The checklist was relatively short but that did not diminish the tall order for the team who designed and built the Isle of Palms beach house for Kathy and Paul Reichs: Maximize the ocean view and build the ultimate family home.
“We had owned two prior beach houses at Isle of Palms,” says Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist and author of the Temperance Brennan series of crime novels. “The first one was too small. The second one was too big. It had too much wasted space and was not configured the way my family uses it. I wasn’t there very long when I started thinking about having one built from the ground up.”
The couple turned to local custom homebuilders Chip and Zac Naramore of Naramore Construction Co. and interior designer Patrice Pilz of Interior Connections in Charlotte, with whom they had existing relationships. They also selected architect Bill Huey of Bill Huey + Associates in Charleston. This time, they wanted to make sure there was space for their three adult children and their six grandchildren, ages 6 to 12, and that the home was as welcoming and unfussy as it was beautiful.
“I sat down with Bill and Zac and talked through what I liked and didn’t like. We just kept modifying until we got it right,” Reichs says. “I feel that we did get there, and we are happy with it. I wanted to keep it light and airy and maximize the view.”
Zac Naramore says the project reflected the trust the company had built with the owners. “We worked with Kathy and Paul on their first two beach houses, so needless to say we were thrilled when Kathy called and said she wanted us to help her build a new oceanfront home that fit her family’s needs,” he says.
They created a bright, modern house of 6,400 square feet, with seven bedrooms, seven and a half bathrooms and four porches, including one designed with the grandkids in mind.
“Kathy shared concepts with her family,” Huey says. “One piece of specific feedback was to double the size of the covered porch area off the living area. She told me her grandchildren loved to have dance parties, so we made it double the size I originally drew it.”
The H-shaped house was designed to ensure that all adult living areas had ocean views. The primary bedroom includes a porch and an ocean-facing writing office for Reichs. In addition to the “dance” porch, a dining porch with a grill and a sitting porch with a TV meld the indoor and outdoor spaces.
“The ideas that we worked on—the large windows, porches and expanses—allow this house to be opened up. This is a beach house, and we wanted to let the ocean breeze do its thing,” Huey says.
The project started in 2019 and took about 16 months to complete. The clients moved in during the summer of 2020, just in time to weather the ongoing pandemic. “The family uses this beach home more than most, and it is designed to handle everyone at once. We put the house to the test during COVID lockdown. The kids’ den and his-and-her bunk rooms gave the grandkids a great place to participate in online schooling,” Naramore says.
Throughout the process, the builders paid special attention to materials that could handle the climate and ocean environment. For the exterior, they selected NuCedar shingles, a synthetic material in which the colors are extruded into the finish. “This is the most convincing synthetic shake on the market. Clients are always surprised how authentic the product looks and feels,” says Naramore. Elsewhere, sturdy woods like mahogany and ipe were the materials of choice.
Interior design choices were also driven by the family’s need for durability and simplicity, for both humans and pets. In the living room, Pilz chose black-and-white chairs with stainless steel bases by Vanguard. “We were very aware of the family’s sense of comfort. They like to ‘squish’ into seating,” says Pilz. “Almost all of the fabrics we chose are performance fabrics with advanced cleanability.” In the kitchen, acrylic barstools and quartz countertops eliminate concerns about spills.
Throughout the house are custom details where builder, architect and designer collaborated for a striking effect. Near the home’s entry is a modern, dramatic wine room with its own HVAC system, frameless glass doors, and acrylic and anodized aluminum racks. The ceiling has a serpentine shape, with cypress planks that fan out from a vintage light. “This drop soffit ceiling was an exciting challenge for our carpenters, who did an incredible job,” Naramore says.
“It’s unique to situate the wine room in a foyer in the front of the house, but it functions well where it’s located, conveniently next to the kitchen,” Huey says.
Naramore and Huey worked with Pilz to incorporate the light fixture from a vintage warehouse in New Jersey, as well as a granite slab Pilz and Reichs had found while searching for stone for the entire house. “We were given free rein to have fun and do something expressive,” Huey says. “The effect is really cool. Patty had drawn a sunburst pattern to that ceiling, and the light is recessed into that sunburst.”
Pilz notes that the materials in the room add to both functionality and aesthetics. “The wood added the warmth you really need,” she says. “The wine room is cold. The granite helps the functionality by conducting the cold, so does the marble floor. All enhance maintaining the temperature.”
