The lot sits on a slice of James Island bordering the Charleston Harbor and down the street from a magnificent city park and the James Island Yacht Club. The sweeping postcard views across the South Channel include historic White Point Gardens and the East Battery, the skyscraping diamonds of the Cooper River Bridge, a hulking Yorktown at Patriot’s Point all the way south to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. It might be the most scenic stretch of land in the Charleston area. Its new owner was preparing to build a spectacular 5,700-square-foot home befitting its regal location.
He did his homework before calling Drafted Architecture, custom residential architects known for their collaborative process, 3D demonstrations and modern approach that incorporates traditional methods.
The custom home now emerging from the ground, built by Phillip W. Smith General Contractor, is something to behold. Because the house sits on high ground, architects John Romano and Charlie Miraziz could create a welcoming West Indies transitional design that is as pleasing at eye level as skyward, where hipped roofs and large overhangs give the home distinction. The structure’s center axis and 11-foot ceilings from entry to outdoor are aligned to the mind-blowing scenery beyond. Just opening the massive 8’x10’ door unveils a jaw-dropping panorama. Out the back, before the dock, lies an infinity pool that seems to flow into the Charleston Harbor.
You can see it here under construction.
Drafted Architecture Designs With Clients, Not For Them
Drafted Architecture’s two principals recognize that there are many highly skilled architects in the Charleston area. They set themselves apart not just by their designs, which hew to no one style, but also by their process.
“We don’t design for our clients; we design with them,” says Romano. His background in commercial and residential architecture has taken him to the Caribbean and all over the country.
Two Designs for Each House
Drafted Architecture designs without ego, inviting clients to offer their ideas along the way. When it comes time to hand-sketch a rough plan, Miraziz and Romano each offers an option, without regard for which one is chosen.
“We just want a design we and our client can be proud of,” says Miraziz. He grew up in an architecture family and learned the skills school can’t teach before earning his degree at Clemson.
A Client-Driven Process
Drafted Architecture employs a five-step process that begins with an initial site meeting to hear the client’s preferences and desires. Then they hand sketch a basic layout and meet again, offering their client-partner opportunities to make alterations.
The third phase involves more detailed sketches, bringing the client along in the process with meetings as necessary to refine the design. “At that point, they know how the design has evolved because they’ve been involved throughout the process,” said Romano.
By phase four, the design is largely approved. It is placed in 3D imagery and overlaid onto the site so the client can figuratively walk through the house, allowing them to understand how it will look and feel even if they lack a design sense. Not many architecture firms – even the big names in town – have the sophistication to offer this step. It helps the new homeowners see what the design will look like as a finished home, rather than as a flat drawing. That has proven doubly useful during the yearlong pandemic, during which 3D computer simulations could be displayed right on screens in video chats. Discussions at this point focus on smaller details, like style of cabinets.
The final phase is the only one that does not involve the client – creation of construction documents and a new round of coordination with engineers, interior designers and others. For Romano and Miraziz, architecture is a relational enterprise as much as it is science and art.
“Most architects wouldn’t involve a client as much as we do,” said Miraziz. “We pride ourselves on that.”
A Draft Beer, A Boat Draft and Design Sketches
The same level of thought went into the naming of the firm, which sheds light onto how the principals approach life. Rejecting the idea of combining their names at the start – “we didn’t want to sound like a law firm” – they cast about for something that represented them and their craft. Reflecting Miraziz’s nautical interests and Romano’s craft brewing, the word “draft” bubbled to the surface. A key element of architecture, particularly for a team that starts its process with traditional hand sketches, Drafted Architecture seemed a natural fit.
Romano and Miraziz have cultivated an image of the fresh new minds of Lowcountry architecture, though still rooted in the beneficial traditions of the profession. Having cut their teeth together at a custom residential firm on Sullivan’s Island, the pair design with any style or mix of styles a client prefers. A grand home of their design at Daniel Island’s new Captain Island development (seen at the top of this post) combines contemporary with traditional, appropriate for the location and the feel of the island. Although the house is elevated for flood protection, creative design features provide the illusion of ground floor living that offers a more welcoming visage to passersby.
Because Drafted Architecture is flexible with styles and collaborative in their process, they can work on nearly any kind of residential project. They have even tackled some commercial as well. Clients always know that the final product emerged from their desires and their voice was heard every step of the way.
So, how do you want your next home to be designed?