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unspecifiedIt is common knowledge that solar panels offer a source of energy that is clean, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. But do the associated costs make solar energy a realistic choice for everyone? With the rapidly decreasing costs of solar energy, installing a solar-panel system for your home may be cheaper than you think. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, most solar-panel systems in the United States pay for themselves completely within five years. Additionally, adding solar panels to a property can significantly increase the value of a home (

Solar energy is the most ample source of energy on the planet, and it has none of the health, safety, or environmental risks associated with other sources like nuclear energy or coal. With all of these benefits, the addition of a solar-powered system may be an attractive option for many Lowcountry homeowners.

At the beginning of January, Sustainable Energy Solutions merged with Solbridge Energy in order to create aunspecified-2 new company, Southern Current, whose ultimate goal is to provide the public with renewable energy solution. The merger creates an opportunity for the expertise and resources of two premier solar developers to come together in order to meet a wider range of their clients’ needs. Jon Downey, chief operating officer of Southern Current says, “The combination of our two companies will significantly increase our ability to develop projects of all sizes.” Now, not only is Southern Current able to help residential homes become more environmentally friendly, but they also help corporations with solar paneling. Being able to bring solar paneling to the residents and commercial businesses of the South helps with the environmental qualms of electricity use, as well as promotes sustainability and environmental awareness.

How do you go about installing solar paneling with Southern Current? After setting up an appointment, members of the Southern Current team will come to your home and check to make sure that there aren’t any trees that would hinder the gathering of solar energy. They will also check to see if the roof is facing the right direction and if any of the home’s angles will pose a problem. Unlike many other solar companies, Southern Current has an in-home team to do the inspection, assess the location, and install the panels. They also take special care to blend the solar panels with the overall aesthetic of the home.

unspecified-3Most states offer incentives to encourage the use of solar energy to make the installation more affordable. In South Carolina, a tax credit is available to homeowners who choose to install a solar energy system. The credit covers 25% of the costs of buying and installing a solar energy system with a cap at $3,500 or 50% of the taxpayer’s obligation for that year (whichever is less). If the cap is exceeded, the credits can be carried forward for up to ten years. There is also a Federal 30% tax credit of the total system cost. If the credit exceeds tax liability, then the excess amount may carry to the succeeding taxable year. The homeowner simply has to provide proof of the costs and installation dates, have the installation certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation, and attach a Solar Energy System Credit form to the back of his or her tax return (

Solar paneling doesn’t just help the environment; it helps your pocket by paying for itself and lowering energy costs for the lifetime of your home.

Written by: Claire Nellums

  1. EnergyStar-equipmentWindows: Replacing your windows with double-sided glass helps keep your air or heat in while keeping the harsh summer or
    winter out.
  2. Low-flow shower head: Using a low-flow shower head will help reduce energy of heating water while also reducing the water bill
  3. Thermostat settings: During the winter setting your thermostat to 68 during the daytime and 55 at night as well as 78 in the summer will help reduce the amount of energy being used to heat or cool your home. For summer, use more fans instead of central cooling, every degree you raise your thermostat in the summer decreases cooling costs between 7 and 10%. In the winter, however, make sure to raise the temperature in the house slowly; bumping up the temp quickly activates the heating strip which cause a lot of energy to be used.
  4. Close your air vents: When using central cooling or heating, remember to close off air vents in rooms that aren’t being used or that are rarely used. This way you don’t waste money paying for a room to be cool or warm that isn’t in use.
  5. Clothes washer: Make sure that you wash your clothes in warm or cold water. Switching back and forth from warm to hot causes strain on your gas heater resulting in a higher energy bill.
  6. Replace old appliances: The older the appliance the more energy it needs in order to function properly; changing your appliances every few years will help your energy cost go down exponentially.
  7. Unplug your appliances: When not using your appliances, simply make sure that you unplug them. Even when not in use, energy runs through the power cords and raises your energy bills. Especially, make sure to unplug battery chargers. Many chargers draw power continuously.
  8. Solar Panels: If you install solar panels for your home, not only will your energy bill gradually lessen, but you will save enough that you will earn money back from the purchase. Some electric companies even offer rebates; not to mention the federal and state tax breaks that are given to homeowners with solar paneling.
  9. Roofing: Along with making sure that your roof is well insulated, you can also apply a reflective coating. This makes it so sunlight reflects off instead of getting absorbed into the roof causing the home to get hotter in the summer months.
  10. Lastly, block the sun: Planting trees around your home will create a shade that can bring energy costs down. In addition to this, having awnings outside and blinds and shades inside can keep the sun off the house and lower the need for central cooling.


Written by: Claire Nellums

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The popularity of Mad Men has inspired the rejuvenation of décor from the 1950s and 1960s. Clean lines, pops of color, and a less-is-more mentality make the style of that era ideal for contemporary homes. Take a cue from living rooms of yesteryear, and accessorize with a piece from the mid-1900s.






Rarely does the Lowcountry see a home that exudes modernity; one brand-new Hollywood house, simply known as River’s End, exhibits a stark, contemporary style.


