When the oceanfront home that Buffie and Mark DuPuis were considering sold before they could make a bid, they thought they’d missed a rare opportunity to enjoy their retirement in exclusive Prince George. The environmentally friendly community in South Carolina’s Pawleys Island has been carved from protected lands abundant with waterways and wildlife, and the build-out is restricted to 150 homes—with only 20 of them designated as oceanfront.
The couple’s real estate agent, keeping a promise to “find them something” in the coastal retreat they’d fallen in love with, surprised them with an oceanfront parcel of land.
“Buffie and I really did not want to build a house,” explains Mark, noting past experiences that were less than optimal. “We didn’t know if we’d survive building a house, but we finally said, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
They would soon come to realize the benefits of building their own special place in paradise.
The Atlanta-based physicians were referred to Frasier Wall of Wall Design & Building, a Murrells Inlet firm with a track record of nearly 30 years building and remodeling properties from Charleston to Wilmington, North Carolina, including 17 properties in Prince George.
Wall allayed their new-construction concerns with positive feedback from a number of his clients. He then referred the couple to longtime colleague Lance Griffith of CHD Interiors for the extensive interior design planning they required as they transitioned from a formal suburban setting to a casual seaside lifestyle. Wall and Griffith share a professional relationship spanning two decades, including several joint projects in Prince George.
Both designer and builder worked collaboratively with the DuPuises to construct a plan that embodied their vision: transitional styling that married the old and new with a sophisticated beach look.
Griffith met with them extensively, poring over photos and debating ideas as they became familiar with each other’s sensibilities and developed a level of trust. Griffith visited their home in Atlanta to understand how they live, their likes and dislikes. “I never say I design a house,” he explains, “because we do it together—it becomes the client’s home and is more reflective of the person because they take ownership in it.”
“We brought only one bedroom of furniture from Atlanta,” explains Buffie, admitting that they were a bit overwhelmed. “Everything else was new—we picked out virtually every other room with Lance.”
With showrooms in Murrells Inlet and Charleston, Griffith travels extensively here and abroad to maintain a fresh stock of offerings that range from traditional to contemporary, antique to mid-century modern. A skilled design professional, he brings to every project years of knowledge and expertise.
“Frasier asked us what sort of living spaces we wanted and built a floor plan around our needs,” says Mark. “Then he went back to designing the exterior of the house.”
The coastal setting factored into key decisions as construction of the 6,800-square-foot home unfolded. For example, to keep the house as maintenance- free as possible, the DuPuises insisted on NuCedar siding and PVC trim to resist the corrosive nature of the moist salt air. Inside, Griffith convinced the couple, who had resisted window treatments, that they would be better served by installing programmable motorized blinds to counter the intensity of the sunlight streaming in off the water.
“When the sun rises on one side of house, those blinds respond and go down,” says Mark. “It all runs on an app on our cellphones.”
The system is programmed to track the sun as it crosses the sky, cuing various blinds to be raised and lowered. “Once you have the base wiring in place, it’s easy to install additional devices,” notes Griffith. The couple quickly saw the tremendous benefits of a smart home; they added components such as motion-controlled lighting on the main stairway, under cabinets throughout the home and in the garage.
The DuPuises’ two beloved golden retrievers, with their big paws, presented a four-legged challenge that had always been an issue: floor scratching. To solve the problem, the couple installed porcelain tile flooring in a wood finish instead of hardwoods. With Griffith’s advice, planks in varying widths were selected. They love the look and are relieved to have eliminated the canine concern.
From hours-long discussions about light fixtures and the color of light they emit to the type and quality of mattresses, every detail of the project was thoroughly studied.
“It was very much a give and take,” says Griffith. “We knew what Mark and Buffie didn’t want, and we brought ideas to the table that gave them plenty of good choices. This house really reflects the two of them— that’s when you know it’s right.”
The couple, all smiles, agrees: “We’re very happy with the end result.”
Wendy Swat Snyder is a Charleston-based freelance writer and marketing consultant.