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Published on Jun 20,2023 By Verb

For many people a single day trip to Palmetto Bluff will inspire a lifetime of Lowcountry living. Every visit I make motivates me to slow down, take a look around and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. While the view of the May River alone might be all you need – my advice this fall is to visit the Southern Living Idea House.  Open to the public through December 14, 2014 – Southern Living has put together an exciting group of design partners.

“For more than 20 years, the Southern Living Idea House program has pulled together talented teams to build and renovate homes from the ground up. We’ve done everything from brownstones to beach homes and everything in between”

In perfect tandem, Architect Ken Pursley and Interior Designer Suzanne Kasler work together to write the next chapter of Southern style with our 2014 Idea House. It’s lighter, fresher, and more livable than ever before. | Story excerpts by Zoe Gowen.

Surrounded by pine trees and nestled beside a lake, the east-facing back porch offers unrivaled views of the sunrise.

When entering the home, guests walk directly into the dining room, which opens onto the expansive living room. To help define the two spaces, Ken nestled the dining area beneath an open-air bridge that connects the two upstairs wings. “The lower [9 1/2-foot] ceiling helps orient guests. Walking into the smaller space, they instantly feel more connected to the house,” says Ken. The compact, cocoon-like entry also works as a telescope, focusing your attention on the water views out the living room windows.

Like Ken, Suzanne encourages people to explore and use every part of a home. “In a house like this, most of the eating happens outdoors,” Suzanne says. She laid the proper foundation for a dining room: a rug to anchor the space, a trestle-style table, and a variety of seating options. But then she took a thoroughly modern approach, pulling an ottoman (which is more useful than a bench) right up to the table and using the dining area more like a library table. This home’s dining room, like every other one in the South, shouldn’t be relegated to occasional-use-only status. Enjoy it every day. “This is today’s way of living,” says Suzanne.

“The stunning views of the marshland drove the living room design,” says Ken. He also wanted the room to be large enough for a family to be simultaneously connected and separate in two seating areas. The floor-to-ceiling clerestory bay window is more than just Ken’s grand gesture to the landscape; it also ensures that the wraparound porch won’t steal a sliver of light from this ethereal space. To balance the white walls, Ken created a “super-hearth” (shown on next slide) opposite the kitchen. “It’s like the one at historic Biltmore,” he says. Made of blackened steel, it inconspicuously houses the tv, a bookshelf, and the master bedroom door.

“I wanted to design a house that feels fresh right now but will still be relevant in 100 years,” says Ken. Using time-tested, durable materials with crisp lines, such as James Hardie board-and-batten siding, plank-style shutters, and a standing-seam metal roof, creates a simple silhouette that won’t tire over time. The location of this home in Palmetto Bluff is both suburban and waterfront, giving Ken the opportunity to create almost two homes in one. Street side, he designed a more humble facade with a covered storage area and parking pad running perpendicular to the main mass. “I imagined it like an arm reaching out to visitors,” says Ken.

For the first time ever, you are also able to shop the looks you love directly from each room! Tour the Palmetto Bluff Idea House, immerse yourself in the “Bluffton state of mind” and recreate the look in your home. Visit to learn more.

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