Warm Welcome

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A Palmetto Bluff home serves as a respite from winter

Come November, it’s not uncommon to see flocks of Canadian geese unraveling across the cold, bright sky. The birds overwinter in the South, exchanging sparse, Northern climates for mild, balmy ones. Many choose to take up residency in Savannah, while others stop just short in Bluffton, South Carolina.

Photography by Richard Leo Johnson

Some days, Rick and Leslie Goryeb can hear them honking along the May River from the porches of their Palmetto Bluff home. Much like the geese, the Goryebs choose to skip out on Northern winters.

“We’ve always been fond of the South,” says Leslie, a New Jersey native. “We had a house in Ocean Isle, North Carolina, for many years when our four boys were little. But once school starts and life takes over, you can’t get down there as much.”

When their youngest went to college, the Goryebs knew it was time to build another home. .The pair downsized their New Jersey residence and researched the ideal locale for their Southern escape. Palmetto Bluff was the first stop, and when the Goryebs came to visit it was love at first sight.

“I think it was a combination of the live oak trees and the architecture,” Rick says. “It was like going back in time,” Leslie adds, “like somebody had hit the pause button.”Drawing on postcard-perfect imaginings of a Southern home, the Goryebs wanted a space that felt sophisticated yet comfortable. The surrounding nature served as inspiration for the earthy color palette and organic accents, such as the exposed wooden beams on the living room ceiling.

“We tied in a lot of wood to keep it grounded,” Leslie says. “It serves as a common thread throughout the entire house.” That same wood also decorates the stove hood, wet bar, and fireplace mantle.

Another commonality is the home’s penchant for sweeping views. As self-proclaimed “porch people,” the Goryebs were keen to maximize the sights of the surrounding landscape. With both upper and lower screened-in porches — and even an outdoor dining porch, complete with a dining table and grill — the Goryebs extended the porches as far as they could to take full advantage of the views of the adjacent park and May River. “It’s my favorite place to hang out,” Rick says. “There’s nothing else like it.

Although the porches are Leslie’s favorite spot, too, the breakfast nook (her breakfast nook), is a close second. “I had this vision in my head that I absolutely had to have,” she says. “I wanted it to feel like an add-on that would be in an older house.

The nook features a round breakfast table tucked against a large, L-shaped couch, framed by six expansive windows. “It feels like it’s own little world — one that’s bright and light and made just for me.”

In the master bathroom, a soaking tub serves as a focal point for the room, but the placement of mirrors might also catch one’s eye. The room’s double vanities are situated to the side, right in front of a set of windows.

“For the life of me,” Rick says, “I couldn’t imagine how they were going to put mirrors over the windows. But they figured it out.” Beyond the mirrors, the windows look out over live oaks and palm trees. “I love being able to take in that sight first thing in the morning,” he says.

Upon completion of the house in 2018, the Goryebs hosted a party for everyone who had a hand in building their dream home. From the architects (Pearce Scott Architects) to the landscapers(Witmer Jones Keefer), the crew stopped by to experience the fruits of their labor.

“We wanted them to really enjoy the space they’d worked so hard creating, and to feel what it feels like to be a home and not a job site,” Leslie says. Rick recalls that about 10 people piled into the breakfast nook that evening, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. Guests remarked on how comfortable the space felt, Leslie adds. The party —ultimately, the celebration of turning a house into a home— wore on well into the night.