Imagine buying a home on Kiawah Island with absolutely stunning views of the marsh, but then discovering that the existing home, despite its impressive-looking design, offered extremely limited views of the marsh. Compounding the problem, the roof shape of the house was so distinctive and so strong, how could the home be re-invented to open every room in the house to the full 180° view of the marsh? This was the problem our new clients on Kiawah presented us with.

Kiawah Island Home before renovation of 1980s contemporary with stunning marsh views

The existing 1980s contemporary style home is perfectly placed on a small peninsula that positions the home with water and marsh views on 3 sides. Even though the home is within a neighborhood community, the location of the home provides unobstructed views making you feel like you are alone in nature’s splendor.

Rear view of existing home on Kiawah before renovation

The design challenge for this home was to open up the compartmentalized sections at the rear and to eliminate the triangular architectural massing on the sides. The layout of the existing home has 4 parallel bearing walls; dividing the home into 3 bays. The rooms in each bay have a single view, framed by the parallel bearing walls and it is limited to straight ahead. On the second floor, the view is even further reduced due to the design of inset balconies. Each of these decks on the second story are cut into the distinctive roofline creating a horse-shoe shape. From the interior rooms, the side walls of the horse-shoe roof block all the views.   Additionally, the side walls block the sun and make the interiors very dark. Even when you step out onto the deck, the walls obstruct the view until you reach the outer edge, where all of a sudden you see the whole magnificent view.

Our design challenge was to reinvent the architecture of this home which would allow us to remove most of this distinctive roof and most of the interior bearing walls so we could maximize the views while maintaining the structural integrity of the home without heroic and expensive structural changes. Our team needed to consider many components to create the right solution for our clients. I knew we were up to the challenge!

Kudos to Rachel, who had quite the design challenge to take on!

Sara Senst, AIA
Director, On Behalf of the Kiawah Island Architectural Review Board (KIARB)

The proposed design  removes the horse-shoe walls on the second floor and unifies the two balconies into one.  Over the new balcony in the center section of the home we elongated the third story room.  This not only enlarges the room, but allows for a wall of windows to reveal the marsh view and will allow light to pour into the space.  This also has created a covered porch area on the second floor.  On the main floor in the center section we are covering over a staircase to the lower, ground level.  (As with other homes on Kiawah on the water, this home is elevated in case of flooding.  Access to the ground level is available elsewhere).  With the stairs removed and the walls of the existing screened porch removed, a new covered deck area will allow for outdoor entertaining in a shaded space all while taking in those amazing marsh views.

Proposed design of rear elevation that fixes balconies with sidewalls that obstructed water views

On the front of the home we also sought to solve the problem of the lack of natural light coming into the interior main floor.  There are skylights, but they do little to bring in light.  On the side of the home we had a similar problem as at the rear of the home.  Although there are windows, they are inset and both the light and views are blocked by structure.  Our solution was to square up the side walls and to add three new eyebrow banks of windows on the front.  We also squared up the front porch to change the sloping lines of the front elevation.  The eyebrow windows and new front porch transform this home from a dated 1980’s beach contemporary to a classic South Carolina coastal home.

Changing the angles of the front entry and adding second story windows completly changed the style of this dated contemporary home to a classic South Carolina beach home

Side-by-Side Comparison of Existing Home and Proposed Design

Before

Before view of Kiawah Island Home Renovation

Proposed

Proposed view of Kiawah Island Home Renovation

Before

Before view of Kiawah Island Home Renovation

Proposed

Proposed view of Kiawah Island Home Renovation

Additional Views of the Proposed Design