Architect Marc Camens designs an island home with nostalgic Northern touches for a blended family


The Adirondack-inspired home is designed to give everyone in the blended family their own space. A third-floor office and conference room provide sweeping river views.

Newlyweds Rebecca and Rich Stinson wanted a house on Kiawah Island where their blended family could gather, but they couldn’t find exactly what they were looking for in an existing home. Their Realtor introduced them to architect Marc Camens, and the trio hit it off immediately. Between them, the Stinsons have four grown sons, ranging in age from 19 to 29. They wanted a home where everyone could have their own bedroom, bathroom and living space, plus various gathering spaces throughout where the family and their guests could hang out together.

Camens is well-known for his Adirondack-inspired residences that hearken back to when extended families would spend the summer months together in a compound-style mountain house. The keystone of the concept is giving everyone enough private space to recharge while providing a variety of casual gathering areas throughout the residence and property. On Kiawah, Camens has perfected the art of translating the functionality of Great Camp style to Island style.

There is no formal dining space in the home, so architect Marc Camens designed a casual eat-in kitchen with a spacious island large enough for meals and prep work.

With more than 100 homes on Kiawah Island under his belt, the architect has developed a unique process of designing homes from the inside out instead of planning the elevation first. “That gives me the freedom to design a house for the way the client lives,” Camens says. “Then we wrap it in an architectural style that suits the landscape and the homeowner’s tastes. If you start from the outside in, it’s only as unique as your brain can come up with. If you start with the inside, it’s all unique because you have to adapt it to the client’s program. Only then do you wrap it in the exterior envelope. That’s how we get unique architecture.”

Brickwork and Tudor-style arches are a nod to the family’s Pittsburgh roots, while steel touches throughout the home reference the wife’s family history in the steel industry.

Built by Jedd McLuen of Bennett-McLuen Homes, the collaboration resulted in a 5,600-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bath shingle-style home overlooking the Kiawah River. The clients wanted to maximize the magnificent river view; have a separate bedroom, bathroom and living space for everyone; an exercise room; and lots of gathering areas. “It’s a big house, but I didn’t want it to feel big,” Rebecca Stinson says.

For exterior architecture, the clients love the industrial brickwork and subtle steel touches of traditional Pittsburgh homes. Though this home fits the shingle-style Kiawah aesthetic, Camens added Tudor elements, such as peaked roofs and arches, that reference the Stinsons’ existing home in Pittsburgh. Camens also wanted to give them interesting outdoor living spaces and plenty of parking, which was required for all the cars that come with six or more adults sharing a house.

Ultimately, Stinson decided to do the interior design herself. “I’ve lived in Pittsburgh all my life. My father was in the steel industry, so we wanted some areas that were more rustic. My furniture is very much a mix of antiques, and we’re avid art collectors,” she says. To further the connection, she worked with World of Rugs in Pittsburgh for floor coverings and had furniture upholstered and pillows made by Tecla Summers.

Though the wife’s serene office and sitting room is open to the kitchen, architectural details such as the brick floor and vaulted ceiling make it feel like a separate, private space.

As we enter, we can see straight through the brick arches in the great room to the magnificent river views. This is a cozy family space for watching sports, movies or spending time together before dinner. Built-in shelving flanking the fireplace provides a display area for books and family treasures. From the great room, we pass through a brick alcove with a wet bar, slate blue cabinets and storage for barware. “I wanted the bar to have a rich, masculine look, and it turned out exactly how I wanted,” Stinson says. Nearby is a beautiful European-style wine cellar with brick columns separating wine into regions, a metal ceiling and steel accents.

The living room has broad river views, brick walls and arches that help to keep the room cozy. The homeowner did her own interior design, incorporating pieces from her Pittsburgh home with new furnishings that reflect Lowcountry elegance.

To the left of the alcove, we enter a casual, expansive kitchen that also serves as the main dining space. Camens says most of his clients are forgoing formal dining rooms in favor of eat-in kitchens, so he created an island large enough to provide both prep space for cooking and seating for meals. Crisp white cabinets run the room’s perimeter while the island picks up the slate blue from the wet bar. An arched opening over the sink gives a glimpse into a sitting room and the view.

To the left of the kitchen, Camens designed a quaint sitting room and office for Stinson. The warm, cozy room features a herringbone brick floor and a vaulted ceiling with warm wood beams. With two comfortable chairs and a petite built-in desk, this is her favorite part of the house. “I love my office,” Stinson says. “Even though it’s not secluded, it’s where I have coffee and read my morning devotionals.”

The home is designed to give everyone in the family their own space, with plenty of options for comfortable gatherings. A favorite place to spend time together is the outdoor living room with fireplace, television and grill niche.

The primary suite is also on this floor. Camens says the clients didn’t want anything over-the-top, but it does have a private entry, an expansive closet, a luxurious en suite bath and incredible river views.

On the second level, Camens designed the first of two bedroom suites. Here the older set of brothers each have their own bedrooms and baths and share a den. The second-floor suite has the feel of a boutique hotel. With an eye on grandkids in the future, Stinson asked Camens for a bathtub in one of the bathrooms. Also on the second level is a glassed-in stairwell that leads to Rich Stinson’s office and conference room. Camens glassed-in the stairway on the second level to block noise while showing the stairs leading up. The magnificent space on the third floor also has a balcony river lookout.

The wine cellar has industrial touches, brick walls and flooring, and is designed to organize wine by region.

The second suite of bedrooms and den for the younger brothers is over the garage and has a more casual vibe. In a mother-of-the-year move, Stinson had a beer pong table made for the games area of the garage. “They have a great time down there, and we can’t hear a thing,” she says. Outside, Camens designed living spaces that include two screened porches, a pool, an outdoor living room and a kitchen. By request, one of the fireplaces is wood-burning.

Stinson says the entire family has been there together, with guests, and the house functions beautifully. “The whole process was just an exceptional experience,” she says. “Jedd McLuen, the builder, and Zak Taylor, the project manager, made everything seamless. They are so honest and responsive. We love our house, and we love Marc so much. We consider him a friend.”

An outdoor pool and spa with infinity edge maximizes river views and gives the family space to soak up the sun.

“The Stinsons were wonderful clients,” Camens says. “They were open to everything, and we made a great team. It’s always a team effort from the client, builder and designers. The home is nicely crafted and detailed, and it fits the family perfectly. I’ve been designing homes for 41 years, and the reason our clients love their houses is because it’s about them; it’s not about me. I present everything they desire, and the final result is their home, and it will never be re-created.” *

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

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