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Two projects map to one beautiful truth … and an award

A small sliver of land, big enough for a pool, makes all the difference on a small lot facing the marsh

We’ve all heard that a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Two of our recent projects proved the truth of that and showed how a lot of knowledge can go a long way toward saving the day. It can even lead to awards, as in the case of our Sullivan’s Island project on an unusually-shaped lot …

This first set of clients envisioned a pool beside their new home, overlooking the marshes. The lot was an unusual shape, with a ‘finger’ of land off one side. The clients came to me to maximize their enjoyment of this unique spot.

It wasn’t a shoo-in. Although we of course had a site survey done, the town used an earlier survey to create the site-specific zoning bylaws, so there were discrepancies. In addition, the default regulations under this site-specific zoning for this lot indicated the pool the owners wanted would not be possible.

Because the default zoning would not have accommodated the desired ground level pool, the Town Staff initially did not allow it. However, we researched it and applied our strategies, highlighting the intent of the law and showing how this project met that intent and was not in conflict with any other home within their zoning. We said, ‘We have this extra finger of land and we would like to use it.’

The Zoning Board of Appeal (BZA) said, ‘You are right, we agree with you and you can use it.’ We did and that project won the ArCHdes™ 2017 Award, an international residential architecture award for design excellence.

Elsewhere on Sullivan’s Island, another couple had lost confidence in their architect from a different firm and even felt disillusioned about their dream project. It was painful for them. The original design had gone out to bid and come back way over budget. They would need to dramatically reduce the square footage, plus it seemed that there were zoning requirements for features, such as small porches along the side, that they didn’t even want in the first place.

We used the zoning bylaws to our advantage, shaping the house to allow magnificent views one way of the Intra-Coastal Waterway and the other way of Fort Sumter in the harbor.

That’s because one of the zoning requirements specified porches as a way to break up long walls and ensure there would not be a solid massive rectangle along the side of the house. The owners showed me the project and we talked about it. However, even after our discussion they were so discouraged, they called me, saying, ‘We’re just going to walk away from it.’

‘Wait,’ I said. ‘I sketched some ideas, even though we didn’t officially start this project. Would you have a look?’

They called me back saying, ‘Wow! We are more than delighted! We love it!’ That’s because there was another alternative to those small porches; we could have notches, or indents, along the side of the house. As a result, they were able to not only build their home but also have gorgeous views out to the Atlantic and to the Fort Sumter in the little harbor.

Most importantly, we increased their joy and the living experience by optimizing the views.

So because we really know the zoning, we are able to come up with alternatives that achieve the goals without extra frills.

We understand the intent of the zoning on Sullivan’s Island and the other municipalities, and we honor that intent while taking advantage of the opportunities that each site offers.