When it comes to home design in the American South, tradition is king. And few areas are as steeped in Southern tradition as the Palmetto State. That gave us the first clue to finding the best South Carolina custom home builders: we had to look for styles where the Old South was on display. Next, we turned to the stand-by criteria of experience, reputation, and skill. The 15 contractors here have all those characteristics in abundrance.
But we couldn’t stop there. To rank them further, we looked for professionals whose work sets new standards. Once we had those nailed down, the rest fell into place. The top two names on this list push themselves to Olympian performances but with different approaches. One relies on industry standards that he follows as meticulously as he lays a foundation. The other is a self-taught master who regards a well-crafted home as a piece of art. He is driven to produce only those that, by his definition, are “piano perfect.”
14) Milestone Custom Homes
Website | 864.289.0102 | 204 Adley Way, Greenville, SC 29607
This Greenville-based custom home contractor, which has over 20 years’ experience in The Upstate’s luxury market, is positioning itself for growth with high-profile ventures. Founder Chris Rogers, a Greenville resident for 30 years, started the company in 1995. He specialized in remodel projects and built a several new homes each year. That business model changed when Co-owner Jerry Fay joined in 2004. Fay was an experienced high-volume builder. He intended to change the company’s business system and turn out 25 homes a year. Fay is also APB certified and a past member of the HBA of Greenville. Along with its full-service design build operations, Milestone Custom Homes handles all real estate transactions on the premises.
Milestone Custom Homes serves throughout Fountain Inn, Wade Hampton, Mauldin, Five Forks, and Simpsonville. Homes cost up to $5M. In 2017, the firm was one of only four contractors chosen to build a model home and welcome center for Hartness — a secluded, 180-acre community with a 15-mile trail that winds through lakes and streams.
13) Ridgeline Construction Group
Website | 864.248.4880 | 123 Welborn Street, Greenville, SC 29601
The partners behind Ridgeline Construction Group share a half century of construction experience between them. Terry Lawler, partner and director of field operations, has built over 100 custom luxury homes. His partner, Ray Foral, has managed construction budgets and processes for 22 years. Foral is director of business operations. Before partnering at Ridgeline Construction Group, Lawler and Foral co-owned a thriving company in Colorado, where they built mansions in the most affluent neighborhoods of Vail. In 2004, both had relocated to South Carolina. They opened this firm in 2008. A few years later, they had completed 30 homes on Lake Keowee.
With Ridgeline Construction Group, the duo limits their services to building new homes. Prices start at $800k and go well into the millions. Lawler and Foral are certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and EarthCraft construction. Today, their focus is on projects that meet the Healthy Built Homes standard of the US Green Building Council (USGBC). In 2017, Ridgeline Construction received Pinnacle Awards from the HBA of South Carolina for New Home Construction in the $1M to $1.49M category.
12) CarsonSpeer Builders
Website | 864.214.6644 | 2131 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607
This Greenville County construction firm was created from the merger of two established home builders, each with their own company. James Speer, a licensed contractor, studied construction science and management at Clemson University. He then spent years in commercial construction for Beers-Skanska, before moving to Florida and opening Speer Homes in Orlando in 2002. After 10 years, Speer relocated the business to Greenville, SC. He was joined by Steve Carson, a Clemson University graduate with a degree in landscape architecture. Carson had worked for a large engineering firm in the Southeast and had his own business, Carson Construction.
Homes by CarsonSpeer Builders cost up to $5M and appear throughout Five Forks, Greenville, Travelers Rest, Powdersville, and the Cliffs Communities. Popular designs boast European exteriors with large gables and arched entryways, kitchens with Calacatta gold marble countertops, and bathrooms fashioned out of Italian marble. These designs have been recognized in atHome and Town magazines. In 2014 and 2015, the firm was honored by the HBA of Greenville with Bridge Awards for craftsmanship and professionalism.
11) Reminiscent Homes
Website | 843.815.5229 | 262 Red Cedar Street, Bluffton, SC 29910
With a diverse portfolio and the decades-long experience of its founder, Reminiscent Homes is a design and construction firm with a solid reputation in the Lowcountry. Richard Creamer worked on construction crews at age 13 and had his own framing business in Florida before he turned 20. He then moved to the West Coast, where he spent the next few decades managing the construction of billion-dollar civic centers and hotels for Tishman West Corporation, Bergen Brunswig Corporation, and Taylor Woodrow. By 2001, he relocated to Hilton Head, and he managed construction crews building million-dollar homes for leading custom home contractors. In 2009, he opened Reminiscent Homes.
