When native New Englanders Bill and Ruth Ennis decided to build their marsh-view home on Daniel Island, they had a clear vision of what they wanted. This home, their second on Daniel Island, was to be a simple, elegant retreat for both them and their guests. “We wanted to move beyond our traditional homes we had built in the past and embrace a pure, modern style,” Ruth Ennis says. “We wanted to have a bright, open, flexible space that highlighted the beautiful natural views.”
And that’s precisely what they got. Located on the private, northeastern end of the island overlooking the Ralston Creek golf course and the marsh beyond, the Ennises’ Lesesne Street home is a spacious, welcoming space with plenty of breathing room.
The home was built by Nautilus Company, a custom home building company located in Mount Pleasant. Founded in 2010 by Massachusetts transplant Bill Payzant, Nautilus builds high-end homes east of the Cooper River and also offers home management services— preventative maintenance plans, regular home inspection services for second homes, and even concierge services for vacationing homeowners. The Ennises chose Nautilus for several reasons, not least because of a personal connection to Payzant. “We had a natural connection to Bill as New Englanders, and we were drawn to the Nautilus team’s earnestness, client-centric approach and building expertise,” Bill Ennis says.
One of the first steps Payzant always takes when considering a new project is ensuring that he can put together the right team to create what the client wants. “Our goal is to build what’s important to the client—if someone has a wild idea we’re OK with that. We’ll build it,” he says. “We’ve worked really hard to develop our team members [architects, designers, subcontractors, and others] who work with us and have similar principles and values as we do. We’re much more interested in having that long-term team relationship than just getting a quick project done.”
That’s especially important, he adds, with a home like the Ennises’, which was designed to blend both traditional and modern elements into something new and unique. To manage this balance, the Ennises called on architectural designer Gretchen Payzant, Bill’s wife, who designed everything from the fairly traditional exterior to the thoroughly modern master bathroom, and all of the interior architectural elements like cabinets, counters, tile and light fixtures. Interior decorating was done by Lesesne Hudson, who used a cool color palette to accentuate the coastal feel of the home and lessen the division between outside and in.
You can sense this combination of modern and traditional almost immediately upon entering the home. Take the entryway chandelier, for example: Hanging in the wide, light-filled entry hall, the light fixture is traditional, almost old-fashioned, with swooping, curved arms. It’s surrounded, however, by an elegant cylindrical cage, which transforms the piece into something unusual and very modern.
From the entryway, visitors can see through the openplan living space to the large windows along the back of the house, where a huge back porch offers a serene view of the golf course and marsh. A sitting area, flat-screen TV and outdoor kitchen make the porch an extension of the indoors. “We all live in the Lowcountry for a reason, and outdoor living is a big part of this,” Payzant says. “Also on this house, there’s no screened porch, to make for better views.”
One of the highlights of the home has to be the main living space. With 10-foot ceilings and white shiplap walls, the living area flows seamlessly from the kitchen through the dining area and into the family room. “This is the type of living that people want to do these days,” says Payzant. “Even couples want to be able to entertain. They want family to come and enjoy the space, and not be cut off in a kitchen that’s not connected to the rest of the house.”
There’s no chance of being cut off from anyone in this kitchen—there’s plenty of seat ing for guests at both a wide marble counter in the center of the room and at the breakfast nook located at the far end of the room, underneath five tall windows. The shiplap and flooring— four-inch-wide white oak hardwood with a soft, distressed look—are some of the more unique touches that the Ennises chose. “We were worried we were going overboard with the use of the shiplap,” Ruth says. “But with encouragement from Nautilus, we realized that it has added a bright, timeless appeal to the interior and accentuates our vision of elegant simplicity.”
To the left of the kitchen is a simple dining table and chairs, and to the left of that is the family room. Without any sort of structural divider, the area is defined by a simple white rug and a configuration of chairs and sofas perfect for encouraging gathering and conversation. The space feels warm and cozy, while still maintaining the light, wide-open characteristics of the entire home.
The house was designed so that daily living can be done entirely on the first floor—the beautiful and very private master suite is tucked off to the side and has direct access to the back porch. A large guest suite and two additional bedrooms are located upstairs. The original plan called for a game room upstairs, but because of the number of guests the Ennises receive, they decided to do something different. “We wanted to have a sanctuary-type experience for our guests,” Ruth says. “We took the original plan and converted the game room into a guest room with a Nantucket Inn feeling. It was a risk given the large size of the room and the configuration, but it has turned into one of the highlights of the house.”
Another decision that required some thought was the height of the house off the ground. Looking at the home site, Gretchen Payzant had to decide what height would be the best for the view, while still making it work for what the Ennises wanted inside the home. “If we went any higher, they’d be looking into the tree canopy,” Bill Payzant says. “We wanted to go high enough to see over the green, yet stay low enough to look under the tree canopy to the marsh views beyond.”
These relatively minor challenges and changes speak to the good fit between client and builder that Nautilus puts so much effort into ensuring. The Ennises were certainly satisfied. “They surpassed our expectations from the beginning to the end of the structural process, and if we ever build again we will use Nautilus,” Bill says. “We are thrilled with the uniqueness of the architecture, the structural elements, the bright open design and the cozy lifestyle it has provided us.”
Elizabeth Pandolfi is a writer living in Charleston.