Today’s home expansions break down the walls, add multilayered decks, fire pits and weatherproofed TVs.
Ask most transplants why they moved to the Lowcountry and the answer will invariably be “the weather.” Those who now live here were once chased indoors up north by cold, snow and daylight hours swallowed by 9-to-5 jobs.
Whether newcomers are still working or have come to retire, most count themselves fortunate to have discovered what the locals call paradise and are taking full advantage of the warmer clime.
That sometimes means rethinking how and where families choose to relax.
“Back in the day it was always about how big the house was. People were going from 3,000- to 4,000-square foot homes in order to have a larger living or family room,” said Scott Littlejohn of HB Panoramics on Hilton Head Island. “What we’re finding now is people are increasing their living space by building a living area with a pool, a kitchen – somewhere you can have some fun, especially during the long days. It’s why they moved here in the first place.”
People are able to relist their homes on the rental market and the rentals have gone up because people can come down here and spend a lot of time outdoors, he added.
“You’re not coming down here to spend a lot of time indoors,” said Littlejohn.
He said his customers want to come home from a day at the beach, have the ability to shower right there, jump in the pool, put something on the barbecue, play some music, and transition from day to night by turning on the outdoor lights.
That’s the same trend seen by Suzanne Dixon of Casual Living, Fireplace and Grillin’ of Bluffton.
“As far as outdoor furniture, we’re seeing many more seating groups with sofas and swivel chairs instead of just dining sets, although we do both,” Dixon said. “I have found it’s popular lately to do a solid color sofa and chair, and accessorize with pillows so in five years you can change the look without a lot of expense.”
Dixon said she has also seen an increase in installing patio heaters — perfect for giving off heat as well light — as well as a lot of outdoor fireplaces that burn wood or gas.
Littlejohn says the most popular space is the pool-fire pit combination with a good deck. That often includes landscaping with shade trees and a grassy area for outdoor games.
“The outdoor cooking area is not so much a kitchen as a fireplace or fire pit with a little bar and a TV,” he said. “TV outside is becoming very popular. The other thing is LED lights. They’re a little expensive but return on expense is really good. You’re not burning through enormous amounts of power and those who live on the beach are not breaking the lighting restrictions for the sea turtles.”
Littlejohn and Dixon both said the trend to more outdoor living has grown in the past five years and the materials – from cushions to pavers – have made the difference.
Dixon said outdoor seating has become much more popular, with more durable fabrics, more styles and more materials approved for outdoor weather.
“All of our furniture is aluminum framed, whether it be wicker or resin on top so it will not rust outside,” said Dixon. “And we use Sunbrella™ and Outdura™ fabrics, not just Suncrylic™. You can’t put an ordinary cushion outdoors without it attracting mold and mildew in this humidity.”
Among the many products installed by HB Panoramics is the Belgard hardscape line.
“It’s very rustic, very authentic looking,” said Littlejohn. “It looks like it’s come out of the mountain.”
He uses Pantaire for pool products and an assortment of classic tile for the decks, many of which are designed to be multilayered with the pool.
“The other thing becoming very popular is the electronic pool systems. They have everything integrated into it and they are wireless,” he said. “You can turn your landscape lights on, TV, pool, bubbles in the spa pool, and turn the heat and cooling system on in the pool, all with your remote. You can actually tie your remote and the system into your iPad and iPhone and turn everything on when you’re on your way home. The systems are really high-end and very exciting.”