
The living and dining rooms and kitchen share one large space at the rear of the house with views of the river. French doors connect the living area to an intimate screened porch with a gas fireplace. The Bogrettes left the porch open (no glass windows) so they can listen to the sounds of nature. And while many Southern porches stretch the length of a house, this one is half that size so as not to block light into and views from the interior spaces.
The screened porch on the back of the house offers views of the May River.
A metal “cool roof” with a reflective finish deflects rather than absorbs heat. Windows are fitted with high-efficiency glass. Wide eaves, wood-slat awnings, and exterior Bermuda shutters shelter the interiors from the heat of the sun in the summer while allowing its welcome warmth during the winter. The lantern is from Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights.
The house attained a silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating. The Bogrettes had hoped for higher—platinum is best, followed by gold and then silver—but, Jim says, “The house is right for us, and it has systems in place that ensure it’s going to be there a long time.”
The family travels to the Lowcountry several times a year to enjoy the natural surroundings and, as Christie says, to “live in the moment.”
Homeowners Jim and Christie Bogrette.