Watermarked: At Home in Isle of Hope

Isle of Hope, a small community surrounded by rivers and tidal inlets on Savannah’s east side, is known for its rich history and charming array of early 20th century homes. Many still line the island’s canopied streets, including iconic Bluff Drive overlooking the Skidaway River. A short walk from there, at the bend of Richmond Drive where the road nears the Intracoastal Waterway, one new home has drawn a lot of neighborhood attention.

A few years ago, the property was purchased by a Savannah family who had the original mid-century ranch-style home demolished. In its place, Savannah architecture firm Felder & Associates was contracted to design and build their dream family home, one that would complement the historic houses around it and take advantage of the views and setting provided by the lot.

Felder & Associates is well known for projects that focus on historic preservation and high-end residential design. Felder also served as the lead design firm for the newest building anchoring the south end of Savannah’s Forsyth Park and home to Bouhan Falligant, Savannah’s oldest law firm. Felder has also been recognized with numerous awards for its rehabilitation of the historic Greyhound Bus Depot, now housing the nationally acclaimed restaurant The Grey and preservation awards for repurposing a former auto service location into a restaurant and a Savannah favorite Vic’s On The River.

For the Isle of Hope house project, managing principal Brian Felder and project manager/designer Ryan Claus, in partnership with Savannah-based custom homebuilder Tony Reardon Construction, had two dreams to fulfill for the family.

“While the husband got the garage, the main house was the wife’s dream project,” explained Felder. “We started with a raised French Colonial design. We then made the carriage house, with the garage, workshop and upstairs apartment, look like a later addition. We worked really hard to find a historic form that suited her wishes and the context, as well as an arrangement of rooms that satisfied her expectations.” The large oak in the front yard’s landside was an organizing element, around which all of the structures were arranged.

The firm wanted to fill the house with natural light and a breezy vibe, so their design emphasized multiple French doors and included transoms throughout the interior to encourage the flow of light and air. The larger gathering spaces are all connected to the outdoors and the view through adjacent screened porches and large, sliding panel doors.

“In every aspect, we wanted the design to take advantage of the property’s location and the incredible view of the Intracoastal Waterway, especially from 12 feet up, which is the elevation of the main floor,” Felder added. “When you walk onto the second-story porch, the columns frame a fantastic view of the water.”

The main house exterior, which is two and a half stories tall, features large hip roofs, wraparound porches on every level, brick cladding on the first floor, and HardiePlank fiber cement siding on the upper levels. The home’s eight fireplaces funnel into three massive chimneys, the largest of which is 35 feet tall, prompting the owners to dub their roofline the “English factory with chimneys.”

Another notable element is the third-story office and spa nestled under an arched roof dormer featuring a pecky cypress-clad barrel ceiling. This third-floor retreat features a private sauna and study with a balcony featuring glass walls and an unobstructed view of the river.

There is custom woodwork throughout, including accordion-style interior doors that invite the outside into every room. Warm and inviting, the kitchen features detailed cabinetry, finished with marble and granite. The home’s lone traditional setting is the off-white dining room, the perfect backdrop for family homecomings and holiday gatherings.

In the dream garage, Felder designed a workshop large enough to work on boats inside. The carriage house also accommodates a pottery studio. The firm added a carport, extended the property’s dock by 100 feet, and renovated the existing pump house.

“I think the project is perfectly suited to the Isle of Hope community and the grand houses that are on the bluff,” Felder noted. “It takes advantage of the view, but I also think we successfully captured the dreams of the homeowners. They had a strong hand in all interior finish decisions, adding a personal touch to the project. It was our pleasure to capture what they were looking for and make each element complement the overall home design. We really enjoyed working with this family on such a unique project.”