Owning a luxury home on Kiawah Island can make you feel like you are on an extended vacation in paradise. Stunning custom homes blend seamlessly into the environment around them, keeping the emphasis on the beauty of the island itself, with its marshes, lagoons, tropical foliage, and miles of sandy beaches. Residents enjoy five championship golf courses, pampering at the spa, tennis at an award-winning center, and restaurants ranging from fine dining at The Ocean Room to a shake or sundae at Beaches & Cream.

If this sounds like the place you want to build your forever home, knowing what it takes to design and build a custom home on this exclusive island will make the experience much more enjoyable.

Selecting a Lot for Your Luxury Home on Kiawah Island

As you can imagine, choosing a lot on a gated island can differ from finding a traditional homesite. Access has to be coordinated. Every homesite is unique. Kiawah Island has rules set in place to retain its natural beauty, which includes rules prohibiting the removal of certain trees or undergrowth in some areas without prior approval. If you are wanting a lot relatively clear of vegetation, it will be best to select one that is cleared when you see it to ensure you won’t end up with more trees or shrubs than you desire.

Waterfront lots, whether on a lagoon or the Atlantic, make for amazing views, but can come with additional restrictions. The South Carolina Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) monitors lots adjacent to lagoons, marshes, and ocean dunes and sets certain requirements to preserve these areas. Another perhaps unusual consideration when buying a lot here is you may be required to share a driveway with your neighbor, depending on the layout of the sites.

If you have not selected a lot on Kiawah Island already, it would be beneficial to include an architect in the selection process who is familiar with these requirements and has experience in site analysis.

Acceptable Custom Home Styles for Kiawah Island

No particular style of home is preferred or unwelcome on Kiawah Island, according to Kiawah Resort Associates. In fact, a quick scan of homes for sale reveals styles ranging from modern and contemporary to more traditional beach cottages and colonials with columns. Instead, those wanting to build a new home need to consider the style and size of existing homes in their desired neighborhood and design their home to complement them.

Height restrictions are imposed on the island, both how far the first floor level needs to be from the ground according to flood regulations and how high the home itself can be. While these restrictions vary on the location of your home, a general guideline to follow is 40 feet tall in developed neighborhoods and 45 feet tall in undeveloped areas.

The Kiawah Architectural Review Board (ARB), which reviews and approves all new construction and renovations on the island, states, “From the beginning, the goal of the development on Kiawah has been to achieve an uncommon and visually pleasing blend of natural beauty and man-made improvements.” In other words, the design of your home should accentuate the landscape rather than detract from it.

How Renting Your Home Factors into the Design

Having a rental property on Kiawah Island can be profitable and a good way to cover the cost of the home if you are not planning on moving in right away. Maybe you’re living in New England and have a few more years to work before you retire to island living, or you want to use your Kiawah Island home strictly as a vacation home and continue to share it with others. If this is the case, you may want to include this part of your plan in the design.

Perhaps have two master suites, one which you don’t rent out and the other that can be renovated for another purpose if you move in full-time. Provide the high-end finishes vacationers expect to see in a home on a luxury resort island, but save the truly custom features for when you are ready to have it all to yourself.

How to Enjoy Building Your Island Dream Home

The ultimate goal of designing a dream home is to have a place you love to live in and are proud to call your own, but you can also enjoy its creation as well. Here are some ways to make that possible:

  • Find the right architect. You want a professional who not only sees your vision, but also knows how to bring it to life within the requirements of the Kiawah ARB and Charleston County building codes. They should also be cognizant of the unique conditions your home will need to withstand, including high heat and humidity, salt air, flooding and potential hurricane winds and rain.
  • Include everything in your original design. Since all exterior changes, from the color of your home to the placement of your air-conditioning unit, have to be approved by the ARB, not having to make a lot of changes will make the process smoother. Having the right architect will help with this.
  • Realize you’re on island time. Building a custom home on Kiawah Island can easily take a year or longer-and that’s after the design and approval process, so plan accordingly. Nothing can begin without the approval of the Kiawah ARB, not even requesting building permits or clearing undergrowth on the lot. If you’re building during tourist season, just getting the contractors to the job site can take longer than if you were building on the mainland. So breathe, relax, and know the wait is going to be worth it.

Blueprint for Success

When you’re ready to build your forever home on Kiawah Island or another luxury resort island, take advantage of the knowledge and resources an experienced architect possesses to have you living the life you’ve dreamed of as soon as possible and to enjoy the process along the way.