For those from off, island life typically conjures up sandy footprints and damp swimsuits. For those who reside in paradise, there’s a rhythm to the small community—an openness and a dismissal of formality, while still recognizing the history behind homes. Nowhere does this combination manifest itself more than on the many and varied porches of Sullivan’s Island. Margaret Pilarski invites you to take a seat and stay awhile on four perfect porches. Photos by Steve Rosamilia
West Coast transplant Jennifer Moriarty’s home on Ion Avenue is one of the historic Officer’s Quarter structures built in the 1800s, but perhaps more notable, it’s the 18th restoration project she and her husband have undertaken together in 25 years of marriage.
The details of the home speak to the couple’s expertise: “The porches are like the petticoats of this grand home—they wrap the entire house, encircling all four sides. And within each porch is a surprise of thickly picketed railings, 100 year-old pine flooring, ten-foot French doors that open onto formal spaces and old, pocked brass door knobs.”
The couple restored the home to its former glory by replicating and replacing shutters and screen doors, stripping paint to reveal pine, and designing a tropical landscape to set off the home’s austere lines. “Porch life is snuggling up under a colorful Kantha, soaking up the sun with our dogs after a beach walk or relaxing with dinner after working in the garden,” Moriarty says.
MEMORIES OF PAST AND PRESENT
The pink house is proof of poetry, because owner Alice Timmons Morrisey isn’t short on wonderment of the universe when she’s got birdsong in the evening and waning moons in the morning. “In the quiet of the night, sitting on the top step of the porch, moon-andstargazing, the sounds of my soul co-mingle with the whispering sea and whippoorwill calls and all is well,” she says.
The house itself represents home to Alice in other ways: “It’s a simple beach cottage, and the palmetto frond and shell wreath hanging on the porch characterizes my life: simple, natural, and beachy,” she explains. “My deceased husband’s last name, Morrisey, is Irish Gaelic for ‘sea choice,’ and sitting on the porch reminds me that no matter what the day has brought me, I have come home. Since his death eight years ago, I feel his presence as I gaze from the porch into the heavens, feeling that heaven is both above and below.”
By day Alice stands at those same stairs to commune with Lola, her Labradoodle. “This way Lola and I get the opportunity to greet neighbors and passersby. We often move from street to yard to porch, as neighbors ‘sit a spell’ and we continue to throw Lola’s ball for her.”
SANDY FLOORS, SLOW LIFE
For Katie Abraham and her family, the porch is a pleasing place to pass the time, its simple setting underscoring the need for just a moment of silence. “Aesthetically I love the understated architecture, the weathered front door and the rough wooden floorboards. I adore our locally purchased swing and the heavy Adirondack chairs that remind me of New England. But even more than all of that, I love that our little porch has a magical way of slowing life down the moment your feet touch the sandy floors,” she says. “The porch is often used as a place to regroup after a run, an exhausting day, or just to sit before re-joining the realities of the day. The other day, I found my six-yearold swinging out on the porch by himself with a bag of Pirate’s Booty. When I asked him what he was doing out there, he said, ‘Having some me-time.’”
When they moved here from Georgia, Abraham was adamant about keeping the yard sale-sourced wooden planters even though she’d disposed with half their other worldly goods. “I knew those little guys needed a special place. I keep saying I will repaint them but I secretly like the chipping paint and their shabby, cottage look.” The allure isn’t lost on others, either. Abraham says strangers stop by all the time for photos. “There is just something about this porch. At first, I was taken aback, but after almost a year on the island it doesn’t faze me. I get it, it’s just that cute.”
Within the Fort Moultrie Quartermaster and Support Facilities Historic District is a unique sight: a Charleston single homestyle piazza. More often seen on the historic streets of downtown Charleston, builder Robert Graves took influences of the peninsula’s porches and then added what owner Caroline Pennington calls an “architectural welcome mat” to the Sullivan’s Island’s home’s exterior. Originally, the historic piazzas of downtown were situated along the length of homes to take advantage of local winds while maintaining privacy behind what appeared to be a front door. Yet the juxtaposition of the Charleston-style piazza on the island is even more intriguing when the original building’s use is taken into consideration: In 1905 the structure was built as Fort Moultrie’s Ordnance Storage Building and Office. Today the owners say the porch gets most of its use from more modern-day meetings and storage—that of UPS or FedEx delivery drivers dropping packages for the family. Situated on a main drag of Sullivan’s, Pennington says that wandering tourists are often curious about why the porch has a front door. Obviously they haven’t explored Broad Street yet.