Story by Art Department / March 30, 2021

Welcome back to another episode of Brilliant Builders & Renovation Sensations hosted by Charleston Home + Design magazine publisher Tim Barkley. For this episode, we went on location to Kiawah Island where builders Kara and Neal Crowell of Cinder Creek Construction have completed their newest project – a contemporary home surrounded by nature.

When did you complete construction on this contemporary home?

We finished this home in October of 2020.

How would you describe the style of this home?

It is a contemporary, modernist home with a lot of elements from the midcentury movement – a lot of use of natural materials and a good flow of nature. It’s definitely different.

One thing I really like about it is the natural landscape you have here. There’s a lot of pine needles that look as though its just fallen, rather than been placed. It’s also a fairly wooded lot. There’s probably not a lot of landscape maintenance for this, correct?

There’s not and that was very intentional. We wanted to give the impression that the house was meant to be in this lot. We cleared the bare minimum. The species are all native to South Carolina to encourage nesting for the species on Kiawah – bobcats specifically.

Describe the exterior elevations of this custom home.

This contemporary home is anchored with a central core. Flanking out from that core are different elements that really make it stand out. The areas that extend from the central core have wide open areas underneath with plantings. The house is clad in garapa siding that weathers naturally. There are unique elevations in the roof, and the front and rear of the home have window walls to further bring the natural maritime forest views inside.

Yes, let’s take a second and talk about these windows. They look like windows you might see in a commercial setting. These windows don’t open, correct?

That’s correct. The window walls on the front and rear are fixed and very much like what you would see commerically. They were all custom-made, impact glass made by Andersen Windows. The geometric shapes and sizes were created to work with the elevation of the home. There’s not a single opening window in the house. All of the bedrooms have sliding glass doors and private porches. That enabled us to have fixed windows that provided the contemporary home aesthetic and natural light wanted.

Talk a bit about the HVAC. I don’t see any equipment outside.

There isn’t an HVAC equipment stand seen in this home like there are in many of the homes seen in this area. This particular home has a dedicated mechanical room on the second floor for the indoor portion of the air handlers, then hidden on the roof is a high-quality Mitsubishi system that has been very efficient for the homeowners. The homeowners are running about $230/month for their 3,300 square foot home. This is also an all foam insulation, a mix of open cell and closed cell. Closed is used on the bottom and the roof and walls are open. A lot of that is because the home has a steel skeleton frame in order to have those big open spaces so it took a remarkable amount of engineering.

This contemporary home is also a smart house so everything in the house is low-voltage, high-efficiency. When you enter a room the lights will come on automatically and then they time out, so you don’t have a lot of that uneccessary energy usage from people going in and out. Humidity is also a huge issue, especially in bathrooms. It’s pretty common people don’t run the bath fans for long enough. With this system, when the humidity reaches a certain level the bath fans automatically come on and will stay on until the humidity level has dropped. What that does is help exit the humidity from the room and prevent mold and mildew.

One of the things that’s noticeable as I walked up the stairs is that gentle slope. It doesn’t feel like a typical flight of stairs. Was that intentional?

They’re designed to be cantilevered stairs so they have steel beam supports and are wrapped in the garapa wood. The steel landing platform is hanging from the main portion of the house. Because it doesn’t have the traditional supports, it does have open air. We’ve noticed people pausing the first time they come to the house and then stepping up – it’s sort of a visual trick. But, yes, everything was very much intentional. Steel beams come down from the column in the middle and the wood portion of the treads are anchored.

As we enter this contemporary home, I notice there isn’t a lot of wasted square footage.

That was very intentional. A lot of the homes that were looked at for guidance through the architectural process had that same feel. The owners wanted the sense of it being a little bit darker like the foundation, then you come up into the small foyer and when you walk into the main area the massing in the main areas opens back up and takes you visually back outside. Well into construction there was a very interesting article that we came across and we learned that Frank Lloyd Wright used this concept in many of his homes – a smaller foyer with lower ceilings and then it opening up in the living area.

We’re in the living/kitchen area. Can you describe these spaces?

When you enter the main living area of the house, that same central core we talked about outside is on the inside as well, but this time it’s a central core with walls of walnut that wrap around hidden doors for the laundry room, and a future elevator. The doors are magnetic push handles, the commercial version for that panel. The smart home panel is hidden here as well.

Can you talk about some more details of the kitchen?

