How do you measure the success of a project? If it’s building a home, opinions may vary. Some give high marks for staying within a budget, others for delivering a project on time. For this Virginia couple, it was all about the journey. They started with a vision, did their due diligence, and then sat back to savor the experience.
Kathleen and Ed Hill had dreamed of owning a home on Kiawah Island ever since they discovered its pristine beauty during a birthday getaway nearly two decades earlier. Their four young children grew up vacationing on the uncrowded, white-sand beaches; the entire family fell love with the charm and historied past for which Charleston is known.
That dream became reality when the couple had the opportunity to purchase land there—a parcel in an older section of the resort shaded by thick stands of live oak and bordering the Cougar Point 11th hole. Planning commenced for the build-out of their second home; at the core of the Hills’ strategy was choosing the right construction company to spearhead the project.
“The person who’s going to build the home is most important to me,” notes Ed. “When you have the builder early, during the design phase, costing everything out, he’s able to suggest alternatives. I wanted to know exactly what the prices were going to be so by the construction phase, I could make informed decisions about how to spend our budget.”
After vetting and interviewing several companies, the Hills found the qualities they were seeking during a construction site walk-through. “The minute we met Bob Buck we knew it was a perfect match. You could tell he was honest as the day is long—I had that sense of trust immediately,” says Ed of the founder of R.M. Buck Builders. He adds that the tightly knit family business, which includes Bob’s wife, Renae, and son, Ryan, showed great pride in their work.
The Bucks bring to the table a solid reputation for custom home construction, which they first earned in and around the ski resorts of New England, and, since 1989, here in the Lowcountry. The company also specializes in building furnituregrade cabinetry, a specialty that helps them maintain strict standards throughout the building process.
“We can keep work that’s usually subbed out in-house,” says Ryan Buck, who practically grew up in the converted Vermont barn that served as his father’s carpentry shop. “It helps us control costs and also limits mistakes and lead times.”
The Bucks were also able to assist the homeowners in putting a design team together, identifying professionals with whom they’d had good experiences and who would be a “good fit” with the Hills. They suggested Charleston architect Bill Huey and Allied ASID designer Rebekah Carter (Red Element Design Studio). Both came on board during the design and build phase, lending a distinct advantage to the project.
“They were at every meeting,” recalls Kathleen. “Rebekah knew the intent behind all the drawings. She could interpret them and ensure the flow of the interior finishes so everything worked together.”
“From day one we were able to keep the budget in line for the Hills,” notes Ryan. “By the time we moved into the construction phase, the Hills were great—they trusted our judgment and let everyone do their job.”
The Hills were adamant about designing a home that reflected their unique taste and had been impressed by Huey’s portfolio of homes. Each one was different and had a style of its own. Both he and Carter tapped into Kathleen’s love of French country style to inspire their design plans.
“I had a vision of what I wanted,” Kathleen says. “It was a sort of fairytale picture outside that would draw you inside. We wanted it to be a journey—the entryway leading you through to the living room, with everything very open, and the pool outside as part of the view.”
“The foyer is the only place with a high, vaulted ceiling,” says Huey, whose projects are a mix of upscale resort and historic downtown properties. “The Hills wanted a concentration of drama there. The rest of the rooms are more casual.”
Working together, the Bucks, Huey and Carter delivered at every stage of the build-out, even providing an inspired design for a set of trundle beds for teenage sleepovers that magically disappear when not in use. And when the project was complete, there was still a role for one team member: When the family is in Virginia, the Bucks’ concierge service keeps an eye on their home while they are away.
“Our entire team was world class,” says Ed. “Kathleen and I were disappointed when the project was finished. We’d been building something together, and it was a lot of fun.”
Wendy Swat Snyder is a Charleston-based freelance writer and marketing consultant.