October 2013

Home Section: Taking An Idea & Running with It

Author: Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Palmetto Bluff

“Iwork with legal pads, not iPads,” said David Sewell, Construction Manager at Palmetto Bluff. Barely cresting 40, Sewell embraces technology, but in a world of flying dust, he is old school in his processes. In fact, it is his knack for recording every detail by hand that makes his task of managing multiple vertical construction projects at once, “a breeze.”

Breeze? He needs a whipping wind these days. What could be described as “controlled chaos,” says Sewell with a grin, is actually the birth of a neighborhood. As the nation began to emerge from economic turmoil, Palmetto Bluff started to see a trend. Folks who were making real estate purchases wanted homes, not home sites. A light bulb came on, and Palmetto Bluff developer Crescent Communities gave the go-ahead to launch a built for sale program at the Bluff. The River Road neighborhood was born.

As plans for River Road began to evolve, so too did the process of designing homes. “The goal was to help buyers through the build process quicker. We worked with a selection of architects to create homes that fit the River Road neighborhood and Palmetto Bluff design aesthetic,” said Stephanie Gentemann, AIA, director of the Bluff’s Design Review Board and architect by trade. Like hitting the fast forward button on the design process, owners are now poised to make selections and be in their homes months quicker than they would be with a custom build (which is still an option). Nine unique homes are currently under construction. While different, they create a dynamic cohesion that unites the River Road neighborhood.

“We’re embracing the indigenous Lowcountry architectural style in River Road. The homes showcase endless variations on Palmetto Bluff’s architectural theme, with some fresh concepts added to the mix,” said Bryan Byrne, broker-in-charge.
The River Road neighborhood feels like a lushly planted park with homes nestled among a collection of green spaces, community gathering spaces, walkways, the River Road Preserve, and the inland waterway, all creating endless opportunities for outdoor living as well.

So, how does this all come together?

In the beginning…
“First on the agenda, my sidekick David Sewell and I meet with the real estate sales team, which is always fun and interesting, with great banter and great ideas, said Gentemann. “This meeting is particularly exciting, because we get to introduce the sales team to the final set of River Road plans. Eleven base plans with alternate elevations bring the total number of designs to 33.

“The current plans are so diverse, there is something for everyone. It has been a true team effort to take these from concept sketches to permit sets to idea homes. The question is posed, where did we get the names? Other than the ‘Page’ from River Road North (a nod to our longtime fearless leader), there are no team member tributes. Dr. Mary Socci, our archaeologist, created the list named for historical landscape architects, paying homage to the beautiful surroundings and gardens in River Road.

“The next meeting is with landscape architects WJK to go over streetscape studies and sections to get an idea for how to best site these homes to create a vibrant village feel. Closer to the sidewalks seems to be the key, but we need to make sure there is variety to create just the right feel. These studies will help shape the building envelopes and figure out setbacks for the entire neighborhood.

“Next, we finish up home marketing sheets. We have a few tweaks to send to the architects, LRK and Stackable + Squires, and these should be good to go to print. Courtney Hampson, our amazing marketing manager, will breathe a sigh of relief.

Finally, I get back to the office to update the stat sheets and graphs, because everyone likes to see the numbers. And they really are staggering: more than 40 homes in the review process and close to 70 under construction. The numbers don’t lie. This place is booming.”

To market, to market
Booming indeed. And that is where the marketing department steps in. As “marketing maven” (a title not necessarily approved by corporate) at the Bluff, I get to figure out how once we build it, they will come. (Cheesy movie quotes free of charge.) So, we put on our creative hard hats and run.

Similar to the community-based Style Home project last year, which was a partnership between Palmetto Bluff, Shoreline Construction and Development, and J Banks Design, it seemed natural to “get the band back together.” And we did. Three of the homes under construction will serve as “Idea Homes,” fully furnished, chock-full of design inspiration, and opening in late November. Further adding to the activity in River Road will be the addition of the 2014 Southern Living Idea Home, which will open for tours next summer.

