This four-bedroom Kiawah Island home sits at marsh’s edge. With its many pitches and gables, it’s what architect Marc Camens calls “organic contemporary.”
“Hello, marsh!” exclaims architect Marc Camens as he opens the front door to the home he designed in Kiawah Island’s Ocean Park neighborhood. His greeting is apt. In this house your eye sweeps from the entrance through an expanse of glass windows, past the home’s outdoor living areas to the majestic golden greens of the Lowcountry marshlands.
“The homeowners wanted to capture the marsh view,” says Camens, “so we maximized it from all spaces. Everywhere you look, there’s a view.”
Referred by other happy clients, the couple hails from Texas, where they enjoyed alfresco cooking and dining. “This home offers the lifestyle the homeowners envisioned,” says Camens, “with plenty of outdoor spaces for friends and family to gather.”
Camens, who has been designing houses on the island for nearly 20 years, calls himself a “listening architect.”
“The houses I design are all different because I listen,” he says. “The more I know about you, the better I understand what you want from a home. And I want to know as much as I can.” For that reason, he visits clients in their current homes to understand their lifestyles. Camens stresses that his approach means that he is never a “rubber-stamp architect.”
Camens clearly heard and paid attention to the couple’s desire for an entertainment- friendly home. “The bedrooms in the house are not large, but we asked Marc to fit in as many as we could, so we could have plenty of guests. In Houston we eat outside as much as we can, so we wanted to do that on Kiawah, too,” says Julie, one of the homeowners.
This house, like so many of Camens’ designs, illustrates his ability to listen to his clients and make the most of the site. “I like to make a big statement,” says Camens of the wall of low-profile windows, fabricated in Italy, separated by thin mullions of steel. “The owners asked for this wall of windows, and I love the way it defines the house.”
“They are completely hurricane- and wind-proof,” says Julie. “And the way Marc designed them, they are the art of the house. Marc is a master of light.”
Although the couple requested a contemporary style, they didn’t want the stark lines and coldness that often goes along with that. So Camens added what he calls “warmth and soul” by adding details that not only add texture but emphasize the space’s dimensions. “We introduced the element of trim,” he says, “but squared it off. We used sleek wainscoting and vertical beadboard. Rooms take their shape from the flow of the roof.”
Dark floors and hefty beams add warmth, and the home’s open spaces gain definition with ceiling details. “I love interesting ceilings and have a file of Pinterest photos and magazine articles,” says Julie. “Marc looked at my photos and created a beautiful grid of beams on the ceilings, reminiscent of some Italian churches yet clean and multidimensional. Like the windows, they become art. We were able to achieve the wow we’d hoped for with the ceilings!”
The master suite gains a sense of security and delineation with a quiet step-down feature that sets it apart. The two-story-tall walls are capped with a vaulted roof two-thirds of the way up. “This creates warmth and breaks the scale of the space. It also visually and physically connects to the outdoor spaces,” says Camens. Upstairs, Camens skillfully employed similar design tactics.
A long hallway with windows and bumped-in alcoves subtly introduces an area of rest and calm. “This breaks up the space and elevates the experience of going down the hall,” he says. “Working with Marc was an amazing experience,” says Julie. “We know we will enjoy this house!”
M.S. Lawrence, a writer and journalist, lives in Charleston.