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A couch, rocking chair, table, and multiple plants in pots sit on the floor of an outside house porch which is enclosed with screens overlooking trees.

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Embracing indoor-outdoor living in the South Carolina marshlands

Modern aesthetics meet country style

Even Michelle Jewell is surprised that she fell in love with the marshlands that back up to her home in Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina. The island, a 10-by-6-mile haven just south of Charleston, is quieter than its neighbors, Johns and Kiawah islands; covered in marshes, woods, and live oaks; and has long been a locals-only sort of place, with little development.

A man and a woman are sitting next to each other on a couch next to a rocking chair in an enclosed outside porch of a house and both are smiling at a dog who is sitting on the ground.
Michelle Jewell and Ryan Amick sit with Bernie on the front porch of their Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, residence.

Jewell, who grew up on a farm in upstate South Carolina, and her husband, Ryan Amick, have been in the Charleston area for 15 years. Over time, they inched away from the city center—moving first to James Island, and now Wadmalaw—in search of a more peaceful location to live.

“I’m very used to quiet, open spaces and space to garden,” Jewell says. “I was feeling cramped on James Island and really wanted to get out in the country again.”

At the time, Jewell had been running a toy company, Fink Toys, for eight years, and was itching for a new direction. She turned to her heritage for inspiration.

A house with cedar shingles, a large front porch, and a staircase sits surrounded by trees.
Jewell was surprised to find out that the home had been built in the 1990s, as its handmade qualities, like cedar shingles, peg and groove floorboards, and reclaimed moldings, belied its age.

“My dad’s aging, and he’s leaving [his] farm to me, so it was time to actually learn about farming,” she says, adding that in her 20s, she wanted to get as far away from the profession as possible. While running the toy company, though, Jewell traveled regularly and worked behind a computer screen. Over the years, she realized she “just missed being physical, being outside, and being in nature.”

A wooden door with a window is open in the foreground while a staircase leading to a landing with bookshelves is in the distance.
An extra large doorway leads to the main foyer and staircase, which is painted in Sherwin Williams Mindful Gray.

In 2017, she decided to go back to school in the sustainable agriculture program at the College of Charleston. She began to poke around for real estate on Wadmalaw Island, where there would be room for a sprawling garden.

A living room with a dark brown leather sofa sits across from a lounge chair. In between the sofa and the lounge chair is a table. The living room overlooks a white kitchen.
In the living room, a vintage coffee table sits between an Article Burrard leather sofa and an Ingmar Relling Siesta lounger and ottoman.

“I started looking just for fun, and it took 11 months until we found this house,” she says. It wasn’t an easy search—properties are hard to find because they don’t come up for sale very often, and the ones that do, Jewell says, are dilapidated. Additionally, much of the island is under land preserve to encourage conservation instead of overdevelopment. After seeing several options that weren’t the right fit despite substantial acreage, she and her real estate agent pulled up to a 2-acre plot with a two-story, cedar shake-sided home, flanked with live oaks and marshes. They both knew it was just right—and what they found inside offered further confirmation.

A white room with a bed, nightstands, and carpet with a round mirror on one wall next to two windows.
A ’70s Dutch bedroom set, handed down to Jewell and Amick by Amick’s mother, sits under three sawhorse boards from Jewell’s time working as a merchandiser at Urban Outfitters. The chunky knit wool rug is from Target.

“We walked in and the couple who lived here before us had a small son, and they actually had one of my designs I designed for Crate & Barrel hanging up like you would a quilt,” Jewell says. It was the sign she and Amick were looking for; they made an offer in February 2018 and moved in that April.

A white wall with multiple framed artwork and a bicycle which hangs off of a bracket. There is a chair against the wall that has a children’s doll sitting on it.
In the master bedroom, a West Elm wire frame velvet chair and reupholstered vintage ottoman sit in the corner under a Mercier Kilo bicycle. Other keepsakes on the wall include artwork by Jewell, photos of pets, and a vintage schoolhouse speaker.
A card catalog sits against a white wall with shelves that hold multiple colored drinking glasses and a magazine rack full of magazines. There is a table in the foreground.
In the dining room, a vintage card catalogue is at home under shelves of vintage glassware from Jewell’s grandmother.

