/ by Brendan Blowers
/ photography by Firewater Photography
For ten years, Dan and Diane McCaw spent winters in Florida and summers in Toronto; twice a year they would load up their BMW 550 and make the 1,500 mile drive over the course of three to five days, stopping at cities of interest, and even though their car was “made to drive on the highway” the McCaws began looking for ways to shorten the trip. “We started looking for something a little more halfway, northern Georgia, the Carolinas,” says Dan. After hearing about Greenville, the couple decided to give it a try and liked the warmth and friendliness of the people.
The McCaws nearly bought a twenty-year old home that needed a lot of work but decided to build when they discovered a few lots that backed up to the golf course in Chanticleer. An architect that Dan knew, who had designed Greenville Drive owner Craig Brown’s house, recommended Gabriel Builders. “I phoned Gus Rubio and away we went,” Dan says.
Diane had found a photo of a traditional French Country style home in an old magazine and it became the starting inspiration for the exterior. “They had a specific style in mind already,” says Rubio, who brought in his lead residential designer, Richie Martin, to talk through the couple’s vision and goals for the house. “Our job is to mold their ideas, that stream of consciousness, into an executable plan that fits their budget,” Martin says. The McCaws were floored by the initial plans Martin brought them; it was nearly exactly what they envisioned for their home.
The design called for the type of homes the McCaws had come to appreciate while traveling in Italy and France; they wanted symmetry and a color scheme pulled right from the palettes of their favorite French painters. Rubio recalls it was “a bit brighter” than the typical color scheme for a ground-up project.
Twenty-five years ago, the McCaws had discovered the town of Giverny, located halfway between Paris and the Atlantic Ocean, and home to Claude Monet’s garden. “It was spectacular, it was lovely,” Dan says.
Diane agrees. “We’d go back to Monet’s gardens to see it in different seasons,” she says.
It was on one of these trips when the McCaws happened upon an art gallery owned by French oil painter Claude Cambour. The McCaws liked Cambour’s classic impressionist style right away and were thrilled to learn that his grandfather had been one of Monet’s gardeners; today several of Cambour’s “en plein air” paintings feature prominently in the home.
The McCaws specified a list of traditional elements for the interiors including paneled walls, high baseboards and double crown moldings as well as sheltered, outdoor living spaces and hoped the new construction could capture the warmth and color of an old-world chateau.
Symmetry was at the forefront of Dan’s mind for the home; it’s something he traces to his life’s work. He spent many years running operations for a global human resources consulting firm and said his business background relied heavily on mathematics. “We wanted symmetry,” says Dan, but Martin knew that symmetrical houses are much more difficult to design since essentially windows, doors and rooflines all have to match.
The first step was selecting the right lot from the four or five available. It was Rubio that helped make the final selection, choosing the one that was the most level and had space for easily accessible outdoor living areas. The lot would also afford the home views of the golf course out back and trees at the front of the property would create some screening. “When you’re dealing with topography changes, you typically have more grading to get the house in place,” Rubio says but by selecting the most favorable lot the project team was ready to build in a little under two months.
The McCaws came up from Florida every six weeks to select materials and check on the progress. “We were probably more present than they wanted us to be,” says Dan, but Rubio disagrees. “The clients were a lot of fun,” he says. The house was completed a month ahead of schedule and the end result honors the McCaw’s more traditional taste but with all the modern amenities that new construction offers.
The front entrance opens into a grand foyer with French patterned tumbled Topcu-Travertine tile. On one side sits a traditional dining room with one of the aforementioned Cambour paintings prominently over the buffet. The painting depicts a path through a sunny provincial field scattered with bright poppies. A pass-through pantry connects the dining room to the kitchen.
Opposite of the foyer is the living room with a chimney. It’s a space flooded with natural light via large arched windows. Numerous impressionistic canvases adorn the paneled room, four of which are stacked Cambours on either side of the mantle. The foyer empties into a great room with another beautiful hearth and inset flat screen tv. The great room offers an inviting sitting area with easy access to the outdoor living space.
While the kitchen design is more contemporary when compared to the small hidden kitchens favored in classic French homes, the color scheme, range backsplash and trim details over the cabinets would fit in any French country estate. Custom cabinetry throughout the house was designed and built by Nicholas James Fine Woodworking and Diane picked the French blue kitchen cabinet and island color.
She enjoys making five-course meals in the kitchen and entertaining guests around the second of two islands, which unlike a more typical island with a sink and underneath storage, is set up with barstools for food service. When it’s just the two of them, the McCaws take many of their meals in the breakfast nook beside the large picture window.
The downstairs master boasts “his and hers” separate bathrooms, a luxury the McCaws enjoy. “Once you have it, you never want to go back,” says Diane. Attached to the master is a home theater room. It’s an ideal place to unwind. “Anytime I turn a television on, it’s on a cooking channel,” says Dan, revealing the source of inspiration for many of Diane’s home-cooked French and Italian dishes. Upstairs is comprised of an additional four bedrooms, plus an open media lounge for visiting guests and relatives.
The McCaws hope to take advantage of Greenville’s pleasant weather by spending time on the lanai. A large outdoor fireplace with a sitting area on one end is flanked by a barbecue and bar on the other. The space, which sits just off the kitchen, features automatic electric screens. A set of stairs also lead down to a separate small patio with a fountain.
The couple looks forward to living in their “half-back” residence. “We’re going to spend the whole summer in Greenville,” says Dan.