The home is decidedly different from its neighbors on the block. Unfussy and sleek in white stucco with strong geometric lines, its honest simplicity provides a refreshing pause.
The homeowner has owned homes on three different continents, all of them contemporary. “I am not a front porch with rocking chairs person,” she says. After finding a lot in a Mount Pleasant neighborhood that would allow her to build the non-traditional design she had in mind, she needed someone to execute her unique vision.
From her first meeting with Damien Busillo, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s School of Architecture, she knew she had a winner. “I expected him to show up with sketches,” she recalls. “Within weeks, he brought precise drawings.”
As president of DLB Custom Home Design, Busillo works hard to understand his clients. “Architecture is about the people it serves. I get a sense of their lifestyles, learn about their previous homes, their likes and dislikes, and the style of home they desire,” he says. “I design around them, so the experience is personal and geared toward their needs. And because I design only two to three homes at once, the client gets the daily attention their project deserves.”
As a result, this 3,500-squarefoot modern home includes quite a few special requests, with Busillo providing options where even interior designers failed. He routinely uses 3-D technology to bring designs and details to life. For this project, he created impressive 3-D drawings to depict a group of striking George Nelson pendant lamps. “I drew the exact placement of each light so the homeowner could see it as it would appear,” he notes.
When he realized the homeowner, who’d lived mostly outside the United States, was struggling with measurements in feet and inches, he converted his drawings to metrics. “That was a first,” he says.
Despite the challenge of an open and flowing floor plan, he was able to design spaces to include her various pieces of sculpture and large works of art. In the living room, Busillo mirrored the window dimensions with built-in niches customized for the owner’s art and sculpture. “She was having a difficult time conveying her ideas to the cabinet and lighting designer,” he explains, “and asked for help. I like to have the latest and greatest architectural software for times like this, and was quickly able to show her and the team what I suggested for the design of the niches for the great room wall. Each niche was specifically designed to fit each sculpture.”
With zero casing and trim on interior door and window frames and minimum molding, the home presented a challenge for the interior carpenters. “Everything is exposed and required perfect, clean cuts, from framing to dry walling,” Busillo says. “The builder, Mark Pesce at MSP Custom Homes, did a great job with the unconventional sequence of interior construction.”
Busillo uses a process called Building Information Modeling (BIM), which provides insight into the planning, design, construction and management of buildings. “With BIM, I deliver a design with a high level of accuracy,” he says. “The threedimensional drawings leave little to the imagination and translate easily to construction documents. Builders appreciate it and clients love it. For example, I can show them their home’s location on the property using Google Earth. You will easily see sun paths during the various seasons, optimum views and the home in its natural context.”
Above: The centuries-old antique chest in the dining room required a specific wall length. Rich wood flooring adds warmth. Below: The wall dimensions in the foyer were specifically designed for these pieces of art. A blue door and frosted glass add a pop of color.
Using sustainable design practices during pre-design and design phases, Busillo positions the building on the site to reduce solar heat gain and optimize the home’s shape to avoid a large building mass, which is directly related to thermal conductance and energy use. He placed windows where they would maximize daylight and incorporated Nest thermostats, which “learn” the homeowner’s schedule and can be programmed from a smartphone.
The home stays cool in the summer thanks to choices such as a light-colored zinc roof, spray foam insulation, “superinsulation” (tightly sealing all of the exterior wall joints and seams), a highly efficient HVAC system, LED lights and windows with a very low solar heat gain coefficient.
Top and right: Busillo collaborated with local interior designer Deidre Alexander of Leaf Design Studio on the kitchen islands and cabinetry design. The owner requested a partially open view and additional display shelves. Bosch appliances include a glass induction cooktop.
Below: The “floating” stairway, which includes a stainless steel cable rail and banister stained to match the tread and flooring, is an extension of the open, airy second floor entry and great room, which are connected only by a catwalk.
When determining what materials are best for his projects, Busillo regularly consults with an architect who specializes in the field of construction science and technology.
He also minimized the number of artificial light fixtures by using a technique known as daylighting—lighting a house naturally, without excessive heat gain. “These methods are some of the best ways to improve energy efficiency in a home,” Busillo explains. The proof is in the gas and electric bills received over the course of the last year. “During the peak cooling season of July and August, the highest was $90 a month, the average only $50,” he says.