Showhouse Q&A: Suzanne Stern

May 14, 2013 | By | Comments (1)

Architectural designer Suzanne Stern of Our Town Plans discusses the design and historical inspiration behind Coastal Living‘s 2013 Showhouse on Daniel Island.

What prompted you to start working in architectural design?
SS: Architecture has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father is Jim Strickland, founding partner of the award-winning architectural design firm, Historical Concepts. I was young when he attended architecture school at Yale University, but I remember a lot from those days. Later, when he was a builder, my brother and I spent more time than we care to remember on the job sites checking progress and working at various odd jobs. We learned so much about good design and how a house goes together. I knew that I was hooked when I returned to work for him supervising construction after college. After that, I was fortunate to work for a wonderful commercial architecture firm in South Georgia and then spent 14 years at Historical Concepts before coming to Our Town Plans. My time at Historical Concepts had the greatest influence on my design sensibility.

How would you describe architecture in the Lowcountry? What are some of the key architectural elements?
SS: To me ‘Lowcountry architecture’ is represented by high ceilings and deep roof overhangs, large windows and generous porches. These are also elements that are seen in traditional vernacular architecture all along the East Coast. They were necessary in homes that were built in hot climates in a time before air conditioning. Today, these are the things that make us say a house is “open and airy.”

How has a traditional Lowcountry aesthetic been incorporated in this year’s Showhouse?
SS: This year’s Showhouse incorporates the simple massing and regular symmetry of classic Greek Revival architecture with casual coastal elements like exposed rafter tails and board and batten siding. Its most prominent feature is the secondary roof that is supported by large brackets and has deep overhangs—evoking images of Caribbean architecture. Inside, the trim is simple and well-proportioned. The design for the garage was inspired by life-saving stations that were built along the coasts of the Carolinas and Georgia in the 1800s. (Stern looked to The U.S. Life-Saving Service: Heroes, Rescues and Architecture of the Early Coast Guard when designing the 2013 Showhouse garage.)

(left) Cape Fear Life Saving Station taken by Richard Boonisar, (right) 2013 Showhouse garage under construction

(left) Cape Fear Life-Saving Station by Richard Boonisar, (right) 2013 Showhouse garage under construction

What has been the most challenging aspect in the design of this year’s Showhouse?
SS: The site is very straight forward with beautiful views of the river. We all knew immediately that those views would be the focus of the house and that the main living spaces should take advantage of the natural beauty that is on display. With such a great opportunity, the design actually came together rather quickly and the finished house looks very much like the initial sketches.

What inspires you? Who are your favorite architects and designers?
SS: Typically, I am very much inspired by location and the architecture of the surrounding area. In most ways, Daniel Island is a ‘new’ place, but the Charleston area and surrounding islands have a long history and a rich architectural precedent to follow. I wanted the house to be exciting, yet recognizable in its setting. I think it is important to give a nod to tradition even as one strives to create something new. Being a traditionalist with roots in Atlanta, I have to say Philip Trammell Schutze is a favorite architect and the years I spent in Albany, Georgia gave me an appreciation of the architecture of Edward Vason Jones. I might be biased, but the work that Historical Concepts is doing today is very impressive!

Read more about Suzanne here.
Explore the 2013 Showhouse floor plans here.

—Erin McFarland


  1. Construction Update: Less Than a Month to Go! – Daily Catch |

    […] more about the 2013 Showhouse architecture here. Learn more about the 2013 Showhouse interiors […]

    May 29, 2013 at 6:49 pm

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