Way out on Kiawah Island’s rugged eastern tip lays Ocean Park, a secluded neighborhood of ancient live oaks, high sand dunes and jaw-dropping marsh views. In other words, the perfect place to build a Tuscan-style villa. This unique home was the dream of Kathleen and John Panichella, who have a lifelong love affair with Italy. “John is Italian, and Italian culture is so friendly and open,” Kathleen says. “We’ve just embraced that; it’s so much a part of our family.”
The Panichellas’ vision for a friendly, open Italian-style home was brought to life by a special team, comprised of architect Marc Camens, builders Bob, Renae and Ryan Buck of R.M. Buck Builders, and designer Beth Cochran of CHD Interiors. The Panichellas met Bob and Ryan Buck before they’d even bought the land for a house. “With Bob and Ryan, I knew they would be my builders. It was just an energy connection,” Kathleen says.
“We loved working with the Panichellas, and we knew this wouldn’t be your typical Kiawah home,” Ryan Buck says.
Interestingly, Camens, the Bucks’ long-time architectural cohort, is an Italophile who studied in Florence and still spends part of every year in Tuscany. Beth Cochran of CHD Interiors was charged with the island-meets-Italy interior design. “We connected instantly,” Cochran says. “They wanted a beautiful, peaceful place to relax, and it turned out so well. This is a special team.”
Together, Camens and the Buck family have built or renovated more than 50 homes over a period of nearly 20 years. Cochran worked with the Panichellas for over a year to pick out furnishings that would complement both the home’s functionality and style. So, if one were dreaming of a Tuscan villa with Lowcountry views, this would be the design and build dream team.
The home is spacious, with vaulted ceilings and light spilling in everywhere. “The light and flow of a home make the energy of a house special,” CSD Camens says. In fact, the home’s crown jewel is the view, and the courtyard gives the family every reason to soak it up.
The entire back wall of the home opens into an Italianate courtyard with a French limestone deck, a gas fireplace and a sparkling blue plunge pool with hot tub. Breathtaking 180-degree views feature the marsh, Bass Creek and the winding Stono River.
Inside there’s much more to see. The modern Tuscan-style kitchen is only missing a flourdusted Italian nonna (grandmother) rolling out pasta for dinner. The kitchen also features distressed pine cabinets with recessed doors that were custom made in the Bucks’ own cabinet shop, Island Cabinet Company. A booth-style breakfast banquet with lemony yellow fabric on the benches was also custom made in the cabinet shop.
Back in the living room, comfy furniture around a custom cast-stone fireplace creates the perfect place to curl up on a rainy day. To the left of the living room is one of two master bedrooms. The downstairs master is open and bright with a dream walk-in closet and laundry room. It’s here that you can see one of the architectural details that gives the home that Italian vibe without being overt.
Camens and the Bucks built the exterior walls with larger studs, giving the windows an interior ledge of about 9 inches, an architectural element common in Italian homes. Other Italianate elements include exposed beams, rounded wall corners and plenty of wrought iron.
To the right of the living room, a staircase leads to a media room over the garage. To the left of the living room, a wide stairway leads to the second master, two guestrooms with en suite baths, a second laundry room, and a small living room with a coffee bar. Bridging the upstairs master and guest rooms is an elevated breezeway with a hanging bed swing. Up here the views are divine, the salty breeze is magical, and one can only hope there’s a nice old Brunello at dinner.
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhoward writes.com.