What do California, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida and Colorado all have in common?
At first glance, nothing really, but to the Austin family, they are stops along the road that finally brought them home to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Jeff Austin, a Comcast executive, originally from California, moved around the west coast growing up. When he met Tricia, from Charleston, who attended the College of Charleston, it was love at first sight. They lived in Charleston for three years after they were married. "We loved the people, the beautiful beaches, the history and charm that Charleston had to offer," Jeff recalls. "I've moved around a lot and nothing else quite measures up to the Lowcountry."
Work took the Austins to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, back to Charleston and then to Jupiter, Florida. The Austins enjoyed life in Jupiter, especially living so close to the water. But it never really felt like "home" the way that Charleston had. So after much consideration, the Austins decided to begin searching for property in the Lowcountry where they could build their forever home.
The Austins knew what they were looking for: waterfront property, a dock on deep water, a large yard for the kids to enjoy, lots of windows and plenty of natural light. Finding it was another story. "We watched the market over the years, and just always kept our eyes out for the right spot," said Jeff. In 2015, they found it. The Cardinal Hill subdivision is a gated community that sits on the banks of picturesque Horlbeck Creek. In December 2015 they made an offer on a piece of property and the owner accepted. "It was home," said Tricia. Just not yet.
As life sometimes does, the Austins were thrown a curve ball. Jeff had the opportunity to move to Denver, Colorado and since the Austin family has always been up for an adventure, kids included, they decided to go for it. Denver provided a sense of fun and adventure that the family was looking forward to. "We have truly been blessed to be able to experience so much in so many different places as a result of Jeff's job," said Tricia. "The kids were excited to learn to ski and snowboard. And we felt like we were giving them the best of both worlds really."
The Cardinal Hill property became their insurance policy, proof that eventually, life would take them back south once again to the banks of their beloved Lowcountry. In 2018, while still living in Denver, they decided to begin the conversation of building their dream home. They reached out to Rachel Burton with Swallowtail Architecture to help them start the process and put their ideas on paper. Having lived in so many different locations, meant their styles have changed over the years. "We really loved the Floridian-style homes when we were living in Jupiter," said Tricia. "All of the homes were concrete/stucco and this appealed to us. We initially wanted a very modern style home made of concrete." It didn't take the Austins long to realize that their initial design didn't fit with the relaxed feel of the Lowcountry. "It just didn't work," said Tricia. So they went back to the drawing board and started over from scratch. "We knew we wanted something warmer so we worked hard to combine all of the different aspects of the various homes we loved to come up with a design that worked with the landscape but also felt uniquely designed for our family," said Tricia.
With a design in hand, the Austins began to search for the next piece of the puzzle, a builder who could turn their dreams into reality. "We looked at a lot of different builders," recalled Jeff. "Being in Denver and building a house long-distance was somewhat scary, but it meant that trust and communication would be an essential part of the equation. We realized we wanted an integrated builder who could handle all of the moving parts because we were in Denver and couldn't be there in person." The Austins found Sea Island Builders and proceeded to do their homework. "I called every single reference," remembers Jeff. Many conference calls took place and through them they were able to work through the long distance planning and execution of the job. "From the beginning, we really felt like Sea Island Builders was all about us and giving us what we wanted," said Tricia. "It was so important to find a builder who collaborated to deliver what was best for us and our unique home, especially since we couldn't be there to walk the land and see things in person. Having that element of trust was crucial." Communication has been key," said Jeff. "Jason has been very specific from the beginning and that has helped keep those lines of communication open."
With an architect and builder on board, the rest of the team just seemed to fall into place. The Austins selected LuAunn McCants Interiors as the interior designer and Kelly Messier as the landscape architect. The process has been so collaborative and the team just seemed to work really well together and bounce ideas off of each other. This is the first home that the Austin family has built. So it was important to them to get it right from the beginning and enjoy the process. "Sea Island Builders has been instrumental in making the most of this experience and has truly been the eyes on the ground when we could not be," said Jeff. "They gave us lots of things to consider, like how to angle the house to get the best view of the sunrise. We have really enjoyed the process so far," says Tricia. "Being in Denver was hard when we really wanted to be there to see things for ourselves, but the team at Sea Island Builders has been really great at explaining things and making sure we were comfortable with the plan before moving forward."
Fast forward to September 2019, the foundation has been poured, the house has been framed and you can start to see rooms take shape. "It's so exciting to start to see it come together," said Tricia. Jack and Annie, the Austin's children, share in the excitement. Jack wants to trade his snow skis in for a surfboard. He is most excited about the family's dock and of course, the swimming pool. Annie can't wait to swim, fish and paddle board. And in true teenager fashion, she is most excited about having her own bathroom.
All the planning and hard work is coming to fruition. Jeff couldn't agree more. Standing where his future porch will be and looking out at the water, taking in the beauty of the marsh and feeling the breezes rolling in off the creek and he knows that his family is home. Sometimes the journey is as important as the destination.