Cane Island home fuses modern technology with traditional design

BEAUFORT — When Rhonda and Bill Anderson’s Cane Island home was featured on the 2021 Historic Beaufort Foundation Spring Architects’ Tour, the 5,000-square-foot residence was still under construction.

The annual tour highlights the best in contemporary residential design, said Cynthia Jenkins, executive director of the Historic Beaufort Foundation.

The Cane Island home generated so much interest in 2021 that it was selected for the 2023 tour to give architecture enthusiasts a chance to see its fully finished form. 

Cane Island home kitchen/bar

The Cane Island home of Rhonda and Bill Anderson was featured on the Historic Beaufort Foundation Spring Architects’ Tour. Tony Kukulich/Staff

It did not disappoint. 

Situated on the Beaufort River with a view of the McTeer Bridge about a mile to the north, the Anderson’s home is on a wooded lot that is characteristic of the 227-acre island.

Frederick + Frederick, the architectural firm hired by the Andersons to design and build the home, set out to create a house that was energy-efficient, well-suited for the environment and infused with design elements endemic to the Lowcountry.

“A lot of the net-zero homes are more modern than this one,” said architect Michael Frederick, design principal of Frederick + Frederick. “We were able to incorporate new technology into a traditional form.”

Beaufort or Beaufort

It was a nearly unbelievable dollop of serendipity that led the Andersons to what would eventually become their new home.

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Architect Jane Frederick pauses in front of the Cane Island home of Rhonda and Bill Anderson during the Historic Beaufort Foundation Spring Architects’ Tour. Tony Kukulich/Staff

The avid sailors had docked their sailboat near San Diego when they felt it was time for a move to the opposite coast. A little research and conversation among friends pointed them toward Beaufort because of its active sailing community and deep-water harbor that could accommodate their boat. They set out for a visit.

Arriving in Beaufort, they were drawn to the town’s charm, though they couldn’t find evidence of the sailing community they’d heard so much about. A call back to San Diego revealed the problem. The town they discussed was Beaufort… North Carolina. They were in the wrong state. 

“I was like, ‘There’s another one?'” Rhonda Anderson said of the mix-up. 

A little embarrassed by the mistake, the couple packed up and headed north. But by then, they were smitten. They returned to South Carolina and began the search for a place to call home. 

Creating the design 

When the Andersons approached architects Jane and Michael Frederick, they did so with only vague notions of what they wanted their house to be. 

They had a photo of a home in Savannah, Ga., that had caught their eye. In addition to the Lowcountry aesthetic, Rhonda Anderson wanted the building to exude a Zen-like calm. And, the home needed to be built to withstand the worst weather the Lowcountry could throw at it. 


An early drawing of the Cane Island home of Rhonda and Bill Anderson. Frederick + Frederick Architects/Provided

“I don’t want to worry about not having a house left every time a hurricane comes through,” Rhonda Anderson said.

Aside from that, the Andersons gave only minimal direction. The home should allow a lot of natural light. Every bedroom should accommodate a king bed with an en suite. Bill Anderson asked for an outdoor shower. 

With the single photo and a few simple directions, the Fredericks set out to create a design.

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Bill and Rhonda Anderson pause in the kitchen of their Cane Island home in Beaufort, South Carolina, Wednesday, April 19, 2023. The 5,000-square foot home incorporates modern construction techniques and traditional Lowcountry design elements to create a home well suited for the environment. Tony Kukulich/Staff

Michael Frederick had, coincidentally, designed a home for the same lot nearly 15 years ago. While the home was never built, he was very familiar with the land. The design for the Andersons was, he said, completely different from the prior project, and it was an immediate hit with the Andersons. 

“It was perfect,” Rhonda Anderson said. “I don’t think we made any structural changes after that initial walkthrough.” 

Working within the environment

The design started with an understanding of the architectural elements that predated the advent of air conditioning. 

“It gives us a real head start if we look at those principles and apply them to a modern building that we’re trying to make net-zero,” Michael Frederick explained.

Starting from the top down, the home has 13 kilowatts of solar panels and a Tesla battery system that will run the house for up to three days if necessary. The battery eliminates the need for an emergency generator, and excess electricity can be sold back to the utility provider. 

Underneath the solar panels is a standing-seam metal roof that’s made of aluminum to better withstand the salt-air environment. The metal roof simplified the installation of the solar panels, and its paint reflects heat, keeping the roof cooler. 

“It’s what the old houses used,” Michael Frederick said. “It’s the appropriate thing.” 

The house is heated and cooled by an highly efficient geothermal heat pump. 

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The Cane Island home of Rhonda and Bill Anderson was featured on the Historic Beaufort Foundation Spring Architects’ Tour. Tony Kukulich/Staff

The house is raised such that even the basement is above the flood plain. This protects against a possible tidal surge and has the added benefit of positioning the house to capture the breeze that comes off the river. 

The design aimed to preserve as many of the trees on the property as possible. While an arborist was brought in to trim them to optimize the amount of light reaching the solar panels, the trees on the west side of the house protect it from harsh afternoon light. 

The trees also add to the calming feel that the couple was after.

“I think that’s where the Zen part comes in for me, because I love the outdoors,” Rhonda Anderson said. 

The plan comes together

Patrick McMichael of Broad River Construction was one of two builders on the 25-month-long construction project. Architect Tom Rhodes from Frederick + Frederick served as the project manager, and the two met weekly.

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Architect Tom Rhodes looks over plans for the Cane Island home of Rhonda and Bill Anderson during the Historic Beaufort Foundation Spring Architects’ Tour. Tony Kukulich/Staff

McMichael said that some builders bristle at having an architect so involved in the construction phase, but the partnership on the Anderson’s home worked well for everyone. 

Getting a large home to run on the power it generates requires energy-efficient design and construction, McMichael explained. A blower door test was done to detect leaks around door and windows.

“We can find the tiniest little spots where air is getting through and make it tight,” he said. “Not everybody does that.”

Much of the construction took place during the peak of the pandemic, and supply issues were sometimes problematic. At one point, all construction ceased for weeks, waiting for the arrival of needed supplies. 

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The Cane Island home of Rhonda and Bill Anderson was featured on the Historic Beaufort Foundation Spring Architects’ Tour. Tony Kukulich/Staff

And while McMichael said he lost a fair amount of sleep during the project, he’d do it again. 

The Andersons were in their Salt Lake City home during most of the construction. They said the project was streamlined and easy. 

With family in Utah, the couple plans to split their time between the two locations, but Cane Island is becoming their primary residence.  

Rhonda Anderson called the home a retreat, and she attributed the success of the project completely to the Fredericks and the team they assembled. 

“I knew we were in good hands,” she said. “It’s what you get when you have complete faith and trust in your architects, your builders and your project manager.”

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