The kitchen is finished in walnut, flat panel cabinetry. There are 10 foot ceilings and the stainless detailing on the cabinets is seen throughout the house. The cabinet maker integrated those details in so it all tied together. He had some leeway to use his creativity here.

So now we’ve walked into the living room and you feel the space opening up like you mentioned when we were outside. How tall are these ceilings?

I believe they’re about 28 feet.

In addition to the window wall, you also have a sliding door system to the patio. Can you tell our readers how that works?

It is an accordion door so the entire thing will open up. It’s really easy to get open. It’s a 21 foot opening system that I can push open with one hand. A steel beam was recessed into the floor because the systems have a large track, so we created a smoother transition. If you’re stepping across barefoot, it isn’t as much of a tripping issue.

Those types of details like the recessed beam are really important, but often not something a lot of people think of. Did the architect help with that or are those things you have learned after being in the industry?

A lot of those details are builder driven. That’s where it’s important for homeowners to get their design team together early on in the process so the builder can weigh in on functionality of those decisions. And so they can get in early enough to make those adjustments.

This is a beautiful living area. Tell us about some of the furnishings and details in this space.

Again going with the influence of the old-school, American, modern, very simplistic and similar colorways that you would see outdoors. The homeowner worked with Iola Modern in North Charleston to furnish the living room.

There isn’t a visable television in the space. Can you talk about that?

The piece that looks like artwork on the fireplace is the Panasonic frame TV. I am hesitant to put televisions over the fireplace because it disrupts the seamless look. This particular television is so minimal which is exactly what the homeowners wanted.

Going back to some of that outdoor living off the living room, how much privacy is there? I imagine when the trees are full, you aren’t seeing too much of the neighbors.

We didn’t use any window treatments in the entire house because they weren’t needed. You get privacy from the forest rather than needing draperies, which goes back to maintaining those clean lines.

With these big window walls, does the homeowner get a big glare?

The morning light is the homeowner’s favorite. We saw how that early morning light came in and it’s not a glare where window treatments are necessary. The windows are very efficient so we don’t have to worry about needing something else.

Let’s talk about the master bedroom and features in this space.

The natural wood runs throughout the house so it’s consistent. We wanted to see the different variations in the wood. The bedroom has two sliding glass doors leading to a breakfast porch. The view of the maritime forest can be enjoyed from the porch.

Looking outside, is this an odd-shaped lot that had any challenges when placing the home?

The unique shape of the lot allowed us to be very intentional about where the house was sided. We didn’t want to disturb anything that didn’t absolutely need to be. Looking out of the master bedroom, the lot actually extends out even further so all of that will always stay natural. This allows for better water drainage. There are setbacks from the back porch, and the owners could have built further back from another angle, but the intent was not for a larger home, they wanted something compact.

The owners didn’t want a huge master bath, so this space is very straightforward for them. Our cabinet craftsman had some creative liberty and designed a custom teak floating vanity. A man-made quartz countertop and one tile style kept the space seamless and organic. The beauty is in the simplicity of the design; we let the architecture speak for itself.

Most people have frames around the doors. These doors throughout the home do not. Can you describe this a little bit?

These types of doors are called a couple of different things – minimalist frames or modern frame or frameless. The intent is for the door to disappear into the wall so your eye just flows right past it. The same concept was used with the baseboard which is recessed into the wall and has a reglet detail that runs along. The idea is to keep everything nice and flush without the extra ornamentation.

When it comes to paint, do you recommend your clients choose eggshell, satin, or flat?

Every project is different so it depends on the client and what they’re looking for. In this home we used flat, but it most cases, our clients use eggshell. We used a flat finish here because we wanted something that was going to absorb light a bit better. The walls have a very slight texture.

We’ve made our way to another space with a window wall. Kara, describe this area.

The homeowners use this space as a home office; it could be used as a den down the line. There’s an angle to the ceiling in this room. In order to remain consistent with the design of the rest of the contemporary home, a minimalistic approach was used. What’s nice is when you’re sitting in this room, because of the way it is sided and the architecture of the home, you can only see a little bit of one house. If you’re on the main wall, you don’t see another residence so it’s still remarkably private.

This room doesn’t have any window treatments, like the rest of the home, but since the space is only used during the day, privacy isn’t as much of a concern. The window wall allows you to see the neighborhood aligator and brings the maritime forest views inside. This room also has a full bathroom.

For more information, call Cinder Creek Construction at (843) 768-0784 or visit and be sure to keep an eye out for Kara’s interview on Brilliant Builders & Renovations Sensations to learn more about this contemporary home.