A Kiawah home is designed to conduct daylight from sunrise to sunset


A guesthouse over the garage is connected to the main house by a covered colonnade, giving guests privacy and autonomy.

Set on the 18th fairway of the river course at Kiawah Island, this unique home is designed to maximize the verdant golf course and river views, and all the benefits of abundant natural daylight. With four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths and a guesthouse, the 4,500-square-foot home is right-sized for a family of four.

Designed by Chad McDonald of McDonald Architects, the home was built by Buffington Homes, with interior design as a collaboration between Ann Chandler Pastore of AC DesignWorks and Beth Cortopassi of B. Cortopassi Design.

The custom island comfortably seats four and has an inlaid quartzite slab.

Outside, the traditional shingle-style home blends in with the neighborhood and natural landscape. Inside, the home celebrates the views at every possible turn. As we enter, the foyer’s sight line goes through the living room and the massive 10-by-16-foot sliding glass doors at the back of the home, and over the swimming pool to the Kiawah River. At a story-and-a-half high, the living room forms the core of the house. Looking up, we discover the first of many delights.

“I emailed the homeowners with an idea,” McDonald says. “I said, ‘You’re either going to love it or hate it.’” He proposed constructing three concentric barrel-vaulted ceilings upstairs that would line up with one another from the front of the house to the back. One vault would be in the upstairs rear media room, the middle would form the one-and-a-half story living room ceiling and the next would be in the office at the front.

The living room benefits from the alignment of the four arched windows on the second story. Windows can open or close, offering acoustic privacy.

The vaults would have 16-foot-wide arched windows so light could filter through to the center of the house from east to west, following the sun. The abundance of arched windows would essentially make daylight as much of a building tool as any other material. The homeowners went for it, and the effect is divine.

Coming up the stairs, to the left is an office with a barrel-vaulted window overlooking the front of the house. Interior windows on the other side of the office open to the living room below and provide a view through the upper living room and then through the media room to the views of the Kiawah River in the back. “The interior windows provide acoustic privacy, but the light can still come through,” McDonald says. Down the hall is the media room with its views of the pool and river, and interior windows that open to the living room.

There are two bedrooms on this floor. Each has an attached bathroom and a built-in, full-size daybed in a window niche. The daybeds are great places to do homework, read or use as extra sleeping space for younger houseguests.

In the media room, one of the home’s four 16-foot arched windows provides spectacular river views and allows light to filter into the rest of the house.

Back downstairs, the vaulted windows let light into the living room, dining room and kitchen from sunrise to sunset. The dining area is open to the living room and kitchen; ceiling height is reduced to define it as a separate space. The aesthetics of the home are natural and organic, and the sunlight streaming in these rooms heightens the effect.

The kitchen’s focal point is a generous island with a thick wood slab that gives the room a warm, friendly vibe. A sink is mounted in a quartzite slab that sits flush with the wood. The island serves as an informal place to eat or hang out with the cook or as overflow seating for dinner guests. To the right of the island is a beverage station with a built-in wine fridge. Cabinets were custom made by Robert Paige Cabinetry.

A shady balcony provides private space off of the main bedroom.

The architect, builder and designers functioned as one team from the beginning, and the result is harmony from blueprint to construction to interior design. Trevor Buffington had worked on other projects with Cortopassi and McDonald before and enjoyed the unique aspects of building this house. “Beth is very construction focused. She understands the order of operations, which makes everything easier,” he says. “As far as architects go, Chad is great to work with. He understands sometimes we need to make changes to his designs in the field. We all worked together, and the house turned out beautifully.”

The powder room is one of the places the family’s fun-loving personality comes through. With bright green geometric wallpaper and a pale green vanity, it’s one of many vignettes in the home with a youthful energy. “The homeowners have young, playful personalities, and they were attracted to color. It was fun to work with them,” Cortopassi says.

Because the spaces are so open, Cortopassi’s challenge was to add color to the neutral backdrop without disconnecting the rooms from one another. By adding layers, textiles and bright accents, the designers preserved the organic, natural palette throughout the home while giving each space a subtle, separate identity.

The main bath has a luxurious, elongated curbless shower that is age-in-place friendly.

The main bedroom is on the ground floor and has a magnificent en suite bathroom with a luxurious steam shower. The bedroom also has a semiprivate screened porch that allows the homeowners to keep the bedroom doors open to catch island breezes on warm days and nights.

A guesthouse over the garage is connected to the main house by a covered colonnade. This arrangement gives guests privacy and autonomy. The way the guesthouse is nestled in the landscape, it feels like being in a tree house. Inside, there is an elevator with two stops: the main house and the guesthouse. This way, visitors with mobility issues can access the main house without climbing stairs.

The rear of the home opens to a screened porch with a fireplace and dining table, and a saltwater pool with spa.

At the rear of the home, a large screened porch functions as an outdoor living room with a fireplace, TV, dining table and kitchenette. The elevated saltwater infinity pool has a spa and ends in a waterfall on the riverside.

We live in an era where technology keeps us disconnected from nature far too often. McDonald’s vision for making daylight a central figure in the design gives this home a finely tuned vibrancy that keeps its residents connected with the environment, whether they’re at work or play. *

Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston.
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More Information

McDonald Architects
796 Meeting St.
Charleston, SC 29403