The firm’s luxury builds in Hampton Lake, Berkley Hall, Hampton Hall, and Palmetto Bluff Plantations are known for intricate details. Creamer handles many styles, from Lowcountry to modern. For example, a 4,600-square-foot Mediterranean estate has coffered ceilings and marbled pillars. A 3,600-square-foot contemporary custom home features garage doors made of glass and exotic wood detail on the front elevation. Since 2011, Reminiscent Homes has been honored with LightHouse Awards for Best Exterior and Best Overall.
10) Shelter Custom-Built Living
Website | 843.471.1833 | 895 Island Park Drive, Daniel Island, SC 29492
In just about five years of its opening, this Lowcountry custom home builder has put up more than 19 homes on Daniel Island, SC, and achieved national recognition. Ryan Butler established Shelter Custom-Built Living in 2013. The Bowling Green State University graduate gained his decades of construction experience after college by working with his contractor father and at a large construction company. Butler was serving as vice president with Atlanta-based John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods when he decided to start his own construction company.
Homes by Shelter Custom-Built Living have unique exteriors inspired by modern and coastal cottage architecture. Most of the homes are priced well over $1M and appear throughout Charleston, Daniel Island, Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, and Isle of Palms. A typical waterfront home has seven bedrooms, seven baths, a six-car garage, and a volleyball court. The structures, which have been covered in 10 issues of Charleston Home & Design, have also fetched PRISM Awards in 2016 and 2017. Notably, Shelter Custom-Built Living is the first South Carolina contractor to be featured on the TV show Today’s Builder.
9) H2 Builders
Website | 843.815.4642 | 40 Persimmon Street, Bluffton, SC 29910
For 20 years, this South Carolina custom home builder has relied on a team of top-notch project managers who create the finishing touches for its luxury homes. Each manager has between 10 to 30 years’ experience in a particular service, such as custom cabinetry, ceiling treatments, molding, or rock fireplaces. They work directly with clients. Founder and President Todd Hawk, who hand-picked the crew, believes this method allows him to give clients personalized service.
Hawk spent his childhood and teenage years developing his own construction expertise by working on job sites with his father. He established H2 Builders as a family-operated contractor to focus on small- to mid-volume luxury home building in Beaufort, Bluffton, and Okatie, and on Hilton Head Island. His homes start at $500k and go up to $5M. H2 Builders is NAHB-certified and one of the most awarded custom home builders in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. It has over 22 accolades, including eight awards for Best Builder by Hilton Head Monthly Readers Choice, and the Small Business of the Year Award from the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.
8) Ellis Construction
Website | 843.785.3585 | 55 New Orleans Road, Suite 208, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
With the tagline “experienced enough to serve you, small enough to care,” this custom home builder in South Carolina is committed to quality craftsmanship and customer focus. Ellis Construction was founded in 1977 by Marc Ellis, a University of Arizona graduate who spent four years apprenticing with a local carpenter union. Ellis has no interest in the high-volume building market. He serves the Hilton Head and Bluffton communities, creating breathtaking oceanfront palaces with 30-foot ceilings and three-story covered decks. Prices range between $500k and $2M.
Ellis is as serious about the homebuilding industry as he is about the homes he builds. He is past president of the HBA of Hilton Head and past vice president of the HBA of South Carolina. For over 10 years, he held various positions in each of those organizations to stay current with legislation affecting his trade. Ellis’s work has been acknowledged with a long list of awards, including Home Builder of the Year from HBA of Hilton Head. Ellis has also been inducted into the South Carolina Housing Hall of Fame.
7) Yestermorrow Homebuilders
Website | 843.7076.6100 | 21 Oakwood Drive, Hardeeville, SC 29927
Traditional Southern architecture is the specialty of this decorated Lowcountry home contractor, which limits its services to custom homes. Founder and owner Ken Troupe studied architectural design in his native Canada, where he won housing awards and served as president of a local home builders association. In 1998, he moved to South Carolina, and he opened this small company in Beauford in 2001.
