Lowcountry Love: This Family Found Their Forever Home in Charming Shem Creek
Shrimp boats, kayaking outfitters, and lively bars and restaurants line the commercial side
of Shem Creek, the gem of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina’s Old Village Historic District. But north of the Shem Creek bridge, the waterway winds through quiet neighborhoods where children roam on bikes and go crabbing off backyard docks. “My husband dreamed of being on the water, and we fell in love with this lot. We’re drawn to older areas where kids can run around,” says owner Maggie Bullwinkel. She and husband George, a Charleston native, had two young children when they began renovating this 3,200-square-foot house that was built in the 1970s. Their third child was 9 months old when they moved in. Maggie refers to her then-infant sidekick as “my design assistant.”
While the Bullwinkels had renovated and sold houses before, this one would be a keeper. “It had great bones. We loved the back porch and knew this could be our forever home,” Maggie says. Working with architect Hunter Kennedy and designer Sidney Wagner, they spearheaded family-friendly changes to the four-bedroom abode that have definitely paid off. Today, the Bullwinkels have four kids under age 10 and plenty of yard, a great porch, and a frequently used outdoor kitchen to accommodate their active lifestyle.
“Overall, the footprint didn’t change much,” says Sidney, who squared off the kitchen to make it more functional. As the home’s command center, it now opens up to a bright eating nook, which is one of Maggie’s favorite spots. “Family dinners are a priority,” she says. What was previously a formal dining room, adjacent to the kitchen, became the kids’ playroom. They removed an attached garage to make way for a new mudroom/laundry area off the kitchen. “It’s basically where I live,” quips Maggie. They also elevated and enlarged the back porch to be a seamless open-air extension of the family room, ground zero for entertaining during Clemson University football season. “I love that we really do live in each space,” Maggie says. “We use it all.”
A monochrome kitchen keeps Maggie happy. “It helps to have a clean look in a busy room,” she says. Streamlined light fixtures by Cedar & Moss and vintage Lucite barstools scooped up at a local antiques mall add to the airy feel in the room.
Let the Landscape Lead
Reorienting the kitchen to open into a family dining area was Maggie’s top priority. Hunter bumped out the eating nook to add windows on all sides, inviting in sunlight and creek views. A mid-century modern table and slipcovered chairs keep lines simple, and Roost’s whimsical light fixture “softens all the hard surfaces,” says Sidney. The fabric used for the curtains (Katana by Kelly Wearstler) is also on the barstools, where it’s laminated to be indestructible.
Flexible and Functional
“We needed comfortable pieces that are easy to rearrange,” says Sidney, who was mindful of not blocking the French doors that open to the porch. “I love how the vintage-reproduction chairs are movable and sculpturally interesting from whatever angle.” A sofa slipcovered in Crypton fabric is ultrapractical, and bare windows keep things light and airy while connecting well with the porch, she says.
Sidney painted the porch floor in Benjamin Moore’s Kennebunkport Green (HC-123), the same color that’s used on the exterior trim, and added soothing blue accents to complement the surrounding outdoor hues. “We didn’t want to distract from the view,” she says. Wicker chairs from CB2 add natural texture, and a fun Annie Selke rug anchors the blue tones. Floor-to-ceiling screens and a vaulted ceiling help the porch feel cool in summer.
Two years after moving in, the Bullwinkels worked with architect Chris Heinlen of Heinlen Design to add a backyard shed with a full attic to supplement the home’s limited storage. Adjacent to that, they created an outdoor kitchen and entertaining area. “This is our favorite spot for birthday parties, neighborhood suppers, or sometimes sunset sips after the kids have gone to bed,” says Maggie. A metal roof, green trim, and white siding tie the shed to the main house.
“I love the playroom right off the kitchen. It's our cuddle area,” says Maggie. A big barn door can be closed to contain toys and messes. Commissioned pieces by local artist Michelle Owenby add grown-up flair to the room, designed to one day transform into a family hangout space.
Maggie believes that tidiness is key, even in the playroom. Each child has (and uses!) a designated toy-and-book basket, and a rotating gallery helps solve the what-to-do-with-endless-kids’-art dilemma.
“ ‘Are you sure about going this showy?’ my husband asked about the paint color, and I was—including covering the ceiling,” says Maggie of the vibrant Benjamin Moore Slate Teal (2088-20) she chose for the laundry room. “I love how the boldness brings you in.” Custom cabinets add extra pantry space.
Bold and Functional
Next to the laundry room, the bold color continues in the mudroom with an added touch of graphic wallpaper. Each kid has their own space for coats and bags in the blue storage wall.