Spring Island is such a special place.
All of the owners take great care of their surroundings and are committed to preserving the natural environment and habitat. Recently, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation from an old friend, John Strother with Spring Island Real Estate, to tour the Schepps-Cottrell home. Turning off the paved road onto a dirt trail, we rode by dense woods of pines, gums and oaks, only interrupted by a big fenced-horse pasture on our left. Upon approached a small fork in the road, we found a weathered sign hanging on a tree with a painted arrow pointing the way, taking us to the guest house.
How do you design a home with a unique ravine running through the center of it?
You know that the place is peaceful and private. You get a sense of respect and reverence for where you are. The owners, Lee and Barbara, knew what they were looking for. A place to keep their horses during the day, a design that takes full advantage of the water, marsh and oak views, a house that is organized and yet part of nature with well thought-out private spaces. Lee is a Master Naturalist and you can tell how important the site and its natural assets were to him.
You stop to take in the tabby wall that gives notice of the old ruins on Spring Island, and a garden that is natural and self-sustaining, with liriope ground cover, camellias and dogwood—with just the right amount of help from a green thumb. Beyond is a natural, undisturbed open area protected by an array of live oaks with palmetto understory. The limbs of the grand old trees surrounding the property cast shadows with dappled light that becomes pervasive. Every green thing on the site is indigenous.
After continuing on your easy stroll down the trellis, you see that the design of the house isn’t an accident.
The design of the home orchestrates the entire experience. Joel Newman of the Thomas & Denzinger Architects was the conductor. He got it! Lee and Barbara get it! From here the components came together. Wooded approach, the pasture, the forked trail, the entry experience, the main house, and a wonderful footbridge crossing the ravine to the guest house in its own little world.
From the moment you enter the lobby and get a peek of what is beyond, you know that the experience has just begun. The oversized door are half-French doors and actually on the side of a corner, flanked on the opposing side by a wall-to-wall window with bottom awning and overhead transom, allowing the light to flood inside. You will find these windows throughout the home continually bringing the outside in.
As you stop in the vestibule and chat for a second to your host (and a wooden sculpture of a seated woman with a basket of pine cones), you can’t help but admire a larger-than-life painting of colorful flowers by Greg Osterhaus. As the story goes, the owners saw this painting in Maine in 1989 and did not buy it, but while planning their home, they realized it was the perfect piece for this important space and bought it.
This is just a short interlude into what is to come.
As you take a few more steps, you pause to take in a true great room. Reclaimed oak and beech beams, walls, floors, and cabinets. The use of colorful paintings, fabrics and oriental rugs creates a balance of color to the warmth. A stone floor hall, with no walls, bisects the kitchen from the living room. A brick see-through fireplace separates the living space from the dining space. Keep in mind that you are surrounded by an abundance of floor-to-ceiling windows. They frame the view of the surrounding exterior natural forest and open tidal marsh views.
The wood was recycled from a large barn in Ohio and processed by a team of Amish craftsmen, the stone—a multi-colored slate—is laid in the five-size pattern. The semi-finished baseboards differentiate and separate the unfinished walls from the finished floors. Recycled oak posts and beams outline the pitch of the tongue-and-groove wood ceiling.
Around the backside of the fireplace is the dining room. The furnishings throughout each space have a purpose. The various collections of folk art, which have been collected over years of worldly traveling, contribute to the color and interest, while the more than a few antiques out are simple but with a purpose, whether functional or aesthetic.
Joel placed the kitchen so that the chef can communicate with whoever is there and not lose contact with nature.
Brick surrounds the island with oak cabinets inset. A masterfully built reclaimed countertop with a farm sink—carved out of one piece of soapstone in Vermont—anchors the space. The unfinished zinc hood adds metal to the palate that surrounds.
The back screen porch is another entirely different living space. You have gathering and lounging space—a large fireplace, outdoor grill, kitchen and dining table. The main attraction during the day is the surrounding nature outside with an oak in the center.
Walking into the master bedroom you first see is a panorama of live oak forest. Double French doors lead to a screened porch with a day bed. It’s perfect for falling asleep listening to the symphony of tree frogs during those wonderful fall and spring months.
But Lee’s favorite room is his office.
The surrounding forest again becomes an important part of the space, bringing the outside inside. The sitting area, desk, wood walls and old floors. The fireplace displays a painting of Dagny, their English Waterdog, by local Bluffton artist Murray Sease.
The house is only two bedrooms. Newman and the Schepps-Cottrell built a walkway through the woods to a private guest house. Friends and family alike have their own space.
The general contractors were Tom Gollihugh and Charlie Hull of Beaufort. The pride in their workmanship and attention to detail can be seen in every aspect of construction and finishing. The execution of the plans, experience and understanding on what they were doing is evident.
I feel thankful to have had the experience that was the family home in a totally natural habitat, coexisting together. This is what happens when the architect owners and builder are on the same page.
Article by Randolph Stewart