Just as Garth Brooks sings, “I’ve got friends in low places”… I can say, “I’ve got friends in Low Country!”
Whether you prefer to spell it Lowcountry…Low Country…or low country, all three refer to the same area and are often used interchangeably. For the sake of consistency, I’m using this “Lowcountry” version, the most popular variant. Aside from conflicting opinions about the spelling, there are also differing opinions about the specific location of Lowcountry. Some say it lies along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia; others say the northern and southern coastal boundries are between the two Jacksonvilles – the one in North Carolina and the one in Florida. While the definitive answers to these controversial questions remain elusive, there are many characteristics about the Lowcountry that are indisputable among most people: the slow-paced lifestyle, rich traditions, hospitable charm, distinguishable cuisine, and a sizzling hot and humid climate!
DESIGN AND DECOR ELEMENTS OF THE LOWCOUNTRY
While the mixed-roots of the Lowcountry’s history has greatly influenced the culture of the region, it is the steamy climate that has most affected the architecture and design choices for houses there. Shielding homes from the harsh sun has long been a primary goal of construction. Historically, Lowcountry homes were built with high ceilings allowing heat to rise and the living space to remain cool. Double-decker porches or piazzas were built on the south side of homes to take advantage of cool southern breezes and to shade interior rooms with the help of “canopies” created by giant, live oak trees. The first floors were often built high above the ground level to prevent flooding and allow for air circulation under the house. Central courtyards and an ample windows also encouraged interior ventilation.
Lowcountry Style Today
Architecture: The wide choice of modern, weather-resistant building materials in recent years has enabled the architecture of Lowcountry homes to move beyond the practical traditional designs. New composite materials can withstand the elements of the climate much better than wood, extending the life span of structures. As a result, options for Lowcountry home designs have expanded to include farmhouse/country homes, island/marsh coastal homes, and even contemporary models. Design is all about making the most of outdoor spaces. Porches have expanded beyond the south side of the house and often wrap all the way around the exterior. Spending time outdoors has become more enjoyable thanks to weather resistant fabrics for cushions and awnings, and the new technology of mosquito and cool mist systems.
Design Elements: The Lowcountry region, for the most part, is at sea level, which explains the name. The relaxing atmosphere of both the coastline and inland settings of the Lowcountry lends itself naturally to coastal design and style. With respect to the past and a nod to today, an eclectic mix of traditional antique pieces with original, worn or whitewashed finishes are commonly placed alongside casual slipcovered or upholstered pieces, creating an effortless, cozy feel.
Signature Colors: Lowcountry homes pull their colors from the nature that surrounds them, especially the majestic live oaks trees and soothing seascape. Soft neutrals, grays, blues, greens and varying shades of white help to keep interiors looking light and feeling cool.
A favorite distinctive feature of Lowcountry homes is the “Haint Blue” porch ceiling. Haint Blue is a soft blue-green color that has a rich history. Legend has it that this coastal color, when painted on exterior porch ceilings, extends the appearance of daylight, preventing “haints,” or restless evil spirits, from entering
homes at night when it’s dark. Sometimes Haint Blue is also painted on the front entrance door frames and window trim for “extra protection.” It is a long-standing tradition in the South and one that is even beginning to catch on in the Northeast as well today.
Next stop on our coastal design journey – south to Key West!
Article by: Sandi Wallace