Bringing a home to life
It may be difficult for someone to stand on a pile of dirt and envision their dream home, but for Shoreline Construction, that vision is crucial. Together with an army of sub-contractors, endless plan red-lines, matrixes, schematics, and budget schedules, it all boils down to one thing.

“We aren’t just building a home; we are building a quality relationship with our client. We need to understand the people who will live in this home,” said Katie Dalzell, interior designer who co-owns Shoreline Construction with her husband Chris.

Most people assume that when building a home you pick a lot, a plan, a builder and start construction. Little do they know the work that is involved in making a home come to life. The Shoreline team starts in the dirt with you, literally.

“At the initial client meeting, we try to understand our client’s budget and needs,” said Chris Dalzell. “We try to gleen their ‘hot points’ and start designing their home within the budget (basically mind-reading). Then, we work with our local architect partners to design a home that captures each owner’s desires while still meeting neighborhood requirements. Having the builder involved in this process allows the owner to understand quickly if their wish list will fit their budget. We also take the time to walk the lot to make sure that our design will correlate with existing trees and solar orientation, and allow for any landscape upgrades.

“Once the plan is complete, we work with our subcontractors to turn the budget into a contract number. The plans are submitted for permit as we prepare to begin construction. But, it doesn’t end there. We work to keep current on construction trends, green building materials, and energy efficiency while finding the balance between modern trends and the timeless details that bring a home to life.

“Our in-house design team is involved from the start, working to simplify the daunting process of selections: lighting, plumbing, countertops, tile, flooring, appliances, cabinets, trim details, windows, doors, exterior finish selections, interior color selections. Each of these selections can be a major hurdle without the help of an interior designer to walk you through. We guide each one of our homeowners through each of the individual decisions to ensure that they are within budget while keeping the overall design concept in mind. Our design-build process makes the home come together seamlessly without slowing down the construction schedule—a unique process that allows clients to express their design taste while keeping within budget and completing the project within a timely manner.”

Interior design
After watching the high drama world of interior design on television, the thought of working with a designer may seem as foreign to you as the terms ikats and batiks. But the glitz, glamour, and excessiveness that you see on the reality shows has nothing to do with the true business of interior design. In the real world, a perfectly executed interior project requires multiple layers of thought, execution, attention to detail and productive communication between team members.

You hire a designer to obtain their one-of-a-kind intellectual property and unique skill set. For the Idea Homes, Palmetto Bluff has partnered with J Banks Design to concept and outfit the home with furnishing, fixtures, art and accessories—the icing on the cake, so to speak. But, where does it begin?

“With any new client, I like to start with the project visioning,” said Shelley Wilkins, ASID, of J Banks Design. “At this meeting, come prepared to share. My job is to listen and find out how you aspire to live in your surroundings. Bring pictures and magazine clippings; show me your HOUZZ and Pinterest boards, communicate your personal style. Make sure to address the things you love and even things you dislike—typically both elements are crucial for a designer to tailor selections that will truly reflect you.

“After an overall vision has been set for your project, I then spend every waking minute of my life (okay, kidding, partially) in the J Banks Design studio, which literally mimics a miniature design center to search, scour and edit through the hundreds of potential options for your project. Did I mention that designers are master editors? We are responsible for making the complicated simple by limiting the options into humanly absorbable increments.

“A ‘typical’ day could mean multiple site visits, muddy shoes, client meetings, visits to tile and cabinetry vendors, red lining plans, sketching out concepts, making reselections for discontinued fabrics, consoling clients after they find out that they selected a discontinued fabric.

“Once I narrow down the perfect items for your project, we’ll get together for an information exchange, approving, tweaking, and reviewing alternative selections until both you and I are thrilled with the result.

“As the design decisions are made, the behind the scenes expeditors, assistants, and accounting teams work with the me and vendors to make sure your products are ordered, acknowledged correctly, tracked, received and delivered to you as expected and on-budget. If issues occur, which are typical to any project, just relax and know that your design team will handle it. I promise.”

And so, with all of the wheels in motion, it really does “take a village” to create a place.

For more information on what’s happening at Palmetto Bluff, visit www.palmettobluff.com or call (843) 706-6400.

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