The house-paparazzi still take pictures in the cul-de-sac, a year after Bill and Jeanne Dunleavy moved in. No one’s seen a house quite like it.
“Hands down!” says Grady Jeffery. Hands down, it was the most difficult build of his 20-year career in residential construction.
His clients, who’d lived in Summerville, South Carolina, for 30 years, love their new home, but really hadn’t made up their minds to move beach-ward until Jeanne was struck with a powerful case of scent memory.
“Growing up,” she explains, “I used to summer at the beach in South Jersey.” In 2012, she and Bill were driving over the Isle of Palms Connector when suddenly, there it was—the same smell of marsh and oyster beds she associated with driving to Avalon Beach.
Plus, they’d seen a remarkable house, which was where they met its builder, Grady Jeffery.
“We went over the quality of Grady’s work with a finetooth comb. We were really impressed,” says Bill, a former marine who served in Vietnam and went on to a 35-year career in sales and marketing. Jeanne taught elementary school for three decades. Over a lunch that served as a chemistry-check, the Dunleavys decided that they had a builder, and—just as crucial—Jeffery decided that he had clients.
“I have to know I can work with the clients,” says Jeffery. “You’re married to them—in this case for almost two years! You become friends, you become a team. Bill and I got along great.” This was a blessing, since Bill turned out to be the most hands-on client Jeffery ever had.
In fact, during the 11 months of actual construction Jeffery says: “Bill was here six to eight hours a day. He and I designed the inside of this house together —trimwork, cabinets, even a modified kitchen layout.”
But, back to the challenges of construction: Before they could build, these clients had to find the right building lot. The Dunleavys fell hard for a lot with a spectacular view in the Cathedral Oaks section of Mount Pleasant’s Seaside Farms.
Numerous people had admired this spot with its grand oaks, its wild palms, its views across the Intracoastal Waterway. But the lot was bristling with challenges.
It was roughly a triangle— wide on the left and tapering rapidly on the right. The neighborhood, of course, had setback requirements. So did the Office of Coastal and Resource Management. And, the homeowners’ association required a buffer between the lot line and the marsh.
As the buildable area kept shrinking, obstacles mounted.
“We couldn’t find a plan we liked that fit the lot,” recalls Bill, “and I wanted a house to complement it. That’s when several people said, ‘You need an architect.’” One of them recommended Carl McCants, and Jeffery enthusiastically concurred.
As the Dunleavys performed their due diligence, looking particularly at flood zone requirements, they made several decisions that hiked the challenge level.
Above: Just steps away from the kitchen and the veranda, the dining area is open to the great room, creating good traffic flow. Below: Outside, a breeze ruffles the surface of the saltwater pool and spa, built by Crystal Clear Pools.
Above: The sunny veranda benefits from cable railing, copper-topped columns and a coffered ceiling. Below: Table and chairs from The Tiki Hut. Poolside lounge chairs invite guests to relax and watch the egrets gather in the trees.
Nothing distracts from the calm of the master bedroom and bath, where walls wear “Seasalt” by Sherwin-Williams.
First, it was recommended that they build on pilings. Second, they opted to raise the level of the lot. Both decisions would help with the long-term costs of insurance.
For Jeffery, however, it would mean driving 46 55-foot pilings 42 feet into the ground. And it would take 120 loads of dirt to grade the lot.
Meanwhile, a unique L-shaped house had taken shape on paper. Its 2,000 square feet of decks and porches would give the Dunleavys the option to virtually live outdoors. Indoors, its 3,200 square feet would offer four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths and an ever-changing view from nearly every room.
They sited the house to take advantage of the light. “We wanted the sunrise at the back of the house,” says Bill. “All day long, you have the sun over the marsh. The pool gets sun all day.”
The architect’s plan called for a striking combination of textures in the exterior elements— and Jeffery built by the plan. Take, for example, the siding. One wall at the front entry is covered in shiplap. Beside it, the left wing wears the strong vertical lines of board-and-batten siding. The wall to its right, and most of the other exterior walls, are covered in Artisan Lap siding, an inch-thick form of HardiePlank. Hefty louvers surround the drive-under garage. The elegant chimney is done in stucco.
The eaves are punctuated by a variety of exposed rafters and rafter tails. Some are straight, others curved, still others angled. The overhangs were designed in four different widths. The four styles of brackets—all custom made—range widely in size and shape.
Inside, the plan takes full advantage of the builder’s talent for creating beautiful molding and woodwork, including the dining room’s whitewashed ceiling, made of tongue-andgroove within coffers.
Jeffery is quick to give credit to his team of subcontractors, whom he calls “phenomenal.”
“It’s not easy to build a Carl McCants house,” says Jeffery. “He made this house unique. There’s so much detail … rooflines going in every direction. He truly has a talent for designing Lowcountry coastal homes.
“During construction, we had an engineer and an architect here once a week. Everybody knew it was going to be a cool house. But I knew we were really onto something when people starting taking pictures—and didn’t stop.”
Margaret Locklair, a Lowcountry freelancer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.