When the owners of this new South Carolina lakefront home were first confronted with what 10,000 sq. ft. can look like laid out on paper, they were taken aback at the potential scale of their future residence. The family-focused second home they’d been dreaming about looked more like a grand chateau.
“Their initial reaction was, ‘Wow, this looks like a big hotel,’ ” says Matt Tindall, AIA, project architect with Neal-Prince Architects of Greenville, S.C. So the architect went back to his drawing board and focused his ongoing iterations on ensuring Carolina comfort — not high style — as the predominant theme. “A lot of the decisions were born out of that reaction.”
Although it’s difficult for a house with five bedroom suites not to appear grand, Tindall’s choice of the shingle-style motif certainly aids the effort. Like a latter-day Stanford White, Tindall used the approach’s mix of materials and massings to break up the square footage and create the multiple large and small spaces the owners’ entertaining needs required. And that historical style’s emphasis on opening a home’s interior to its surroundings also proved a perfect fit for this project, which makes the most of its stunning location.
Visitors who approach by car are given teasing glances of the expansive Lake Keowee vistas the home’s site provides, thanks to an open-sided breezeway that connects the home’s two wings. When they walk through the domed foyer and into the main living space, however, the house seems to explode outward toward a rear façade that really is the home’s more public-facing exposure.
“This house embraces you and then just opens itself up to the lakeside,” Tindall says, noting the experience his firm has had on numerous other homes in the same development. “[They] are building on the lake for a reason. A lot of entertaining and visiting is done by boat — so a lot of times, the lake elevation is the front elevation.”
The site brought challenges along with its charms, though, with the peninsula’s point forcing a somewhat idiosyncratic layout into the plans. In addition, Tindall and contractors Sexton-Griffith Custom Builders also had to work with some existing site conditions. Significantly, the lot had been cleared and a septic system installed by a previous owner. Changes were required because the new home’s footprint was larger than the lot’s previous owners had planned. While the pump-based drain field stayed in place, the main tank had to be relocated to ensure appropriate clearance.
To address both the site’s shape and septic needs, Tindall tucked the house, L-fashion, into a corner, with the main body of the house facing the approach and the garage at a right angle. The breezeway connects the two structures, and it is topped by an enclosed, gallery-style hallway that leads to separate guest quarters, complete with a playroom, over the garage.
Inside and out, the home showcases an extraordinary level of detail. The exterior stone veneer, for example, was hand-chipped on-site — masons were on-site six or seven months out of the 16 months of construction, according to Barry Griffith, one of Sexton-Griffith’s two owners. The parking area’s cobbles were similarly hand-cut and set around bluestone slabs placed to look as though they’d rested in the same spot for millennia. And, where others might have turned to a manufactured product for retaining walls, Tindall turned, yet again, to the region’s characteristic Doggett Mountain stone.
“Matt wasn’t going to put anything manufactured in that house except for the PVC piping,” Griffith says.
While existing lot conditions played their role in the home’s siting, the overarching goal in the plan was to maximize the view. In addition to the expanse of Lake Keowee, there was also the opportunity to catch glimpses of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which tower above the lake’s surrounding trees. Tindall met this challenge with a third floor anchored to the lower two levels by means of a turret-shaped tower.