A Brief History of Beaufort’s Lowcountry Architecture

A Lowcountry style home is simple and practical while maintaining an air of elegance, grace, and history.

Along the coast of South Carolina lies the geographic and cultural region known as the "Lowcountry." The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC Metropolitan Statistical Area is Lowcountry and known for its historic cities and communities, natural environment, cultural heritage, and tourism industry.

Developed in the late 1700s, Lowcountry style architecture is one of the most distinctive elements of the region. Originally designed to accommodate residents of the subtropical climate of South Carolina, the historical features and designs of these stately homes are still loved by southerners and admired by visitors today.

The spacious rooms and porches of these elegant homes also facilitate that famous Southern hospitality - the heartbeat of the Lowcountry. 

What is “Lowcountry style” exactly?

A beautifully designed Lowcountry home is breathtaking with its air of elegance, grace, and history. 

Wide shady verandas that wrap around the house, large double-hung windows with wooden shutters, screened-in porches, and tall front doors with transoms above, are features visible from the outside. 

Porch ceilings and even shutters are often painted with "haint blue", a soft blue-green shade that South Carolina's Gullah people, who are descendants of African slaves, believed would keep away evil spirits. 

Some folks thought that the color repelled insects and others enjoyed the soothing brightness that seemed to extend the light of evenings. Whatever the reason, spirits, bugs, or twilight, the ubiquitous haint blue is everywhere in the south.

Inside the Lowcountry homes, are found spacious rooms with high ceilings, fans, and open-concept layouts to further encourage air circulation.

When it was first designed, the primary function of Lowcountry architecture was to keep the house and its inhabitants cool. 

With the knowledge that hot air rises and cooler air stays close to the floor, homes were built with airflow and ventilation features. 

Let's take a look at how the various features worked: 

  • Transom: This is a transverse horizontal structural beam or bar, or a crosspiece separating a door from a window above it. The window above the transom in a Lowcountry home could be opened to allow ventilation. It would also let in more light.
  • Screened porches: Wide furnished rooms on the outside of the house enclosed with screens instead of glass. Used for sitting during the day or sleeping on warm nights.
  • Verandas: These were often spacious additions to the exterior of a house, giving residents a shady place to relax and socialize while still allowing light into the interior. 
  • Double-hung windows: Tall windows with an opening at the top to allow hot air to escape, and an opening at the bottom to draw the cooler evening air in.
  • Shutters: Historically, shutters were used to keep out inclement weather and protect against gusting coastal winds. 
  • High ceilings: These were 10 - 14 feet high in older homes and had electric or rope-powered (by hand) fans. High ceilings gave warm air a place to go before being ventilated through the upper part of double hung windows.
  • Open concept room design: Large spacious rooms with doors and windows at each end allowed air to flow freely through the house. In addition, the space was perfect for large social gatherings of friends and family.
  • Reflective metal roofing: Many older homes had light-colored or silver-metal roofs made of lead, tin or copper - long lasting and ideal for keeping out tropical rains and reflecting the sun's rays. 
  • Landscaping features: Massive live-oak trees festooned with hanging moss grow throughout the south and provide natural shade to Lowcountry homes.

While all of these features were critical historically, the convenience of air conditioning today, renders the need for natural ventilation obsolete.

But the classic Lowcountry home is beloved, and deeply rooted in tradition. Southerners and visitors continue to love the grace and ambiance of Lowcountry architecture, and, of course, the beautiful live-old oak trees that still grow everywhere.

Lowcountry architecture is featured in Celadon's traditional neighborhood development constructed by preferred builders Henry Vala and TD Commercial. Their commitment to detail and quality craftsmanship assures customer satisfaction with every home sold.

Located on Lady’s Island—one of the picturesque Sea Islands of historic Beaufort—Celadon is a dynamic, wellness-based community on the South Carolina coast.

We invite you to take a look at some of the Lowcountry style homes available for purchase now, as well as the variety of designs we can build for you.