The serenity of Spring Island gives you a sense of peacefulness as you simply take in all of nature.
My mission was to visit Laurie and Bruce Kienke and write about their unique home. John Strother, Broker-in-Charge of Spring Island Realty, forewarned me that I would love it. So naturally I drove down the winding gravel lane, with anticipation. I got out of the car and soaked it all in.
Retired with five grandchildren in Minnesota, the Kienke’s live an active life. Both are equestrians with horses in the Spring Island stable, Bruce an avid golfer. Taking me under her wing, Laurie showed me through their contemporary abode. Each space had a connection to the other and to its surroundings. The handsome furnishings and colorful became a part of the space and part of the architecture. Laurie pointed out how the light playfully moves through the rooms. She said it all when she told me, “Living in this house is like living in sculpture.”
Vernacular architecture with wide overhangs and exposed rafters, expansive porches with columns, windows and shutters, fit to the history and culture of the Lowcountry. All I could think of as I looked at the contemporary architecture was how it fit and truly belonged in so many ways.
Organic, with sustainable and recycled material—unfinished concrete blocks, neutral paint on wood, and composite siding make minor statements, as glass is the major component. Structural components appear to defy gravity.
An intelligent and balanced massing of the buildings surround the pervious motor court comprised of the main structure.
Multi-level and multi-dimensional planes support vast expanses of glass, which are organized square and rectangular patterns. These components are unified at different levels by the modernist, horizontal expression of the wide cantilevered roofs. The extended overhangs and the siting, take advantage of the large oaks, provide shading and disperse the rain away from the foundation. To the right are structural components, connected to the main house by a covered walkway and are comprised of a studio/workshop, an inside/outside dog kennel and three-car garage. Each face on different planes, and the surfaces and heights are articulated.
There is a three-bedroom guest suite, accessed by a covered connection that makes you feel as if you are outside. The guest wing nestles itself into the landscaping and expresses the same neutral colors and organic materials. Each component links to the other, creating architecture with excitement.
Integral to the design of this home is the descending bank that it was placed on. The bank disappears in the marshes and creeks of Spring Island. This siting permitted a full basement uncommon to the Lowcountry. The design on the rear of the house is such that the main floor is well above the marshes and allows for long views with peeks through old growth oak. The great room, kitchen and dining room take full advantage of these views on the first floor and the study, master bedroom, and master bath on the second floor have more heightened and longer views.
Inside, you see the use of the same material that is on the outside.
The glass brings nature and the outside completely inside. Less is more here. No moldings, no distractions. Architectural lighting fixtures punctuate the space. The contemporary furniture combined with a touch of antiques, all fit into the man-made environment. This provides a clean palette for their art and sculpture collection. Each painting adds color and personality to the space. Laurie and Bruce were gracious enough to provide me with anecdotes to quite a few. Their choice of art celebrates the home and is an expression of their life. I recognized multiple works from local artists Linda St. Clair and Murray Sease.
There is a powerful integration of landscaping and the structure. The landscaping is very natural and xeriscape. A camellia garden for color, numerous small planters and a multi-level terrace in the rear is just as much part of the house as the natural beauty that surrounds the home.
As I was saying my goodbyes and thanking my kind hosts, my mind wondered. This home does fit. The sensitivity to nature, selection of materials, the purposeful architecture, and the strong emotions that the inside and outside evoke belongs right here, basking in the splendor of nature.
I would like to thank Tom Jenkins for providing the photos that tell the story. For more information about Spring Island, contact John Strother at JStrother@springisland.com.
By Randolph Stewart