Charleston consistently tops major publications’ “best-of” lists for the most desirable places to live and visit. Full of historic Southern sensibilities, our home exteriors are unique from other areas of the country. To increase the curb appeal of your Charleston home and capture the attention of neighbors and passersby alike, consider these exterior design ideas.
CREATE A LUSH GARDEN
Charleston benefits from a subtropical climate with mild winters, hot, humid summers, and plentiful year-round rainfall. This weather provides the ideal conditions for maintaining lush, green gardens that are a calling card of Charleston, SC homes. Centipede, Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine grasses all thrive in Southern lawns. Magnolia, palmetto, dogwood, and crepe myrtle trees create quintessential Lowcountry charm. Azalea, camellia, and hydrangea bushes add pops of color.
For a place to enjoy a glass of sweet tea or an after-work cocktail, consider a patio or deck. Adding a pergola will give your outdoor space an extra touch of character, plus provide comfort in the Southern sun.
REPLACE THE CONCRETE DRIVEWAY
While concrete driveways are a staple of suburban America, their bland, highly-processed look is not as appropriate in Charleston — especially on the downtown peninsula, which still maintains historic cobblestone streets.
Some of the better alternatives to concrete driveways include:
Brick – This is a timeless choice appropriate for period homes. There are also alternatives to laying a traditional brick driveway. Innovative pavers give the appearance of natural brick, yet come in prefabricated sections that are easier to work with.
Gravel – A gravel driveway is a great Charleston choice, with a look that fits our coastal atmosphere and superior drainage during times of heavy rainfall. Modern interlocking grids hold the gravel in place and prevent the formation of ruts and clumps.
Cobblestone – Cobblestone is a classic driveway material that will make your home’s exterior authentically Charleston. It fits the sensibilities of 19th-century style, plus is extremely durable and resistant to staining.
Hybrid – A combination of classic driveway materials can maximize a Charleston home’s curb appeal. Fill the main bed with cinders or pea gravel to enhance drainability, while lining the perimeter with bricks or cobblestones to create a bold period statement.
CHOOSE COLORFUL SIDING
Charleston is all about colorful homes. In fact, Rainbow Row on East Bay Street, which features homes in various pastel hues, is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. However, the best house siding material is about more than just color. To maintain a vibrant appearance in warm, salty air, consider these options:
Composites – Natural wood is a favorite home siding choice, but it does not perform as well in areas where moisture can be absorbed. Fortunately, there are a plethora of composites, such as fiber cement and vinyl, that give the appearance of natural wood. These synthetic siding materials are lightweight and manufactured in a number of colors, keeping a Charleston home’s clean appearance for many years without the threat of moisture damage.
Stucco – As long as you have solid moisture barriers between stucco and its substrate, stucco will last many years in a warm climate. Stucco’s ability to provide a uniform front makes it a particularly strong option for capturing Charleston’s colorful charm.
Brick – While the array of color options doesn’t match composites or stucco, brick is nonetheless a Charleston favorite. Its natural appearance restores the classic beauty of historic homes. Modern brick facade materials offer an increased selection of designs and colors, making it easier than ever to incorporate into a siding renovation.
INSTALL WINDOW SHUTTERS
With well over 200 days of sunshine each year, Charlestonians have to consider this element in their window choices. It’s a good idea to use low-E and double-paned windows to help control solar radiation entering the house. But don’t forget aesthetic when using these modern materials, especially on days when windows are just meant to be open. Six-over-six double-hung windows were particularly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and remain so today. You’ll also find variations on the number of panes throughout the historic district, along with arches (particularly on Palladian windows), and big bay windows. French doors and sliders are other Lowcountry essentials for easy access to the outdoors and letting in fresh air.
Another classic Charleston exterior design element is the window shutter. Historic homes used shutters to protect expensive glass from strong winds and battering rains. And while window design and installation have improved to make the shutter largely functionally obsolete, its appeal remains as strong as ever. Louver and panel styles maintain an old-world feel, while Bermuda shades are popular on the beaches. Adding shutters to even the most modern residences will give your home a timeless appeal.
Skylar Ross is a contributor to the Innovative Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and interior design. Skylar focuses on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value, improve sustainability, and create a warm and welcoming ambiance.