A Living Canvas

30 Jul 2013

Cool and soothing colors make for a warm and cozy home surrounded by meticulous landscaping and unobstructed views of the marsh scenery

By ROB YOUNG  »  Photographs by JIM SOMERSET

As a recreational artist, Cindy (last name withheld at homeowners request) leads a life etched in color. Her husband Jim, a corporate attorney, is partial to detail. Their vacation home, a dreamy build situated on Kiawah Island, contains their dual vision.

The home – courtesy of construction firm Buffington Homes and architect Marc Camens – encompasses a pointed level of intricacy that ably met the couple’s needs. The dwelling’s design concept is clear, as it maintains an affable relationship to its surroundings. All told, the construction unmistakably dovetails with the mission of Buffington Homes – the group seeks to build the home of each client as if it was their own. “(Buffington Homes) has so much expertise, and they care so much about the detail,” the homeowner says. “They’re not in it for the money.”

Buffington Homes, as spearheaded by co-owners Dan and Cathy Buffington, focuses on Kiawah Island and other premium projects throughout the Charleston area. For nearly two decades now, the firm has won the praise of regional and national building associations. Its accolades include a 2009 silver award in the Wall Street Journal’s Dream Homes contest, and regional awards for best resort/island products and best service. Dan Buffington has been perennially recognized as a Top 100 Building Company President by Home Builder Executive magazine. Plus, for eight consecutive years, Buffington Homes has received the coveted Best in American Living (BALA) awards, as judged by the National Association of Homebuilders and Professional Builder magazine.

In fact, the homeowner's home is one of the BALA winners. Buffington Homes titled the entry, “A Living Canvas.” It’s appropriate, echoing Cindy’s pastime as well as the home’s appearance. “It’s a cozy, homey place with casual, light colors,” Cindy says. “I didn’t want it to seem stuffy at all.”

Buffington and the homeowner families actually enjoy a relationship that coincides with the birth of the Buffingtons’ business. The homeowners met the Buffingtons nearly 17 years ago, when Dan and Cathy were building their first home on Ocean Course Drive on Kiawah Island. “My husband is just a fanatic about detail. We loved the woodwork, and as we walked through that house, I had never seen a better built home in my life,” Cindy remembers. So, after owning a condo for several years on Kiawah, the homeowners knew exactly who to contact for their home build: Buffington Homes.

Cindy and Jim, who otherwise live in Indianapolis, were drawn to the remoteness of Kiawah and the solitude provided by the island. They particularly appreciated the surroundings – the marshes, lagoons and tidal creeks – and the views afforded by the area. Their vistas, per the couple’s wishes, both of the interior and exterior, would be awash in color.

Indoor and Outdoor Living

The unique vacation home is nestled in a maritime forest. The wrap-around and circular screen porch, and additional outdoor living areas provide a variety of indoor and outdoor living choices, and the use of stained, western red cedar matches the wooded environment, etching the home in a natural, colorful setting. It features an inverted floor plan, primarily to allow maximum, unobstructed views of the surrounding landscape, and to facilitate a dramatic, vaulted living area. The kitchen and dining areas are also situated on the second floor, and the majority of the bedrooms are on the first floor.

Construction necessitated a thorough and detailed approach. The finish on each truss consisted of 92 separate pieces of custom trim, an important aspect as most of the home is made of wood. Other custom elements included cabinetry, travertine and stone tile, milled flooring and molding.

The team’s collaboration supported the level of specification required, enabled by all parties’ extensive experience. It allowed them to surmount several design restrictions related to building setbacks, height constraints, minimum first-floor height requirements and lot coverage. The focus became singular: situating the home among its surroundings to offer its occupants soothing color and architectural meticulousness.

Because of those zoning restrictions that demand homes to be constructed at a specific height above sea level, architect Marc Camens devoted considerable thought to the floor entry space. Camens realized that most people look up once they enter a room, allowing the design challenge to be overcome. He drew a high-ceilinged foyer to present views of the second-floor cathedral ceiling and adjoining dining area. The detailed ceiling, dormers, and trim create momentum as visitors move through the space.

The design fits with Camens’ approach. As the principal of Camens Architectural Group, he asks crucial questions, seeking to determine how his clients wish to live, or how they plan on using the home. He grasped that the homeowner's drivers were color and space. “I love the great room with all the light and windows,” Cindy says. “When you open up all those French doors in the room, you really feel like you’re in a treehouse.”

Not only a treehouse, but an artist’s home. The entrance showcases one of Cindy’s pieces: a 15-foot triptych, or panel painting that is divided into three sections. Rather appropriately, the work of art features a marsh landscape.

The other colors in the home sprout from an Oriental rug Cindy found in Indianapolis. The colors form the spectrum of the home’s palate, allowing a playful, creative nature. “It took us a couple of months to find the rug I wanted,” Cindy says. “It’s in the great room, in the middle portion of the floor, and the design just sort of started with the colors in that rug.”

The homeowner's favorite areas in the home, which also contains a master bedroom, two additional bedrooms and bunk room that sleeps five, are the great room, screened-in porch, Jim’s third-floor office, and, of course, the kitchen. Cindy’s family is of German heritage, and the space provides ample room for her to whip up sauerbraten, a delicious German pot roast that typically marinates in a mixture of vinegar, wine and other herbs, spices and seasonings. Even the meal tends to emanate from the lively, good-natured tone the homeowners have created.  

Appreciable Value

Still, Buffington Homes’ expertise, it seems, extends beyond design and construction. At the request of their clients, Buffington Homes also initiated a yearly preventative maintenance program. Buffington Custom Care conducts yearly inspections and delivers reports prescribing customized services to resolve any long-standing problems.

All told, the service bridges the gap from build to upkeep, making use of Buffington Homes’ specialized database which contains such information as original paint colors to plan specifications. It’s a particularly popular option for clients who live remotely. Property reviews facilitate landscape maintenance and home refurbishing or repairs, as well as timely storm cleanup and pest control. The value is appreciable, adding to Buffington Homes’ overall capabilities.

The firm maintains a reputation for providing excellence, satisfaction and quality. And once more, the Buffington Homes delivered on the homeowner's family project. Though Cindy and Jim waited years to initiate the build, it was worth it. The space, color, and surroundings will offer a wonderful vacation home for now and for years to come. The Buffingtons, old friends as they were, came through.

“What I had found with a lot of the builders,” Cindy says, “they will tell people that the price is going to be much lower, then they keep going up and it costs homeowners more. The Buffingtons were right on target with price. And with schedule. They were perfect. It was a great fit overall.”

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