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Two Kiawah Island homes near Charleston recognized by SC architecture association

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Kiawah Island, home to some of the Lowcountry's most extravagant houses, now has two more in its arsenal which were recently recognized for their architectural integrity.

The Lowcountry Wharf House and the Node House, both located on the famed barrier island, were recognized by the South Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects in a design category named for Robert Mills, a Palmetto State architect who lived in the early 1800s and is best known for designing the Washington Monument. 

Anderson Studio director Scott Anderson said it was an honor to be recognized with the merit award in the Mills category. The studio, he said, faced a space challenge when designing the Lowcountry Wharf House at the northern edge of the island overlooking the Kiawah River.

The plot of land was under half an acre, but they were still tasked with building a spacious home for a Chicago couple moving to the area that looked as though it had been there a long time and fit in with the homes around it. 

So their strategy was to make the three-story, 4,800-square-foot, four-bedroom home taller, rather than wider — without it feeling too vertical. 

"There was a question of modernism (we had to address)," he said. "The exterior is vertical, but we don’t make it feel so tall, so what does modern form look like?"

The answer came in the form of emphasizing the nature around the property. The home has finishes of plaster, steel, natural wood and stone, and the first floor was constructed so that during the day, natural light would illuminate the home rather than artificial overhead lights.  

"It's about services and tactfulness," Anderson said. "It's really simplified." 

The overall goal of the project was to create a modern space that would promote a sense of wellness through the architecture, interior design and nature surrounding the home.

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"When you can achieve that, you’ve really gone a long way in advancing wellness of the people that live there," he said.  "The inspirations are relatively simple, but the details are where it really comes to fruition."

Judges commenting on the Wharf House said it "nestles a large program onto a challenging site without overwhelming the sense of place along this stretch of waterway."

"Open and airy upper floors help to diminish the sense of the size of the house while capturing the incredible prospects of the site," judges said.

Joel Wenzel, an architect with Charleston-based Thomas & Denzinger, said receiving a Robert Mills citation for the firm's designing of the Node House was special because of the group that awarded it.

"It's a jury of our peers, so it's very high praise indeed," he said.  

The house itself was focused on taking the client's desire for a long-term retreat for his family and making it fit their needs. His wife, Wenzel said, was a college swimmer — so the home was designed with a pool that could accommodate lap swimming, and every room in the house flows in a way that gives easy access to the pool. 

"It's a unique lot with northern views, but we wanted to allow the southern sun to light up spaces as well," Wenzel said. 

After taking into account the needs of the client and their hope to be able to entertain guests, materiality became the firm's next focus. The 4,000-square-foot home and the corresponding 1,200-square-foot guest house emphasize glass work and concrete elements that connect the main and guests house. The interiors use softer woods to give the homes a more human feeling, Wenzel said. 

"The resulting harmony of element intends to connect the home to nature at a physical and visual level," the firm wrote in its awards submission.

The recognition for Anderson Studios and Thomas & Denzinger doesn't come with a monetary prize, but both firms said it was fulfilling to be recognized by fellow architects for their work. 

Contact Conner Mitchell at 843-834-0419. Follow him on Twitter at @ConnerMitchell0.

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