Just across the May River from Bluffton, South Carolina, lies the 20,000-acre Palmetto Bluff.
In just a short time, “The Bluff,” as locals call it, has become just as important as Old Town in the community. The development philosophy from the beginning was to preserve the maritime forests, the river’s abundance and the historic character of Old Town.
Today, the two places are one. As stewards of the environment working towards common goals, church friends and charity volunteers now enjoy shopping and dining together in Old Town, in what has become a shared future.
I asked Hillary Dollenberg of Weichert Realty to show me a home in Palmetto Bluff exemplifying the Lowcountry’s heritage. After an idyllic ride on a road winding through oak and pine forests, we arrived at a home whose exterior only gives a peek of what is to come. First, you notice the preserved “snag” habitat in front of a structure utilizing multiple understated building components—brick, horizontal siding, metal roofing, different plate heights and dormer types—but each serving a purpose. Seeing this single-story home nestled on the banks of the maritime forest along the May River, it’s obvious this is a special place.
The copper-clad entrance opens into an entry hall with a herringbone floor design and wood barrel ceiling.
All of the exposed woods came from a single barn in Virginia and were processed on site. Imagine heart of pine, maple and oak taken from the same old barn and given a new life in Palmetto Bluff! Looking around, you will admire the pair of Marge Agin photographs opposite the oversized pocket doors leading to the study.
The foyer, study, living, dining, screen porch, kitchen and breakfast areas seamlessly flow into each other; each with its own sense of place and unique view. After entering the foyer, a formal dining place—not room—comes into view. A painted breakfront built for the space, the recycled wood floors, the warm rug and furniture and the view of the woods outside through tall windows with transoms, make the entry and dining experiences comfortable, happy and inviting. Like the rest of the home, they were just the right accessories, art and fixtures to tell the tale of a family. All of the walls throughout the home are rabbeted MDF made with poplar corners and trim. There is no drywall to be seen!
Beyond the living room lies an 800-square-foot screened porch with a fireplace, living and dining areas.
This room gives a sense of touching nature. Stepping outside from the porch, Hillary introduced me to Larry Clark. Larry made me feel instantly comfortable.
Curious, I asked why the Clarks had chosen Palmetto Bluff. Larry and Tressa’s journey to Bluffton began in the 1970s. Larry’s father worked for Union Camp. He would often take trips to the Old Lodge for meetings, hunting and fishing. Each time he returned home, he told his son of this “magical place called Palmetto Bluff.” Even before the development was open, Larry and Tressa took a trip from Tennessee to see it for themselves and realized what his father had been talking about.
Larry and Tressa had a vision: both of their grandfathers were builders and this would be their biggest rodeo.
When the time came—and with the help of Bluffton Architect Michael Vicarrio and Bay Creek Builders of Charleston—they began construction in Palmetto Bluff. For two years, Tressa and Larry were intimately involved in the design and construction process, and it shows. The attention to detail is subtle, comfortable, sustainable and a part of nature; there is no corner left untouched. The couple also made a new friend in Charlene Gardner of Four Corners Gallery. Together they found the right artists, art and sculptures for the finishing touches.
The kitchen is a gathering and cooking space. The brick arch surrounding the stove and piercing cathedral ceiling anchors the space. The cabinets are designed, colored and detailed as if they evolved over time. Box Dwan with Integrety Cabinets of Hilton Head is to be noted for his execution of the Clark’s ideas. Each cabinet has a form and function and the feel of furniture. Obviously, Larry is the official taster/cleaner-upper and it’s no surprise that this is their favorite room!
But just when you thought it could not get any better, you discover a summer kitchen.
This intimate kitchen is used for everyday cooking when it is just the two of them, canning, crafts or preparing for catered functions. Tressa said in her Tennessee drawl, “Make the mess in the summer kitchen when you entertain, so you don’t have to worry about it.” Her favorite Southern dish is a macaroni salad, handed down from her granny.
The rear hall is well thought out and terminates with a sculpture niche. The walls and tall barrel arch ceiling were made of wormy oak, milled on site by Dave Bear and his crew of fine carpenters. Off the hall is a complete bar, utility room, summer kitchen, powder room with a converted French farm trough as the sink, fitted walk-in butler’s pantry and another access to the main kitchen, guest bedroom and carriage house with a complete suite above.
The master suite has access from both the study and private hall.
The continuation of wood floors, walls and ceiling complete the space. Light-colored walls and furniture with brightly colored accessorize the room.
Walking into the master bath is like entering another world with its white Carrara marble borders, mosaic floor of marble tile and platinum inlay “faux rug” field. The clawfoot lounging tub is under the windows and the all-encompassing mirrors reflect nature and expand the room. The walk-in shower has a marble floor, walls and ceiling, with high glass windows flooding the room with morning light. Again, the attention to detail is seen in the Waterworks fixtures, accessories and fixtures.
Beyond its features and site on the May River, the most important aspect of this home is the owners.
Larry modestly stated that they feel more blessed than they deserve. When their grown children, grandkids or friends visit, they feel at home. Tressa just took up golf and the couple plays every day. Even when it’s closed, “…it is so peaceful and you notice everything more.”
Every holiday, they host their family and friends. “We wanted everyone to feel comfortable and make themselves at home.”
They love The Bluff, the wildlife, Old Town and all it has to offer. Larry remarked, “Sometimes I feel like I am in Mayberry.”