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One of our favorite things about working in real estate is the fact that we get to partner with some of the most creative and innovative men and women in the Lowcountry. Interior designer Sharon Cleland of J. Banks Design Group, located on Hilton Head Island, is one such talent. A native of Ireland, Sharon spent several years designing for clients whose lifestyle was geared toward indoor pursuits due to the cooler temperatures of the Emerald Isle. Since relocating to South Carolina, however, she has discovered what we think is one of the best aspects of Lowcountry living: our weather, which is pretty spectacular year-round and conducive to a casual yet graceful aesthetic that reflects our love of the outdoors. We asked Sharon if she would share her thoughts on what comprises the “Lowcountry Look” and she generously agreed. Read on for the complete Q and A!

How to Achieve the Lowcountry Look in Your Home

photos courtesy of J. Banks Design Group

Ussery Group: How would you describe the Lowcountry look?

Sharon Cleland: “My personal interpretation of the Lowcountry look is that of understated, casual elegance. This can be designed and executed with many different aesthetics ranging from traditional to modern country and coastal cottage, all the way over to transitional and contemporary. The common threads for me are the incorporation of comfort with texture and quiet color schemes to serve as a seamless transition between nature and lifestyle.”

UG: What type of color palettes and finishes are best suited to life in the Lowcountry?

SC: “I personally favor quiet, pale, chalky color schemes which act as a carte blanche upon which to layer artwork and accessories. Finishes should include organic, indigenous textures such as tabby and reclaimed brick and wood, as well as smooth painted wall paneling and elegant honed limestone and marble.”

UG: Do you take a different approach when designing for an investment property vs. a primary residence in the Lowcountry?

SC: “For any residence, investment or otherwise, it is always my goal to inject ‘soul.’ When there are no personal client selections with an investment property, it is my responsibility to add that soul by layering textures and artwork to stage the home.”

UG: What are the three essential design elements every Lowcountry home should have?

SC: “Home design with porches to afford views and catch breezes and open-concept floor plans to provide flexible, airy, multi-purpose living spaces. Second, selections conducive to practical, casual living such as reclaimed hardwood floors, reclaimed brick, honed stones and marble, tabby shell textures, and organic Pecky cypress paneling. Finally, well-planned and designed mud rooms to provide storage and practical drop zones for the things we carry into our homes from the outdoors.”

UG: What practical things should residents of the Lowcountry take into consideration when designing their dream home?

SC: “The climate and temperatures should be a major factor during the design phase as this will impact many selection decisions. For example: the inclusion of ceiling fans, both indoors and for outdoor porches, to facilitate the movement of air and create essential breezes during hot and humid months. Other practical considerations include the incorporation of ice makers and grills for outdoor picnics and entertaining, screens—whether retractable or stationary—and bug misting systems to reduce the annoyance of bugs while enjoying the outdoors.”

UG: Outdoor living is such a huge part of the Lowcountry lifestyle! How can Lowcountry residents maximize their outdoor living spaces and/or use their porch as an extension of their home?

SC: “With the wonderful selections of indoor/outdoor furniture, lighting, rugs and fabrics, the outdoor living spaces and porches can literally function as complete living spaces. These selections allow Lowcountry residents to design and create living and dining spaces conducive to year-round enjoyment, while at the same time withstanding the elements of nature and weather.”

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