The serpentine detail is also repeated in the bunk rooms and in the second-floor porch, which is accessible from the primary bedroom. “It softens the sharp, angular lines of the house,” Huey says.
The house features various wall treatments that add subtlety and craftsmanship while keeping the clean, contemporary look. On the first level, horizontal shiplap covers the walls in the living area, kitchen and dining room, which adds subtle contrast to the marbled pattern of the kitchen backsplash and the fireplace surround. “We wanted to add interest to the walls and not repeat the typical shiplap look that we do so often. Bill and his team did a great job with the interior architecture and creating interest as you moved from one room to the next,” Naramore says.
In the primary bedroom, the team took advantage of the vaulted ceiling, which follows the roofline of the house, by layering white shiplap for a mitered effect. “There are a number of different ceiling treatments that define each space,” Naramore says. “As you move from one area to another, you may walk down a hallway with an 8-foot ceiling and into a primary room with a vaulted ceiling or drastically increased ceiling height. These touches create a grander experience as you enter each room.”
The study features cypress planks placed vertically on the walls and across the ceiling to the other side. “All the planks line up with each other as they cross the room,” Huey explains.
The wine room adds some functionality with a pair of hidden doors that blend into the shiplap walls. “When they close, they are a little less noticeable and lead into the working pantry and storage area. It creates good flow around the wine room,” Huey says.
In the kitchen, a bay that stretches across the exterior allowed for some attractive setbacks for the windows. “The bay runs the width of the house, and the stove and hood are built in. That allowed us to set the windows back and have the stone return to the windows for a modern, clean line,” Huey says.
Windows are also a focal point of the house. From the entrance with its view clear across to the ocean to meals enjoyed together in a sunny dining room to settling down for the night, the windows are an integral part of the family’s experience in the house.
Naramore installed A-series Andersen hurricane-impact windows. “We worked with Andersen and Southern Lumber to specify the largest operable windows Andersen makes,” he says, maximizing the view while providing essential safety from storms. The windows feature detailing across the top to replicate a transom above an interior or exterior door.
One of the areas where the family challenged the design and construction team was to take advantage of almost every inch of ocean view in the bedrooms. To achieve that, Naramore and Huey created a wall design in which the windows meet at the corners.
In the primary bedroom, the owners can shut out the busy scene outdoors with the flip of a switch, which lowers roller shades from inside the soffits. “Because that room has so much glass, it’s pretty exposed from the beach side,” Naramore says. “With the shades, they can shut the room off for privacy.”
The his-and-her bunk rooms may lack direct ocean views, but they are designed for family fun. The girls’ room, for example, has two daybeds and a loft bed covered in soft pink and white linens with gray accents, plus a queen bed. “There was a lot of thought and detail that went into the necessities of each bunk room. For instance, Pat wanted the girls’ bunk room to have a slight radius on all the millwork to give it a softer feel and appearance,” Naramore says.
Even the hallways received meticulous attention and creativity. “On the second floor, we worked with Patty to create a nice rhythm in the hallway, using interesting lighting fixtures to enhance the clean, modern vibe,” Huey says.
Naramore notes that he has used pocketed light fixtures in other homes and often receives requests from clients to replicate the look. A clever interplay between a skylight and a painting of a swooping pelican makes it appear as if it is diving in the hallway, he adds.
The serendipitous-seeming details of this home, such as the hallway lighting, are another example of the rhythm that the team established. “When you’re in the process of teamwork, your ideas naturally play off each other,” Pilz says. “Then you all realize at the same time, ‘This is it. This is exactly what we were working toward.’ When it comes to the point of the aha moment, you know that’s exactly how it should be.”
And, in this project, they had a bit of help from homeowners who had built up solid trust with their team.
“Whenever you have a house on the ocean, the main thing is to optimize the view for the client,” Pilz says. “I think Bill paid attention to that from the inception. Zac and Kathy and I were aware of that. It just evolved to exactly what Kathy wanted, and that’s the goal, to create the owners’ vision.”
Freelance writer and editor Connie Dufner is a proud Texan transplant living in Washington, D.C. She is a former editor for Modern Luxury Dallas and The Dallas Morning News who has been covering interiors journalism since 2001.