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  • Karen Terhune Duncan

Raising the Roof and More

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

We have finally completed the outside renovations of our home. And we think the transformation is pretty significant.

When we bought our house in Savannah, I knew what exterior changes were needed. But that was going to have to wait until we finished the inside and that included all the renovations along with new water heaters, solar window tinting and some other not-so-glamorous expenses.

The shrubbery was so overgrown that initially we just had it all whacked back to discover there were four beautiful brick planters on the sides of the entrance, and a front lantern buried in shrubs. It was all going to take months of planning and multiple contractors. We had to take down 6 overgrown and decrepit trees which opened up the yard to a bit more sunlight.

Our house is not “old” by any measure. Built in 1993 it retains a low country feel but too much of it tried to copy northern, and 90s, tastes. The Architecture Review Board for our island association must approve all exterior alterations. A practice we support. I sketched out all the changes we wanted to make which was met with their approval. We began with a new roof. We went with black, which is sort of the standard look on low country roofs and we are very happy with that change.

The house has a hard-coat stucco exterior which has the pigment in the stucco and should never be painted. We knew that we were fine working with this original pale yellow-vanilla.

But the garage doors were old, heavy wood, and warped. We chose a carriage style with the black iron trim and added windows to the doors which has proved a nice addition of light to the garage itself.


We changed out the shutters. The original house, had the builder grade "stuck on" shutters. We had them in our last house in NJ and I never liked them. I wanted real hinged wooden shutters. Here in the south you see them on historic homes, which ours is not, but I knew the change would be effective. Because we were using black iron hinges I needed a color that was dark enough, and rich enough, to balance the stucco, and where the black iron could "pop". We chose a color called Hammered Pewter - a cross between gray and green. It's stunning. And the real transformation was starting.These custom architectural shutters have a lifetime finish and are just beautiful.


Authentic Savannah Grey bricks are among the most sought-after building materials in the South, but the nearly 200-year-old hand-formed bricks have become increasingly rare yet as much a part of the fabric of early Savannah as its cobblestones and ornamental iron. The original owners of our home used a custom brick for the front steps that is a very good replica of Savannah Grey brick. However, the walkway was (and perhaps it was a replacement at some point) was a weird red brick. And the shape of it was so odd we could not figure out the original intent even with the architects plans. We decided to redo the walkway for many reasons, the biggest that is was cracked and mortared so nearly impossible to paste back together.

The landscape firm we hired has a hardscape division and after much research found us some remarkably accurate, albeit new, Savannah Brick. The new walkway now flanks equally both sides of the iron railing and the original steps and planters. Since our driveway is circular this now allows a car to pull up to the front of the house and 2 side doors to open on to the pathway. We changed the pattern to herringbone which is more in keeping with the Georgian look.


Changing out the front door proved challenging as the Architecture Review Board insisted that the shape of the door opening - the stucco shape - not be altered, (we agreed, but many contractors could not accommodate) so that meant we had to custom design an elliptical shaped door. Savannah Millworks templated the opening, designed and built these gorgeous double doors. It took 4 months to build and an army to install. They are like furniture finished in a deep mahogany.

Our landscape designer had great vision for reusing much of what was here and mixing it with interesting and varied southern plants; Shell ginger, Sunshine Ligustrum, Camellia, Podocarpus, Oleander, Farfugium, Plumbago, African Iris, Muhly grass - all things I had barely heard of till moving south. Our property is nearly 3/4 of an acre and a lot to transform, but she did. Incorporating all that we loved about the property such as the Palms and the Georgian Azeleas. She reworked our existing gardenia bushes, the mondo grasses, the iris’s and the lantana. And made our specimen Magnolia in the center special. Our irrigation had to be redone but we’d discovered we had a well for irrigation watering and that was a huge bonus when that got up and running - with 10 zones! New lighting was added to highlight the plantings and the house. The new lantern replaced the broken old one. The landscape will mature and I’ll keep learning what to plant and add to that.

ALL in all we think it's a pretty significant change to the house, still keeping it's original character and enhancing it's detail.


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