Shelter Custom-Built Living collaborates with designer Moe Draz to create a unique family home on Captain’s Island


To the right of the fireplace, a panel conceals a secret door that leads to an office.

Shelter Custom-Built Living, a design-build firm specializing in one-of-a-kind homes, is known for its visionary approach to modern vernacular architecture. With new twists on traditional Lowcountry style, Shelter’s projects are always full of pleasant surprises. The home we’ll see today, a 6,065-square-foot, five-bedroom, seven-and-a-half bath house on Captain’s Island, is the result of a brilliant collaboration between the Shelter team and Moe Draz, founder and principal designer of Architrave.

The home, which began as a spec, was first imagined by Shelter’s co-founders, Jenny and Ryan Butler, and architect Neal Van Dalen. Sixty percent of the way through the build, the home found its family, just in time for Draz to fold in plenty of custom interior touches.

In communities such as Captain’s Island, a reasonable amount of architectural consistency preserves the island’s sense of place. Some architectural elements, such as large windows and doors that frame views, are part of the Charleston lifestyle. However, nobody wants to live in a home that is exactly like their neighbor’s. Shelter is known for incorporating details informed by a broader worldview that gives each of their homes personality. “We want our homes to blend in with the Lowcountry lifestyle but have new elements,” Jenny Butler says. “Elements such as 12-foot ceilings on the first floor and large, open concept spaces that provide a wow factor are part of our signature style.” Butler, who co-founded the company with her husband, Ryan, has taken over as owner since his passing this spring.

A custom brass and black vent hood contrasts with white and gray Arabescato Vagli honed marble in the kitchen.

The new homeowners, a busy couple with three children, loved the in-progress home and were eager to add their own touches. “Moe knew this home was special for them, and he wasn’t going to repeat design elements from past projects,” Butler says. “They wanted a moody, warm, modern vibe that mixed elements and design styles, and we were all excited about the one-of-a-kind details he brought to the project.”

For interior design inspiration, Draz looked to classic mid-century modern homes and architecture, such as the interiors of the Menil House in Houston and projects by design pioneer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. “We were fortunate enough to have worked with this client on three prior homes,” Draz says. “For this one, they wanted something modern and clean that echoed the architecture, but they also wanted it to feel warm, layered and not sterile. In addition to creating a serene living environment, we wanted to create interest through contrasting materials.”

The elevation is Lowcountry farmhouse-style, with two symmetrical three-story vertical rectangles linked by a middle section and a lower horizontal roofline. To the left of the entrance is a three-car garage with a FROG (finished room over garage) connected to the home. Shelter is known for its eco-friendly design principles, so they chose Boral siding, a sustainable product made from fly ash that looks like wood but is far more durable and long-lasting for the exterior. Other exterior materials include Trespa, an innovative recycled cladding, and AZEK, an engineered siding made from recycled materials.

The third floor flex space serves as a cozy hangout for the kids.

We enter through a contemporary glass and steel pivot door that ushers us into a light-filled, open-plan living, dining and kitchen space with 12-foot ceilings. From here, we can see through the back of a second pivot door and a wall of vertical rectangular windows to the pool and the Wando River. The home sits on a double lot, so there are no nearby neighbors on either side, which makes the views especially verdant and peaceful.

In the kitchen, the Shelter team had selected a custom black and brass vent hood and Arabescato Vagli honed marble for the island and backsplash, and Draz sourced black and brass pulls to coordinate with the hood. Appliances are Sub-Zero and Wolf Designer series with every appliance possible hidden behind panels. The elegant faucets in the kitchen, pantry and wet bar are unlacquered finished brass, which will patina to match the other black and brass elements.

The nearby wet bar has black and brass floating shelves and Arabescato Vagli honed marble that runs to the ceiling. To define individual spaces in the open living room, dining area and kitchen, Draz used a combination of sophisticated brass and onyx lighting.

Eight-foot windows provide spectacular views of the Wando River.

Behind the central kitchen, the pantry serves as a second kitchen for entertaining prep. This tidy room also houses small appliances, a convection oven, microwave, coffee system, second dishwasher, sink, two refrigerator doors and plenty of storage.

The living area is anchored by a magnificent fireplace wall dominated by panels of rift and quarter-sawn white oak. “Our client wanted the living room sectional to be super deep and comfortable for family gatherings and TV watching,” Draz says. “We designed it and had it made to the client’s specifications so that the side perpendicular to the fireplace is the same dimensions as a queen-size bed.” Outside is a spacious back porch with a fireplace, outdoor kitchen and outdoor bathroom that overlooks the inground pool and putting green.