Jewell was surprised to learn that the home had been built in the 1990s, as opposed to earlier in the 20th century. The couple who originally built the house had done so by hand, bringing in peg and groove floorboards, reclaimed moldings, and an extra-large front door. Deep windowsills have become homes for Jewell’s plants.

A white kitchen with a refrigerator, oven, cabinets, and an island which holds a bowl of food. There are storage containers on a shelf underneath the island.
Jewell built a wall shelf just above the kitchen sink to hold potted plants. On the island, a vintage wooden toy box sits next to a fabric woven basket from Target. The egg holder on the copper is a Paulownia wood bowl from Nadeau Furniture in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Leslie Ryann McKellar

“It’s not a manufactured home and you can tell,” says Jewell. The original owners “were really thinking outside the box, and adding a lot of character when they were building it.”

A bathroom with a mirror over the sink and two light fixtures. There is a towel rack stocked with towels and a framed painting hangs on the wall next to the mirror.
The bathroom mirror is a vintage find, and it’s flanked by sconces by MODCREATION Studios. The wire shelf next to the sink was thrifted.
Leslie Ryann McKellar
A clawfoot tub in a bathroom with framed artwork on the wall.
A vintage iron clawfoot tub is original to the home, and the wooden slat mat is from World Market. Jewell made the red oak tub caddy by hand, and a Chambers Austelle artwork hangs on the wall.
Leslie Ryann McKellar

Jewell and Amick bought the home from its second set of owners, who, Jewell says, had an eye for interiors and opened up spaces where the walls seemed to close things in. They also had a more beachy style than Jewell and Amick, who needed to bring in their own furnishings to visualize how to make each room theirs.

Their previous home, an ’80s contemporary, absorbed more rustic furnishings, but they’ve skewed modern in the Wadmalaw Island residence to make up for the country setting. Midcentury modern pieces from the ’60s and ’70s mingle with family heirlooms and newly bought items from the likes of Article, Urban Outfitters, and Ikea. Whimsical toys from Jewell’s time as an entrepreneur sit next to succulents; a clawfoot tub shares space with industrial sconces; a thrifted card catalogue rests to the side of a West Elm dining table and chairs.

A blue door opens up to a dining room with a large table and many chairs. Against one wall is a chalkboard. Against the other wall is a card catalog and a magazine rack.
A West Elm midcentury walnut dining table and chairs are the centerpiece of the dining room.

While the interiors were turnkey (to their delight), the property is where they’ve made a serious effort, and where they spend most of their time.

“When you’re here you want to be outside,” she says, noting that they’ve tried to create seamless connections between indoors and out. “The yard was plain and overgrown. I have been spending the majority of my energy cutting that back and building gardens.” They’ve added raised beds for growing vegetables, a pollinator garden, fruit trees, and a chicken coop. A large screened-in porch allows for long evenings outside sans bug bites, and Jewell also constructed a 12-foot farm table for outdoor dining, as well as a fire pit and grilling area.

A cleared area in a forest with chairs facing a fire pit and a hammock sitting between trees in the distance as the sun sets.
“When you’re here, you want to be outside,” Jewell says, noting that they’ve tried to create seamless connections between indoors and out.

The area drains naturally when flooding takes place, one of the features of the property that Jewell finds profoundly moving: The land takes care of itself. She’s taken the initiative to learn about the birds that come through and the native plants that help prevent erosion.

In the foreground a woman opens up a door of a chicken coop. Two chickens stand next to her. In the distance, there is a house.
Jewell tends to the coop, accompanied by chickens Susan and Bojangle.
A person with multiple chicken eggs in their hands and a chicken standing next to them on the ground.
A chicken coop isn’t the only thing they’ve added to the property; there are also new raised beds for growing vegetables, a pollinator garden, and fruit trees.

“When we were originally looking, I had no interest in being on the water,” she says. “I’ve fallen in love with the marsh and all of the wildlife that it brings in. I’ve been really surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed that part of it.”

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