Lowcountry Revival

A dramatic marsh-front setting lends the perfect retreats for one family’s Lowcountry reverie

The primordial landscape of Spring Island remains much as it did when the famed naturalist John James Audubon made his tour of the South Carolina Lowcountry in the 1830s. Towering Live Oaks draped in Spanish moss form a canopy over low-lying palmettos and Spartina grasses, an ancient buffer against the tranquil salt marshes along the sea islands. Indeed, it is the painstaking commitment to ecological preservation and the naturally occurring beauty of this coastal refuge which has drawn residents like Ron and Susan Morrow to Spring Island for many years now. 

“It’s a very romantic spot all the time,” says Susan Morrow, who along with her husband commissioned Atlanta-based Historical Concepts to design a waterfront compound anchored by a Greek Revival-influenced residence with prominent views across the tidal marshes. “Somehow the light comes through the trees, and even on a gray day, you have this dappled light and it’s kind of like being in the enchanted forest.”  

Together with Historical Concepts’ founder Jim Strickland, whose firm has worked in the Lowcountry for nearly three decades, the Morrows set about devising a permanent residence that respected the area’s historical architectural precedents, while sensitively siting the raised structure to maximize views across the water. 

“The house is a very long, linear house, but all of the rooms are facing the marsh,” says Strickland. “Our major thrust was to ensure that everyone could enjoy that.” 

To recreate the spirit of the Greek Revival residence that might have been found in the Lowcountry generations ago, Strickland’s team drew from a deep well of historic resources, including architect Asher Benjamin’s The Architect, or Practical House Carpenter (1830), which provided a rich springboard for understanding the early 19th-century interpretation of Greek Revival in America. Richly layered millwork, moldings and carved mantelpieces—all true to period form—provide a cloak of chronological anonymity to the 21st-century home.

“Our challenge became how to tell a story with the architecture and break that down in a way that felt natural to the place,” says Clay Rokicki, a principal at Historical Concepts who, alongside Strickland, helmed the design of the Morrows’ home.  

The end result is a family home that balances Greek Revival formality with characteristic Lowcountry geniality. Perhaps most impressive is the harmonious relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces, careful window placement to maximize views, and the arrangement of multiple porches—all with different purposes—to make the most of the coastal setting. 

“I had the best compliment,” says Morrow. “Someone from the architectural review board came over to walk me through a project and she said, ‘The thing I love about this house is that it looks as though it’s always been here.’ And that’s a credit to Jim Strickland—he knows how to do that.”  

RESIDENTIAL DESIGN Jim Strickland and Clay Rokicki, Historical Concepts, (678) 325-6665; historicalconcepts.com
BUILDER Mike Reynolds, MJR Construction, (843) 706-2288
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Don Hooten, Hooten Land Design, (404) 373-9816; hootenlanddesign.com