As You Like It: Charleston area house styles increasingly varied as larger builders join local firms to frame customized homes

As You Like It: Charleston area house styles increasingly varied as larger builders join local firms to frame customized homes

Ashton Woods Homes has introduced The Shumard model in a few new neighborhoods in the Charleston area. Custom features include a mini wine cellar (Photo by Marie Rodriguez/Special to The Post and Courier).

If there’s doubt whether greater Charleston ever lacked for custom builders, take Ashton Woods Homes’ experiences here.

The Georgia-based company, which entered the Lowcountry less than two years ago, frames upscale homes to buyers’ specifications.

Within 20 months, Ashton Woods Homes broke ground in 12 neighborhoods across the three county area. “We have gone from 0 to 70 homes overnight,” says Marion Campbell, vice president of marketing.

Further, the builder projects construction to nearly double “to over 200 homes for the (2016) fiscal year,” Campbell says.

“Charleston was on our short list (when the company debuted here in 2013),” she says. The region seemed to face a shortage of contractors that build custom houses in good sized numbers within newer existing or new-home neighborhoods. That’s opposed to high-end designers who concentrate on single lots to craft upper crust houses at the beach, in the country or as a signature residence in a neighborhood, Campbell says.

Ashton Woods Homes, for instance, builds dwellings priced from $184,000 to the $230,000s in Moncks Corner neighborhoods, while raising $1 million plus houses on Daniel Island. The company advertises construction prices from $100,000 to $700,000 on its website. Ashton Woods Homes also builds in Summerville, Mount Pleasant, Johns Island and James Island.

“We put flags all over, and are still looking,” she says.

The company notes that it will build custom homes at any price. “We almost have the best of both worlds,” Campbell says.

While Ashton Woods Homes frames houses in a host of markets in the Southeast, there are Charleston-based contractors such as New Leaf Builders who are hybrids of a sort — designing quaint smaller neighborhoods such as Fox Hollow on James Island as well as crafting individual custom houses.

The custom work includes Jeff and Cynthia Legette’s two-story, 3,700-square-foot residence at Headquarters Plantation. “It was awesome,” Jeff Legette says in describing the effort. “They did a really good job.”

After checking out existing homes, the couple decided to go the custom route. They bought a lot a few years ago at Headquarters, which is near St. John’s Yacht Harbor marina. Legette knew Grant Zinkon — partner with Adam Baslow in New Leaf Builders — and the couple chose the company to build their home.

Desired features include a master bedroom downstairs and bedrooms upstairs for children Parker, 8; and Addie, 4. “We wanted them to have space, too,” he says.

In deciding to go custom, the Legettes considered the future. “We knew this would be a 15-20 year home,” he says.

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A few builders describe themselves as “semi-custom,” adhering to specific floor plans but allowing purchasers lots of leeway for personal touches or specific features they want to include.

“Someone comes with us with Pinterest (photos), we look at a plan and know how to integrate it,” says Sarah Minter, sales and marketing manager of Brock Built Homes of South Carolina.

“Even though we build off a set of plans, we think about how customers live,” she says.

The custom changes could include extra outdoor living space or specific features such as a sunroom or a big deck. “We can pretty much accommodate” the homebuyer, Minter says.

Brock Built’s home prices average $200,000 to $500,000. There’s no set figure on customized or personalized extras since they can vary in size and sophistication.

“We have small customers, people who want to build glass cabinets or roll-out drawers,” Minter says. Some may want a Viking oven instead of the standard GE appliances, she notes.

At the same time, “We have (people spending) $35,000 on a grill or outdoor kitchen,” she says.

The calls for customization could increase in coming weeks as spring buying season ramps up and people “have got their taxes squared away,” she says.

“A lot of people have a vision,” Minter says. “We kind of help.”

To visit local custom home sites, travel most anywhere in the Lowcountry.

Ashton Woods Homes raises houses throughout the area and Brock Built in four communities. Local custom home designers likewise frame houses all over, although they tend to zero in on higher-end neighborhoods or resort or waterside villages.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or

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