Dwell: Designing Outdoor Spaces with McLaurin Parker 

Whether you’re exploring Kiawah River’s trail network through maritime forests or kayaking its meandering waterways at sunrise, it’s easy to see how the community seamlessly blends the Lowcountry’s landscape with a life centered on outdoor pursuits. Sometimes, however, outdoor living can simply mean taking in the scenery with a tall glass of lemonade from the comfort of your own front porch.

We sat down with Frances Parker from McLaurin Parker, the Charleston-based interior design firm spearheaded by Frances and her sister Mary Scott McLaurin, to learn more about creating stylish outdoor spaces and their design inspirations for the front porches and patios for Kiawah River’s Butterfly Garden Cottage model homes. 

How can homeowners incorporate a “Lowcountry style” into their outdoor spaces?

The Lowcountry begs to be enjoyed outdoors with friends and family, and by incorporating comfortable seating, benches and pillows, you can inspire others to gather and stay a while. With panoramic views of Lowcountry landscapes, the porches at Kiawah River’s Butterfly Garden Cottages provide the perfect backdrop for dining alfresco and enjoying a glass of rose without having to leave home. To create a Lowcountry style, we often blend the classic with the modern. You can achieve a similar look on your porch by adding contemporary chairs to a classic dining table with freshly cut greenery as the centerpiece.  

Are there any “must-have” décor items to include in outdoor spaces?

Regardless of style preferences, seating should always be the top priority when outfitting your porch. Outdoor spaces are an extension of the home. They’re a place to read a book, host a dinner party, enjoy a cocktail, play a game of cornhole and so much more. Make the most out of your outdoor space by arranging your seating in such a way that promotes your porch as a place of gathering. We also like to incorporate native plants, such as palms or hydrangeas, in ceramic pots to add splashes of color.  

What was your inspiration in decorating the outdoor spaces for Kiawah River’s Butterfly Garden Cottage?

Julia Starr Sanford designed the Butterfly Garden Cottages to emphasize gracious Southern architecture and a passion for living along the water, and their generous porches reflect her thoughtful designs. We wanted beautiful and comfortable furniture for enjoying the outdoors while also prioritizing functionality and durability. We emphasized natural light with a palette of cool whites and warm ivories with varying textures, modern forms and juxtaposed curves. We also chose colors you might see looking out your front porch at Kiawah River, including vibrant palm greens, deep coastal blues and muted sunset corals. 

What kinds of materials/textures are best suited for outdoor spaces?

A wide range of fabrics can be used in outdoor spaces, and we use Texas-based Perennials Fabrics, which offers a stunning selection of durable outdoor materials with both modern and classic designs. We prefer fabrics that incorporate solution-dyed acrylic textiles, which are naturally resistant to UV rays, making fabrics last for many years, and trimmings for an infinite range of possibilities.    

JANUS et Cie is our go-to for outdoor furniture because they consistently produce high-quality, sleek designs. Many of their pieces are made of durable materials such as travertine, powder-coated steel or powder-coated die-cast aluminum, which will help protect your furniture and will keep your front porch looking polished throughout the year. 

Here in the Lowcountry region, the Teak Hut is one of our favorite local vendors for outdoor furniture. They import grade-A teak furniture and accessories directly from Indonesia. The natural oils found in teak wood make the furniture basically impervious to splitting and rotting in exposed locations, like your porch.