March 2015

Bringing the Outdoor In: May River Custom Homes

Author: Laura Jacobi

As the weather gets warmer, our natural inclination is to get outdoors, feel the sun on our face and enjoy the beauty of the Lowcountry. That’s why outdoor living is a cornerstone of Southern culture. Imagine spacious wrap-around porches dotted with rocking chairs and glasses of sweet tea.

According to Jenny Nelson of May River Custom Homes, an outdoor living space not only provides you and your family a unique place to unwind or entertain, but also adds value to your home. “Whether starting from scratch or planning an addition, the simple inclusion of an outdoor feature can change the way you live your life,” Nelson said. You may suddenly find yourself living more of life outdoors.

May River Custom Homes is a family-owned, custom home builder based in Bluffton. The Nelsons (Jay and Jenny) and their talented team of craftsmen and project managers have years of experience designing, building and renovating custom homes that provide the legendary comfort and style the Lowcountry is known for.

Nelson was able to turn her passion for design into a career, studying at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in interior design. She says that outdoor living spaces are essential when building in the Lowcountry.


No matter what choices you make for your outdoor living space, make sure it incorporates personal style, comfort and function so it can be enjoyed for seasons to come.

As fire pits have become increasingly popular in backyards, fireplaces are becoming common place in screened porches.

“These spaces allow you more opportunities to enjoy the Lowcountry’s breathtaking views, breezes and year-round pleasant climate with the entire family.”

Nelson gives these tips and suggestions when designing an outdoor living space:
Before planning your outdoor space, think carefully about your home from a design perspective. Does your home have a particular architectural style or color scheme? What style do you want to use? Lowcountry or European? Do you want to incorporate stone or a rustic feel? You may want to use the same or complementary style in your new outdoor living space. This will make your outdoor area feel like a true extension of your home’s interior.

It’s also vital to consider the function of the space. Do you want an additional entertaining space, family room, dining area or kitchen? Are you thinking about a sunroom, screened porch or covered porch?
Nelson suggests looking online and through magazines to get ideas. Find inspiration and write it down. Accumulate pictures from various sources and make a list of what appeals to you.

Screened porches are a top priority for many in this area, because they can be utilized year-round. “We haven’t built a home without a screened porch,” Nelson said. Some homes will have multiple screened porches—off the master bedroom and living room, or upstairs overlooking a golf course or marsh. The Nelsons built their own home in Oldfield and included a large screened porch as well as an adjacent covered porch for “when you want to be in the open air,” she said.


Screened porches are a top priority for many in this area, because they can be utilized year-round. Some homes will have multiple screened porches—off the master bedroom and living room, or upstairs overlooking a golf course or marsh.

The builder’s recently completed spec home in Berkeley Hall includes a gazebo-shaped screened porch off the back of the house. This unusual shape provides a larger, unobstructed marsh view in the backyard.

The materials used and features included help make this space feel like your own, Nelson said. But she advises homeowners to be practical when choosing materials, furniture and fixtures to ensure they not only provide the right ambiance, but can stand up to the elements. For example, she suggests using porcelain tile for the flooring because it’s smooth to the touch and easy to maintain and keep clean. Another popular feature for slab porches is tabby, which is shell-embedded concrete.

As fire pits have become increasingly popular in backyards, fireplaces are becoming common place in screened porches. “The climate here allows you to sit by a fire so often, and fireplaces make the space feel a little more intimate,” Nelson said.

Lighting options can also add ambiance to the outdoor living space. She suggests hanging bistro-style string lights from the ceiling to create a cozy and enchanting mood. Potted plants and flowers also add an element of vitality to the space.

Cushioned furniture brings the comfort of home outside, and pillows and throws are an inviting accent. You can also add an outdoor rug to help ground the room and create a cozy sitting and living space outdoors.

Because more and more homeowners are entertaining in their outdoor space, the flat-screen TV has also become a popular focal point. Thankfully, there are screen covers to provide some level of protection from the elements. On the practical side, be sure the outdoor space has wet-rated outlets, she said. There are even wet-rated ceiling fans, which can be hosed down for easy cleaning.

No matter what choices you make for your outdoor living space, make sure it incorporates personal style, comfort and function so it can be enjoyed for seasons to come. 

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