Though Sara and Ben DeWolf loved their former home in Daniel Island’s Smythe Park, when development began on nearby Captain’s Island, the idea of building a new home to perfectly suit their family and lifestyle was too tempting to pass up. Homes on this 100-acre island enclave, designed to embrace river views and outdoor living, are a significant attraction for nature lovers.
After buying a lot through a lottery process, the couple interviewed several architects and immediately connected with Steve Herlong of Herlong Architects and Interior Design. “When we met Steve, we knew he was the one because he asked us what we envisioned instead of telling us what he envisioned,” Sara DeWolf says. “He was so open and such a great listener.”
On the top of the couple’s wish list was a home that would help streamline family life with two active girls; a mudroom with a drop zone at garage level and a playroom that could grow with them were essential. The busy couple occasionally works from home, so they needed two offices. To enhance the home’s fun factor, they wanted an outdoor pool and kitchen with easy access to the indoor kitchen.
Herlong designed a 5,454-square-foot home with five bedrooms, six bathrooms and everything the family wanted, including a library and a private guest room with a full bath.
While the lot has incredible water views due to its proximity to Ralston Creek and the marsh, fitting everything in wasn’t easy; the narrow lot is bordered in back by the creek and the marsh and home to a protected, massive and ancient live oak. The unique shape of the lot and the protected tree dictated a footprint that moved the home’s front door close to the street, an element the architect leveraged to give the house a contemporary, urban vibe.
For interiors, the DeWolfs worked with Heather Allison, one of Herlong Architects’ powerhouse interior designers. Allison is known for her uncanny ability to blend a couple’s separate visions into a seamless design while making the process enjoyable. “Sara and Ben were drawn to clean lines and simple details, and liked many elements of the coastal contemporary design, but they wanted some unique details,” Allison says.
By design, the moment you enter the home, the views of Ralston Creek steal the show. The entry gives way to an open-plan kitchen, living and dining room that feel like unique spaces without being closed off. The serene formal dining room features a double-sided fireplace with burnished limestone plaster that reflects light into the space. The room has wide steel doors that give dinner guests relaxing water views. Herlong also designed a curved niche to house the family’s baby grand piano, which is put to good use when the family entertains.
Throughout the home, wide-plank European oak floors add warmth to a neutral palette. The other side of the double-sided fireplace faces an open living room with warm timber beams, a mother-of-pearl chandelier and a bright, semi-hidden wet bar that improves traffic flow during parties. In the kitchen, a large built-in half-round table is perfect for morning coffee, doing homework before dinner or casual meals. The focal point of this hardworking room is a custom zinc hood framed by large double windows that let in plenty of natural light.
A large walk-in pantry off the kitchen is perfect for storing small appliances, cookbooks and the coffee maker. Not only does this room neatly corral kitchen necessities, but a built-in sink also allows it to function as a scullery when called into action for parties. Down the hall, Sara’s serene office has windows on two sides of the room overlooking the ancient live oak. Custom cabinets for work and “mom stuff” line the room, and a pair of French doors provide privacy for virtual meetings. Here, Allison used pops of indigo for calm visual energy against the neutral tones. At the other end of the house, Ben’s expansive office also functions as the family’s den and movie room. This cozy space has beautiful views of Ralston Creek, reclaimed timbers against a vaulted ceiling and a projector with a drop-down screen for movie nights.
Upstairs, a white oak X-rail design stairway with cable railings leads to a bright landing with a series of organic jute light fixtures. The girls each have their own bedroom and bath and share a playroom with built-in bunk beds so they can have their own space. “The playroom is a nice place for the kids to hang out and have their own space for having friends over,” Allison says. “It’s a room they can grow into, so there are some nods to sophistication.”
In the primary bedroom, Herlong designed a curved niche that leads to a beautiful porch with views of the creek and pool. Sliding doors lead to a luxurious bathroom suite with his-and-her closets, a soaking tub positioned to take in the view and separate his-and-her vanities.
Outside, the family’s favorite part of the house is a resort-style living space with water views. A curved infinity-edge pool gives way to a spa and shady deck. Under the den, Herlong created an extra hangout space that is the perfect spot for hosting kids’ parties. For the outdoor kitchen and dining area, windows accordion open, so it’s easy to pass food and drinks back and forth. “They designed this home for their family,” Herlong says. “They’re such a fun couple to be around; we listened carefully so we could give them exactly what they wanted.”
The family was thrilled with the results and surprised at how much they enjoyed the process. “We’d heard horror stories about building a house, but Heather and Steve were amazing. I sent Heather hundreds of pictures; it was easy to tell her my ideas, and she understood what I wanted. I completely trust her,” Sara DeWolf says.
“We’re just really pleased with how everything turned out,” her husband adds. “We use every inch of this house, and there’s nothing we would change.” *
Robin Howard is a freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com