After months of following construction progress from afar in Florida, Brian and Suzanne Schwemmer have moved in to their beautiful new South Carolina home. We catch up with them to see if things turned out how they expected, what they like most about their new residence and how they’re adapting to the change in scenery.
When we visited the Schwemmers, they had been living in their new home for about a month and were finally beginning to feel settled in after the hectic rush of unpacking boxes and putting the finishing touches on their interior décor.
The Schwemmers have become very efficient in their unpacking because they have had a lot of practice - they have moved four times in the last twelve months. First they sold their house in Florida and moved temporarily to a small condo before moving again a few months later to a larger condo they maintain near their seafood business in Ft. Myers. During the year they also sold a vacation home they owned in Santa Fe and moved all the furnishings into storage in anticipation of the big fourth move into this house. Brian will go back and forth between South Carolina and Florida in order to keep an eye on their business, but Suzanne intends to spend the majority of time in South Carolina.
The upside to all the moving around is that the Schwemmers were able to consolidate furnishings from the Santa Fe home and the Florida home to decorate their new residence without having to purchase many new items.
“We didn’t buy any furniture for this house except for patio furniture, and barstools for the kitchen,” said Suzanne. “And I decorated this house knowing what I had to work with and mix together from the other two houses. The final look is somewhat eclectic, but I had no intention of buying new. I wanted to decorate around what we have and love, and had all that in mind when selecting the colors and the tiles and so on.”
So how is the house now that they’ve settled in? “So far it’s been great. It’s a beautiful house. Every day I wake up, and I just can’t believe I live in this house,” said Brian. “It’s nice to be on the lake. It’s almost like living out in the woods but yet we have a nice community with really great neighbors.”
Suzanne agrees wholeheartedly. “Wow, the house is just a delight. It’s so spacious, and there’s nothing about it that I don’t love. I really like the master suite because if someone wakes up in the middle of the night you can’t really hear anything or disturb the other person because the layout is so good. And waking up in the morning to see the trees through that gorgeous window – I know this sounds hokey, but it’s like the trees are giving you a welcome every day.”
They are also enjoying the change of seasons and variety of vegetation around their new home, which is very different from what they were used to in Florida.
“In Florida, if you went into a coma and woke up six months later it would look exactly the same,” said Suzanne jokingly. “It’s pretty, but nothing changes, there’s nothing to get excited about. That’s one of the reasons we were looking for a home in another area, because we missed the four seasons.”
Brian added, “the nice thing about the seasons in South Carolina is that they’re definitely there, you get the enjoyment of seeing the change, but they’re not extreme like winter in Wisconsin, or summer in Florida.”
Friendly and outgoing as they are, they have had no trouble meeting people in the area, and both appreciate how nice and welcoming their new neighbors have been.
Brian said, “I’m amazed at Southern hospitality. You know, you hear that expression and you don’t really believe it, but I’ve learned that it is real. Everyone we’ve met is so nice, and they go out of their way to say hello. Suzanne went out one day and a woman she never saw before came up and said, ‘I hear you’re new in town, I want to welcome you and introduce myself, my husband’s the fire chief,” and so on. It’s been like that everywhere we go.”
“We’ve had two small dinner parties already and that was exciting,” said Suzanne. “Our neighbors are lots of fun and very friendly, and of course we’ve become great friends with Mark and Teresa and their families too.”
Mark Golden and Teresa Evans of Hip & Gable have guided the Schwemmers through the homebuilding process, and their relationship is as good as you could hope for between a builder and homeowner, evolving as it has into a true friendship.
“Hip & Gable has done a fantastic job,” said Suzanne. “I feel like the people who work for a company represent that company, and everyone there is just terrific.”
Brian agrees. “I keep looking around the house and noticing all these great, thoughtful little things. The crown molding is a good example – anywhere there’s a funny corner or where the vaulted ceilings end they’ve created these really neat curves or details that finish it off. I see a new one every day. Mark is such a perfectionist. He keeps finding things he thinks need to be fixed, but honestly I can’t find a single thing wrong with this house. It’s just Mark really wanting every last detail to be perfect.”
The rest of the family — five Persian cats the Schwemmers jokingly refer to as their “fuzzy children” — are enjoying the new home as well.
“The cats really love the house — they slide on the floors and run up and down the stairs,” said Suzanne. “They’ve never had this much room, and they’re so happy. They love to go out on the porch. I thought about maybe screening that upper deck because I worried about the cats, but they seem to be fine, and it’s something we can always add later.”
“Bugs don’t seem to be a problem here. In Florida mosquitoes are really bad, but I haven’t noticed them here. The cats don’t try to jump off, so I think I’d like to keep that porch open,” said Brian. “I’d love to build a dock on the lake, but this neighborhood has deed restrictions that don’t allow them. I’m looking into building a deck near the edge of the water, after I find out how close to it we’re allowed to build.”
Brian continued, “the one thing we added that is my favorite is the sunroom instead of the screen porch that’s drawn on the plan. It turned out so nice, with the trees and the sun coming in at the angle that it comes in. Also, adding the two feet on that side of the house made a huge difference to the kitchen. Not that it would have been a small kitchen, but that extra two feet just adds so much space and turns it into a cook’s kitchen.”
Suzanne also counts the kitchen as one of her favorite rooms. “You can never have too much counter space, especially if you like to cook. It’s a great house to entertain in, the kitchen’s really big and there’s room for everyone to gather there, because every party ends up in the kitchen. Kenny, the cabinet maker, put a lot into the cabinet design. Everything is done with great thought behind it so it’s logical, and if you’re a cook you really appreciate it.”
Brian added, “when they put that counter top on the island, before the cooktop was cut out - the first time I saw it I thought, ‘wow, we could play ping pong on this thing!’”
Another favorite room is the master bath. “The granite looks like a piece of jewelry,” said Suzanne. “The light hits it just right sometimes and I see a sparkle. I always think there’s a ring or something laying there that I need to put away, then when I go to move it I realize it’s part of the granite.”
Brian and Suzanne both like the fact that the plan is so livable, and think it would work for almost any family. “The neat thing about this particular house plan is that it’s a great layout for families, or kids, or a couple like us,” said Suzanne. “If you had kids, they could hang out in the basement and have a party and you’d never see them,” added Brian. Both kept the possibility of a future sale in mind when selecting things for this home.
“Because we have lived in so many different houses, I always have that in mind – what would someone else like?” said Suzanne. “Or, what would someone else hate,” added Brian.
“And while you can’t really decorate for someone else,” Suzanne continued, “almost everyone wants granite, almost everyone wants nice tile – I’ve never had any problem selling houses. Although nothing has looked like this in terms of construction of the house, let alone the décor or painting.”
Though they haven’t finalized anything yet, Suzanne is dropping hints that there may be one last custom home in their future.
“It’s funny, when I was looking at the magazine with our second interview in it I started looking at plans again, and found more that I like. For whatever reason they all end up being Donald Gardner plans. I guess there’s something about their designs that I’m drawn to,” she said. “I do think the next house we have Mark & Teresa build will be our last,” she added. “Do you know how many times I’ve heard this?” laughed Brian. “The house before our old Florida house was going to be our last house, we were never going to have to move again. This is the third house since that one!”
But for the moment they are both satisfied with the new home, happy about the friendship they forged with their builders and glad they had so much fun during the whole construction process. Now they’re looking forward to relaxing a bit and sharing the new home with friends and family.