Home and Design in Lowcountry South Carolina

From historic neighborhoods to luxury communities, Bluffton’s Lowcountry abodes are designed to harmonize with the landscape.

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Photo By: Kelli Boyd/Elizabeth McDonald Interiors

Photo By: Kelli Boyd/Elizabeth McDonald Interiors

Lowcountry Vernacular

In the gated community of Palmetto Bluff, myriad examples of Lowcountry vernacular architectural styles abound in enclaves and hamlets that illuminate the walkable nature of Traditional Neighborhood Design (TND). Just as the pioneers who first built homes along the May River understood, today’s architects and engineers select materials strong enough to withstand heat, humidity and salt air, and design to take advantage of coastal breezes and the shade of old-growth canopy—even with the benefits of indoor air conditioning. Foundations are raised to promote air circulation, high ceilings and windows help homeowners keep their cool and flood interior spaces with natural light, deep covered porches protect against fierce afternoon showers and buffer the brilliant sun.

Haint Blue

"Haint blue" porch ceilings are as ubiquitous as they are refreshing, serving both practical and storied purposes. In shades that waft from periwinkles and teal-tinged grays to soft aquamarines, the variations change with geography (lighter in the region’s southern stretches). The hue, like the one on this Spring Island porch, offers an instant calming and cooling effect, and—according to Southern folklore—fends off mosquitoes, wasps and evil spirits.

Old and New

A ceiling of reclaimed wood counterbalances the more modern pop art flair of the furnishings for a rustic elegance befitting the verdant Palmetto Bluff surroundings. The airy interior is awash in natural light that changes throughout the day, resetting the mood from restful to romantic.

Fifty Shades of Blue

What captures the easy-breezy nature of coastal living more beautifully than the simplicity of rough-hewn and whitewashed shiplap accented by all the colors of water? Open shelves are the ideal showcase for sea glass collections and cherished heirloom ironware.

Spring Island Beauty

The living spaces of this Spring Island dwelling extend outdoors with a series of bricked and terraced patios that create cozy, informal settings to take in the arresting beauty of the forested edge of the Colleton River.

Traditional Design

Back in the day, the traditional Lowcountry design of high ceilings and windows served more than an aesthetic purpose. In the days before indoor air conditioning, transom windows, when opened, allowed hot air to escape and invited cooler breezes indoors. Now, they welcome abundant light dappled by fluttering leaves and branches leaden with fringes of Spanish moss—which isn’t really a moss at all, but a bromeliad related to the pineapple.

Porch Living

On hot summer afternoons, a screened-in sleeping porch is a welcome respite to catch a nap, crawl into a Pat Conroy novel, play a game of Go Fish, or take in the Colleton River as it rises along with the tide—all bug-free.

Living Outside

This award-winning custom Palmetto Bluff home makes the most of year-round outdoor living, with a series of screened and covered porches all along the back of the home. The gravel walking paths punctuate the natural landscape and culminate around a fire pit—the ideal gathering spot for an oyster roast in winter or wine and s’mores in summer.

Room with a View

This Spring Island breezeway is a study in capturing both the dramatic and serene natures of the Lowcountry. Lush greenery frames the languorous liquid view of the Colleton River.

Nautical Style

With double-sized bunks, the navy, white and oar-festooned guest room of this Palmetto Bluff second home is as fit for seafaring adults as it is for kids. The reclaimed Carolina mill flooring imparts warmth and leads to a third-floor balcony that overlooks the ever-changing marsh.

Natural Selection

So much of this Colleton River Plantation retreat was inspired by the surrounding maritime forest and tidal rivers. Bluffton still is home to a thriving oyster industry, and the shells that don’t make their return back to the water for replenishing the beds often are collected by local artists for useful and beautiful objets d’art.

Highbrow/Downhome

Whether contemporary or cottage-y, traditional or trendy, Lowcountry interiors are often an amalgam of old and new, highbrow and downhome. Timeworn salvage, like this corbel, rests at ease in a vignette of fine art and pottery. A slipper chair covered in a durable fabric sits comfortably with a gilded side table—all borrowing their color inspiration from the summer sky and the smooth, delicate pink of a shell picked up on a morning walk along Hilton Head beach.

Room with a View Redux

No need for bright splashes of color when nature is on full display just outside the windows. The comfy confines of a curving sectional carve out an ideal setting for conversation. The airy openness bathes guests in picture-perfect light.

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