To the right of the fireplace, one of the panels conceals a secret door that leads to an office. This bright room features 8-foot windows that overlook the Wando River. “This home was finished during the pandemic, so we wanted to create a space where you could be working but feel like you’re outside,” Butler says. Draz designed the wood ceiling, and Shelter’s in-house trim carpenter fabricated it. Blended by Draz, the stain color matches the floors and is used throughout the home. To the right of the living area, a temperature-controlled glass wine room sits beneath a dramatic glass staircase.

A custom glass and steel wine room sits under a light-filled stairwell.

The primary bedroom lies down a private hallway on the first floor. This serene room has 12-foot ceilings with 8-foot window frames that maximize natural light but allow space for furniture placement. A Control4 Smart Home system operates automated blinds so the homeowners can set the mood in the room from their phones or a control switch on the wall. The primary bath has a large wet room with a shower and soaking tub, white oak cabinets with Sterling quartz countertops, a Dolomite marble floor and wet room tiles.

Fluted tambour behind the vanities echoes tambour accents throughout the home. “The primary bedroom has very high ceilings, large windows and plenty of natural light, which is beautiful but can also feel cold and impersonal,” Draz says. “We wanted to create a more intimate and restful space that felt very different than the rest of the house. We opted for a fabric wall covering by Innovations with a very subtle, water-like movement that mimicked calm ocean water. The texture of the fabric and deep blue color transformed the space into a very cozy and warm bedroom.”

As we head upstairs, we get to take a closer look at the stunning custom glass staircase. With mitered risers and treads, this is another of Shelter’s in-house trim carpenter’s masterpieces. Powdered steel railings with inset glass panels run to the third floor, allowing natural light to shine through the stairwell.

On the second floor, there are three bedrooms for the kids, each with a walk-in closet and bath. “The eldest daughter’s bedroom has a graphic wall covering designed by Porter Teleo for Schumacher Fabrics,” Draz says. “She wanted an all-white, neutral bedroom with no color. To create an interesting room devoid of color, we needed to play with textures and patterns. The graphic wallpaper, along with the rich textures of the textiles and the wood tones of the bedside pieces, created a rich and interesting environment. In the younger daughter’s bedroom, we chose a coral wall covering by a local Charleston-based artist, Rebecca Atwood. We loved the youthful, colorful print mixed with neutrals, a touch of chartreuse green and the bubble glass chandelier.”

The third floor is a flex space used as a hangout for the kids. This cozy room has decorative tambour on the walls and custom cabinetry for storage. The third floor is also home to a gym and a full bathroom. “A lot of this home is COVID-inspired,” Butler says. “As our clients moved here from other states during COVID, we started seeing trends in what they want and need, including home gyms and offices, pools, and large gathering spaces.” Once this project was complete, it was was right-sized and tailored perfectly to the family’s lifestyle.

“We were thrilled with the result,” Butler says. “We were excited to see our vision come to life and enhanced by Moe. He was phenomenal. He was hands-on and present every day, a great collaborator, professional, kind and everything you could want from a partnership.”

The bright primary bathroom is wrapped in Dolomite marble. A large wet room has a double shower and soaking tub.

“Working with Shelter is a designer’s dream,” Draz says. “They are professional, respectful and willing to explore new ideas to help us achieve our design goals. Their scheduling and attention to detail is incomparable.”

The clients are also thrilled that they have their perfect home. “It means the world to us that they’re so happy. No matter the project, we create an experience that should be unique and enjoyable. Ryan’s motto was he wanted to be able to live on the same island where he works and have good conversations when he ran into our clients,” Butler says. “Sometimes we would go into a local restaurant, and someone would yell, ‘There’s my favorite builder!’ We love those relationships.”

As the company moves into a new chapter with longtime friend and colleague James Huffman in the role of director of construction, it aims to build on Ryan Butler’s legacy. “I have an amazing team that’s been with us for a long time,” Jenny Butler says. “They all have such great educations and extraordinary skills. Each of our projects comes with a seasoned team that strives for a great building experience because that’s what it’s all about.”

An outdoor kitchen, fireplace and living area give way to the pool and putting green with spectacular river views.

Shelter is a multi-Prism award winner with an A+ BBB Rating and Accreditation, and it is one of the only builders in the Charleston area named in Home Builder Digest’s “best of” lists, including Best Modern Home Builder in the U.S., Best General Contractors in South Carolina, Best Custom Home Builders in Isle of Palms and Best Construction Companies in South Carolina. Other awards include GuildQuality Guildmaster 2020–2024 and GuildQuality Guildmaster with Highest Distinction. “Our accolades are a big part of who we are as a custom homebuilder,” Butler says. “We value transparency, a memorable client experience, and building a unique and one-of-a-kind custom home with our seasoned, skilled and educated build and design team.” *

Robin Howard is a freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at

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