Introducing McDonald Architects, LLC Blog


Thank you for visiting McDonald Architects’ blog. This blog will focus on issues related to architecture that we feel are important to us as an architectural firm and to you as homeowners. The topics will range from design issues to technical issues. Each entry will strive to be brief but informative. If there is a subject area you desire more information on or a deeper look into that subject area, please email us at and we will respond either directly or in this blog. Thank you again for visiting the blog of McDonald Architects, LLC

Sunshine found on the Kiawah River


A rendering of the front of the “SUNNY” Residence


Seeking sunshine, the owners purchased their dream lot in The Settlement on Kiawah, and McDonald Architects set to work, doing sun studies to determine the best positioning and design. The result is an elevated residence with a strong indoor/outdoor presence—including a pool deck that will be sunlight-bathed for as much of the day as possible. The house is oriented toward the winter sun on a pie-shaped lot overlooking the Kiawah River, and views from the deep porches and pool will be stunning. Decking for the spa cascades down to ground level. A custom, shingle-style design with traditional New England details, the residence will be a getaway for enjoying the beauty of the Lowcountry. When complete in 2015, it will be the owners’ gathering place for oyster roasts, fishing (a shared dock is near), and all kinds of sunny day options. Two fireplaces add warmth on chilly days, and upstairs porches offer a sheltered vantage point for watching a summer thunderstorm roll in.


Location: The Settlement, Kiawah Island

Architect: McDonald Architects, LLC

Builder: Mangan, Inc.

Interiors: Archetype Interior Design Studio

Groundbreaking: 2014

Integrating a Home into the Kiawah Island, SC Landscape

We at McDonald Architects felt this home, which was recently designed for clients on Kiawah Island, SC, demonstrated good design practices with regard to siting and design. Therefore, we wanted to share it in a blog post and explain why it demonstrates good design practices.

Which brings up the question: So how should a good design make the best of the given attributes of a site? We hope to answer this question by looking at how the home above addresses orientation, available views, topography, outdoor rooms and the home’s connection to the land.

Solar Orientation

If possible a residence should be oriented east to west where the long walls of the structure face north and south while the shorter walls face east and west. Why is this important? With the narrow ends of a home facing east and west, the amount of sun that reaches these exposed walls is reduced at sunrise and sunset. This helps reduce heat gain and damage to building materials. If the home cannot be oriented with the short walls facing east and west, landscaping and architectural elements can be utilized to reduce exposure on the east and west. The rendering of the home above shows a home that is properly oriented. The windows and doors in the rear of the home face north and are not exposed to direct sunlight.

Available Views

Probably the most important requirement of a well-designed home is to orient and open up the home towards the available views. Notice how in the home shown above, the windows face north towards the lake and take full advantage of the view of Blue Herron Pond beyond. Also, of note is how a medium distance view is created within the site by the axial relationship between the screened porch, the swimming pool and the sunken garden beyond.

Front View of a Home on Kiawah Island, SCFront View of a Home on Kiawah Island, SC


Working with the existing topography is also very important in a properly designed home. Preferably, garages are oriented to face away from the approach or the street, but in this case we could not. The site was very shallow and had two large dunes on the left and right. To have created a side entry garage would have resulted in obliterating the dune to the left or right. Instead we elected to orient the garage towards the street and incorporate it into a very strong sculptural arrangement. This was accomplished by working the geometry of the garage doors into a composition dominated by the cantilevered gable and porch above. The entry stairs which are incorporated into the face of the right hand dune, not only lead to the entry porch, they also lead to the pool and pool decks which are also incorporated into the right hand dune.

Outdoor Rooms

Outdoor rooms are fundamental to any home that truly embraces the landscape that surrounds it. These outdoor rooms come in many types, screened porches, uncovered porches, pools and garden rooms. This home incorporates all of these.

Upon arrival, the visitor is greeted by a garden room surrounding the guest parking. While approaching the entry stairs, you will see through a pair of arches a framed view of the Blue Herron Pond beyond. The entry stair gracefully works its way up the side of the right hand dune to a landing that is a small room unto itself from which are seen the entry porch, pool and decks, and the pond beyond. Over the garage doors and off of the dining room is a covered porch. On the rear is a similar porch sheltered by a matching cantilevered gable. These sheltered porches will offer dining opportunities that are backlit by moonlight falling on the pond behind and the trees across the street. Additionally, the screened porch to the east overlooks the pool and lower garden which are enhanced by the sight and sound of the water flowing across the endless edge pool. All these outdoor rooms will be enhanced by the landscaping as it matures and reinforces the necessary feeling of enclosure while providing visual richness.

This home on Kiawah Island is just one example of the possibilities offered by a home that is truly designed to be a part of and take full advantage of the potential offered by its location. The desired result has been to create opportunities for the homeowners and guests to experience a home that is a part of its landscape beyond viewing the world through the windows alone. The outdoor rooms that have been created are the means by which one can truly experience the beauty of the Kiawah Island, the Historic District of Charleston, the South Carolina Lowcountry or anywhere someone wants to make their home. We hope every home we design achieves this ideal.

A New Development in Architecture

One of the newest developments is Architecture over the last few years is a new tool that allows architects to more easily communicate our ideas to clients, builders and tradesmen. Computer hardware and software advances now enable us to create 3-dimensional drawings that accomplish several things:


1. New construction:

In the area of New Construction, this software allows the architect and his team to simulate how a design would appear on the site.

A Design study for Kiawah IslandA Design study for Kiawah Island

113 Armour Lane

Aerial View From Creek

2. Renovation:

When working on renovations, this new process can be especially helpful in communicating and evaluating design ideas. The example below is for a historically significant house in Charleston, SC where clients needed to expand for a growing family

Photo of Existing HomePhoto of Existing Home

As Built Drawings:

Front view of an existing house in Charleston, SC modeled in Revit as part of the as-built drawings prior to designing the addition and remodeling.


Rear view of an existing house modeled in Revit as part of the as-built drawings prior to designing the addition and remodeling. Rear view of an existing house modeled in Revit as part of the as-built drawings prior to designing the addition and remodeling.

Proposed Design

BlogRear view of the same house modeled in Revit showing the proposed designing for the addition and remodeling.


3. Interior Architecture:

Being able to produce images such as these of interiors allows architects to study and communicate design concepts.

Study for an Entry HallStudy for an entry hall.


Study for a kitchen.Study for a kitchen.