Andrea and Mike Kilkenny love entertaining, and love having friends and family over. They embrace it as their parents did and hope their children will do the same. That hope is embodied in the beachfront Kiawah Island home they built with the help of architects Bill Huey and Daniel Beck of architectural firm Bill Huey + Associates.
“Bill and Daniel really grasped our desire to build a nice but casual family home,” says Mike. “They helped us put a priority on family spaces. We’re a large, very social family. So gathering places are the focus.”
The Kilkennys grew up going to the beach as children, Andrea in New Jersey, Mike in Southern California. “After we married, my parents continued the tradition by renting a beach house for a week every summer,” says Mike. “As the extended family grew, we rented homes along the North Carolina coast every summer for up to 25 people.” As Mike’s parents aged, the couple decided to perpetuate the summer tradition themselves. Kiawah Island, with its natural beauty, was an easy choice.
Working with a lot that had boardwalk access directly to the beach, Huey designed the living spaces on the second floor, creating prime oceanfront views for common areas. The Kilkennys were more than happy to have their master bedroom at the front of the house.
“These clients really had fun and got energy from this project. They took time to enjoy the process and kept their eyes on the end game,” says Huey, who has designed for residential, commercial and historic preservation projects since founding Bill Huey + Associates 20 years ago. A member of Charleston’s prestigious Board of Architectural Review, he was recently tapped for a Charleston Single House renovation for the popular television series This Old House.
Huey listened to the Kilkennys and designed a retreat that would grow and evolve with the generations, delivering on their vision of their own kids carrying on the tradition. From the mini-master bedroom that features a walk-in closet big enough for a Pack ’n Play to the dining table that seats 12 to the two boy’s and girl’s bunk rooms upstairs—this home is about getting everyone together.
Three bedrooms are on the first floor, where bluestone floors add a Lowcountry element. A cozy den provides a retreat. Out on the patio, Mike’s wish to be able to throw a ball from the bar to the pool was easily granted, says Huey.
A dramatic stairwell rises to a vaulted ceiling where it culminates in a converging pattern, sketched by Huey and custom-created from Amish barnwood. The second floor, with open kitchen, living and dining rooms, overlooks the Atlantic. Offering brilliant ocean views, the area features plenty of comfortable seating and conversational areas, including a small dining alcove tucked near a wall of windows.
For hosts as welcoming as the Kilkennys, a “social island,” where guests can perch, nibble and easily access the bar and beverage center, is a favorite amenity. It’s perfect for buffets and breakfasts.
Working with Kansas City’s well known Mary Carol Garrity of Nell Hill’s to choose furnishings, bedding and artwork, the Kilkennys sought family-friendly, relaxed interiors. Designer Rebekah Carter of Red Element Design brought it full circle with interior selections and local products. “Andrea was very clear from the start: She wanted a home that was unpretentious and welcoming to friends and family. To achieve this, we kept the materials and design classic with touches of color and whimsy,” says Carter.
Elements of the Midwest— gingham, plaid and skirted slipcovers— harmonize with nautical notes, including a rope chandelier, rope molding, a porthole in one of the bathrooms, even a “monkey’s fist” rope knot finial on the bottom staircase.
On the third level, Huey saw the opportunity for “found space,” and created a den and two large sleeping areas with built-in bunks. The deck here offers amazing views of the sea. “It’s a nice, private retreat for the young people,” says Huey.
A house so close to the ocean typically requires high maintenance, and homeowners must be alert for hurricanes and storms, a “challenge for owners who live out of town,” says Huey. His exterior solution was a low-maintenance, durable PVC shingle, NuCedar, along with Versatex, a PVC trim. Windows are high-impact and hurricane-grade. “The owners can be in Kansas and not worry about constant upgrades and repairs, or having to call someone to nail up plywood when there’s threat of a storm,” says Huey.
“To continue what my parents started, we built a home large enough for our kids plus future grandkids,” says Mike. “We’re thrilled with this home and are already making memories here.”
M.S. Lawrence is a Charleston-based writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.