In southeastern Pennsylvania 20 years ago, Johanna and Ted Swinnerton built their first modern-style home—a very updated rendition of the traditional barn house. When the time came to move to the South, they brought this same modernized look to the Lowcountry with a restructured plantation house entitled River’s End. The architect for both homes, Christopher Moomaw, describes, “Johanna and Ted wanted a contemporary house, and the idea for it came to me—this house would be a restatement of the iconic Southern plantation home with columns, verandas, and the whole structure lifted up above the ground.” The home stands on a hundred-acre wooded lot as the epitome of a twenty-first century plantation.
Approaching both the architect and the local builder Phillip Smith of
Phillip W. Smith General Contractor, the Swinnertons’ desires were clear. Not only did they want a contemporary style, but they also required a vast amount of natural light (a beloved feature of their Pennsylvania home) and energy efficiency. Phillip explains, “They wanted as much light as they could possibly get in order to bring a lot of warmth into the house.” So the team installed floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides of the living room, enabling the Swinnertons to take in the sunshine and the beautiful views of the marsh beyond.

The first concerns for Lowcountry residents considering glass walls are energy efficiency during the sweltering summers and storm protection during the hurricane season. Phillip and Christopher worked together to combat these issues. Considering the heavily wooded and shaded lot, energy-efficiency was most important for keeping the home warm in the winter. “To offset any energy that may be lost from the windows,” Phillip details, “we put a geothermal energy system in the house. We used Andersen A-Series windows, which are impact-resistant and energy saving.” The team also installed a three-sided, wood-burning fireplace to provide natural warmth for the living room, kitchen, and porch.

Bringing such a unique home together required a great deal of collaboration. Phillip worked with Christopher and the Swinnertons for three to four months, honing the design and perfecting the engineering of the structure before construction began. According to Phillip, who has been building homes in the Lowcountry for more than two decades, a team-based project is the most rewarding approach to constructing a dream home. “The best projects we do—the ones that produce the best results for the homeowners—are the ones where the builder and architect (and possibly even an interior-design firm) are able to work closely together throughout the entire process,” reveals Phillip. This collaboration enabled the Swinnertons’ vision for their modern Lowcountry plantation home to become a reality—one they enjoy day after day.

For more information, call Phillip W. Smith General Contractor at (843) 881-9828 or visit

One Sullivan’s Island closet packs a serious wow factor.


There is a glorious scene in the film Sex and the City in which a ten-year on-and-off fling between socialite Carrie Bradshaw and the enigmatic Mr. Big peaks during a marriage proposal in a massive all-white closet fit for Carrie’s menagerie of Manolo Blahniks. This movie set springs to life on Sullivan’s Island in the walk-in closet of Vickie Baker, wife of Tommy Baker of Baker Motor Company and owner of a quite enviable Valentino shoe collection.

Realizing that she and Tommy had too many guest bedrooms, Vickie set out to transform one room into a home for her clothes. Elizabeth Gumb, a personal stylist of The Well Coiffed Closet and the mastermind behind this guest-room transformation, explains, “Vickie’s previous closet was not able to contain all of the beautiful pieces that she has, so she was really interested in enlarging. Then, the idea of creating the dressing room out of a guest room developed, and the project took off from there. Whenever Mrs. Baker and I started brainstorming about her closet, what was most important to her was for it to be breathtaking and stunning like the rest of her home. She wanted to have a sanctuary to relax and get ready.” To make this vision a reality, Elizabeth partnered with Steve Rogers of California Closets, a company that specializes in customizable closet systems. The trio—Vickie, Steve, and Elizabeth—set out to design a functional storage system and organize the Baker matriarch’s clothes and accessories.

They were literally transforming a room into a closet, so many big decisions had to be made. Most notably, the team had to decide what to do with the guest room’s windows. Solid walls provide valuable storage space, but large windows offer ample natural light in a room. For this portion, Vickie and Elizabeth were happy to be working with Steve, whose 3-D technology allowed the girls to see exactly what the room would look like with the windows covered, uncovered, and then finally recovered again during the decision-making period. Elizabeth notes, “The beauty of this entire project was that trial-and-error process, which allowed us to make it perfect.”

Steve installed the structural details, complete with shelves and drawers, as well as a few extras that heighten the room’s organizational capabilities. “The hanging portion of the closet is 24-inches deep, which allows all the clothing to hang completely within the cabinetry. The vertical panels are one-inch thick to add a more solid look to the closet; they’re topped with lift-up display-style cabinets and crown moulding. We included ample lighting, all controlled by a motion sensor, to make up for the light lost from the windows.” For the accessories—jewelry, sunglasses, belts, and scarves—Steve incorporated felt-lined drawers with layered inserts and pullout scarf and belt racks. With the hardware in place, it was Elizabeth’s job to help Vickie transition, purge unworn pieces, and organize her clothing inside her new dressing room. Now, the rarely used guest room stands as a relaxing space for Vickie to prepare for each glamorous day.



For more information about the closet system, call California Closets at (843) 762-7980 or visit
For more information about the design and organization, call The Well Coiffed Closet at (843) 860-5410 or visit