Scroll down to view project

Natural History

Charleston, South Carolina

FOR A DECADE, THE OWNERS OF THIS LARGE ESTATE NEAR CHARLESTON FOCUSED ON STEWARDSHIP, undertaking conservation projects to preserve sensitive river habitat. They then turned to the creation of a home, one that would be fitting of the land and place. Yet, for this site with a long and complex history, they envisioned a home that would be more about welcome and ease than impressions or tradition.

The centerpiece is the main house, its great hall, river-facing storytelling room and kitchen all scaled for entertaining. The hub of family life, this space was intentionally designed without sleeping quarters. These can be found in two flanking brick pavilions: one a gracious owners’ suite, the other two guest suites. The three structures frame a traditional courtyard garden, striking a first impression of ‘approachable classicism’.

In contrast to the traditional front façade, the rear expresses a more contemporary layer of history. By mixing the high style of 19th century Greek Revival with moments of vernacular inspiration, we created a home that feels formal and informal at once, its authenticity derived from scale and proportion and the implied passage of time.

Interior Design: Westbrook Interiors ~ Landscape Architecture: Hooten Land Design ~ Builder: Terry Hoff Construction ~ Photography: Eric Piasecki

WITH SUCH A LARGE PROPERTY, there were certainly many options for siting the home, but we chose to construct it where an original homestead once stood. In fact, it is believed that three previous homes occupied this very site, all succumbing to fire or natural disaster. This latest residence is carefully situated among centuries-old live oak trees on a rise above the river.

BENEATH THE DELICATE BALUSTRADE of the roof parapet is a strongly articulated Greek Doric entry portico.

THE ENTRY PORTICO leads into a gracious gallery designed to welcome guests and showcase cherished works of art. Spanning the front façade, it is flanked on either end by miniature galleries encircled with built-in cabinetry for artfully displaying the couple’s eclectic collections.

BEYOND THE ENTRY IS THE GREAT HALL, a domestic version of a natural history gallery. Reclaimed oak timber trusses in the vaulted ceiling are an intentional departure from the plaster walls with heart pine paneled wainscoting. Above the beams, a roof monitor fills the space with light.

It was imagined to have once been an open-air veranda facing the river, later enclosed with a wall of steel framed glass.

FOR SOLITUDE, the owner retreats to the library. Centuries-old cypress, recovered from the bottom of the original rice ponds, was milled into cabinetry and ceiling panels.

THE KITCHEN’S EXPOSED BEAMS were milled from pine harvested on site accentuate the window bay and suggest the room was expanded over time. A pizza oven and expansive worktable, where guests can gather, make the kitchen a casual entertaining space.

A POTTING TERRACE serves as an informal entrance to the home leading directly into the scullery, a utilitarian room connected to the kitchen.

THE GUEST PAVILION is anchored by two brick masses, as if once separate outbuildings. Fanlight windows are accentuated with brick arch details; below them, implied carriage doors suggest adaptation.

THE FANLIGHT WINDOWS bring interest and soft natural light to the interior. A shared dialogue between client, architect and interior designer is evident here; the trim and arches become one with the headboard.

THE MATCHING SLEEPING PAVILIONS, capped by zinc-clad pyramidal roofs, convey a stately unity that frames the front entry to the home.


THE LIGHTING, PLUMBING FIXTURES, AND TILE suggest this bathroom was a 1920s or 1930s addition. These features, along with a steel window wall that spans between the two brick end masses, reinforces the idea of a repurposed outbuilding.

THE HISTORIC PARTERRE GARDEN has been dated to 1703, presumably the time at which the first home would have been built on this property. The original garden was partially destroyed; however, portions of its pierced brick walls still stood underneath the live oak canopy. With the garden now fully restored to its original glory, this setting roots the new home in history.

THE NEW ARCHITECTURE AND LANDSCAPE (left) take cues from the existing brick ancillary structures and walled gardens (right).

The rear elevation of the home would historically have been the first impression, with most guests arriving by river. Thus, the architecture conveys a formal façade with an implied layer of time. Behind the Greek Doric columns that once may have framed a river-facing veranda, a wall of steel and glass floats from end-to-end as a modern counterpoint. The effect is most dramatic at dusk when the entire home glows like a welcoming beacon overlooking the river.