Spanish Wells got its name from the fresh sweet water springs and wells discovered by the indigenous Indians hundreds of years ago.
Spanish ships would anchor in the deep water river, protected from ocean winds, to restock their water supplies aided by the Indians. Later the French, and finally the English and Colonial Planters, made Hilton Head their home. Thousands of Federal troops made the island their base to control the region on during the Civil War.
Ray and Terry Travaglione, of Hilton Head and New York, knew they a Tuscan home. They found what they were looking for when they first drove through the flanking brick piers and discovered this naturally landscaped site on a high bluff of the Cooper River. The unappealing house was constructed in 1992 and was your typical plywood siding island home. They thought about tearing it down and starting over, but after great discussion and a vision of what it could be, decided not to destroy but to transform the existing structure into an Italian River Villa. Now, there’s is nothing quite like it on Hilton Head, for it feels as if it has been there for well over a hundred years. Let’s take a look around!
Pulling in the motor court, the first thing you see is the small, ivy-covered carriage house, which was featured on a bottle of a Napa Valley vineyard wine. It has a private guest quarters, fitness room and three-car garage. This old world cottage becomes a piece of the garden, giving natural botanical views to anyone coming or leaving the home from the main raised terrace.
The Tuscan Carriage House includes Guest Quarters, fitness room and three car garage.
Take a few steps and live oak limbs lead you through a Tuscan, U-shaped garden to the front door. While approaching, take in the stained batten, bi-fold shutters and recessed windows with coral stone sills, mottled old world stucco walls, and the low pitch, lightly multi-colored patinate terra-cotta roof, all creating a true Tuscan structure. Notice the oak double diamond pattern collection mold front doors with flanking copper gas lanterns. There is no knob to turn on the door, although inside is an iron rim lock and surface bolts. This is typical in Italy for security, but the Travalagiones want to open the doors from the inside to greet their friends personally.
Once inside you are in awe with the rear terrace and river views, taking your eye and thoughts.
You then realize the scale of the great room and the height of the ceiling, with beaded heart of pine beams and large corbels. You look up and see a floating bridge overhead with iron rod balustrade and ogee railing upstairs. Large sitting and reading niches to your left and right open to the tall ceiling. You step under the bridge and beyond to behold a space that is unique to others. No clutter, great but sparse art, sophisticated, yet inviting – each element separate unto itself, yet part of the whole.
Opposite is the large dining table with slipcovered tuxedo chairs and an Italian sideboard. Tuscan flanking arched openings to the kitchen and a pass-through that was kept from the original house. The pass-through now frames this end of the great room as if a painting on the wall above the sideboard. The antique heart of pine floors throughout anchor the space, along with the clean off-white fabrics, providing a contrast to the off-white plastered walls. Note the simplicity of the room. No heavy casing or base to distract the eye from the art and river views.
The kitchen is a connoisseur’s dream.
Every convenience one would want, with a farm table for family dining adjacent to a series of stained French doors. These doors open to expansive river views across the entire width of the room. During the transformation, the lower ceiling beams were actually the original floor joist for a guest room above. There is a formal butler’s pantry behind the kitchen and a large mudroom beyond. The mudroom was actually the original garage for the house. The limestone floors throughout this wing, the off-white counters and cabinets evoke a light and cheerful cooking and family entertainment space.
The wine cellar is located off the kitchen in new a connector hall to the billiard room.
It is properly insulated and conditioned to the proper temperature for the knowledgeable wine collector. The floors are recycled brick, the walls and arched ceiling Tuscan stucco. The wine racks are made of white oak that is hand oiled and waxed to give it the fumed oak patina and designed to permit the wood to contract and expand by being entirely rabbeted together. The racks provide for the three basic case, bottle sizes and types. The heavy entry batten door with strap hinges and clavos is complete with a “speakeasy” iron and wood peephole.
The billiard room addition features recycled heart of pine beams in the cathedral ceiling, the beaded panel chestnut bar with a copper top and opposite an oversized fireplace. This wing is on an able to maximize the river view with tall casement windows. Additional light emits from smaller windows up top around the north side, providing ample space for wall art. Notice again, the inset windows with round corners, plaster finish walls, heavy antique pine lintels and sills, as well as the French limestone floors. The space has two comfortable seating areas and a large television opposite the pool table. The bar door and access (out of view in the hall) is a handmade heart of pine Dutch door that allows for additional serving and stocking from the hall during large functions and easy access to the outdoor kitchen, rear terrace, dock and pool.
Step out of the master bedroom and take a dip.
The major and minor antique pine beams define the ceiling and helps create an intimate, but luxurious space. The room has direct access to a private lounging library overlooking the river and a paneled second floor stair hall leading to opposing bedrooms and baths on each end of the bridge.
The master bathroom is private yet spacious, open to two sources of light. Fixtures are more like furniture with separate marble top table sinks and an armoire linen cabinet. The centerpiece is an oversized pine island with drawers and storage. A spacious walk-in, limestone shower, a Kohler claw-foot tub and a sauna complete the room. What more could you ask for?
Walking outside through the multiple French doors from the great room, you enter a trellis-covered Tuscan lanai.
Recycled brick columns support the beam and joist overhead. The climbing jasmine engulfs the columns and frames the views. Copper gas lanterns provide the right ambience for outdoor dining or enjoying an evening after watching the sunset. This riverfront garden and terrace is complete with a black marcite lap pool. A fire pit made from a South Carolina iron sugarcane cooker offers outdoor warmth. There is also a beach below the bluff and boat dock with a covered “lounge.” The riverfront garden has multiple bricked terraces and sitting areas, arranged for large parties or intimate gatherings, all wonderfully shaded by large live oaks, pines and palms.
This home is truly a Tuscan marvel in so many ways. The gardens, front and rear, the masterfully-transformed structure pays attention to details at every turn. If you meet or know Ray and Terry, ask them if they regret not tear the original house down. Visiting their home, you might just reflect on what the Indians would be thinking as they paddle by.
Designer and Author: Randolph Stewart
With appreciation to Wayne Moore, Back River Photography. www.waynecmoore.com.