Yestermorrow Homebuilders grew by word of mouth, thanks to Troupe’s understanding of old-style Southern home design. The firm is known for grand structures with balanced windows, white-painted wood porches, stately white columns, and elevated foundations. The company builds in Palmetto Bluff, Oldfield, Spring Island, and Hardeeville. Solidifying Troupe’s reputation are his collaborations with prominent Southeastern architects, such as Historical Concepts and Cowart Group PC. Troupe’s work has been acknowledged in Coastal Living Magazine and Fine Homebuilding Magazine, and in the book Outside the Not So Big House by Sarah Sasanka. He has also been honored with numerous LightHouse Awards from the Hilton Head Area HBA.
6) Goodwin Foust Custom Homes
Website | 864.269.4900 | 114 Clair Drive, Piedmont, SC 29673
This upstate South Carolina custom home contractor was created from a partnership between Bryan Goodwin and Barret Foust. Before starting the company in 2004, both men had extensive work experience and formal training in their trade. Both received a Bachelor of Science in Construction Science and Management from Clemson University. Foust manages site layout and business development, while Goodwin oversees the entire construction process. In addition to veteran construction managers, Goodwin Foust Custom Homes has an in-house architectural designer, Chris Shockley, who has an architecture degree from Clemson University and over 17 years’ experience designing custom homes.
They are not only classic southern estate builders, they consider themselves as builders of generational homes, this could be southern estates, mountain getaways, lake homes or a home in downtown Greenville. It is NAHB-certified with numerous awards for home design by the HBA of Greenville, and a 2013 Award from Southern Home & Garden and in 2016 they were the winners of 4 – Southern Home and Garden Awards including Best Exterior 500K-1Mill, Best Outdoor Living Overall, Best Overall New Home 2Mill – 4Mill, Best Overall New Home 1Mill-2Mill.
5) Dillard-Jones Builders
Website | 864.527.0463 | 115 North Brown Street, Greenville, SC 29601
The owner of this premier residential contractor takes design-build seriously. Tom Dillard established Dillard-Jones in 2003, when the idea of combining design and construction services under one roof was just taking hold. Dillard, a mechanical engineer with a degree from Clemson University, had over 20 years’ experience in construction management with big-name corporations. To create that distinctive experience for his clients, he assembled a team of highly credentialed veterans. One is Vice President Susan Peace-Vernon, a trained interior designer, past president of the HBA of Greenville, and board member of the Southern Living Custom Builder Program. Another is Jeff Dishner, an award-winning licensed architect with 27 years’ experience and a master’s degree in architecture.
The company’s portfolio of million-dollar homes is diverse; they create eclectic cottages, French manors, European mountain homes, and stucco-and-stone estates. Operating out of three office locations, the firm serves Greenville, Travelers Rest, Sunset, Six Mile, and communities of Upstate South Carolina. The firm’s ample recognition includes five Pinnacle Awards in 2017 for Best New Construction from the HBA of South Carolina and two Member of the Year Awards from Southern Living Custom Builder Program.
4) Palatial Homes Design
Website | 843.342.3311 | 145 Island Drive, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926
The founder of Palatial Homes Design is widely recognized by Hilton Head’s building industry for supremely elegant homes that are sought after by the island’s most affluent residents. Mark Creamer started Palatial Home Designs in 1999. He was already a 20-year veteran of the Hilton Head construction scene.
Though Creamer doesn’t reveal the names of his clients, he is said to have built homes for high-profile Fortune 500 executives and international celebrities. What isn’t a secret, though, is the attention to detail that goes into his lavish builds that appear throughout Hilton Head, Wexford, and Beaufort. For example, an 8,125-square-foot Lowcountry estate has a foyer with 24-foot ceilings, and a great room with an 8-foot, octagon skylight. Other amenities include coffered ceilings, rope lighting, arched balconies, and cast-stone fireplaces. Palatial Homes Design has been decorated with top honors from Hilton Head’s industry, including numerous Pinnacle Awards for Best Home in the $1M to $1.49M category. The firm’s 15 Lighthouse Awards have been for Best Exterior and Best Overall.
3) Max Crosby Construction
Website | 843.766.0076 | 721 Long Point Road, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
Max Crosby Construction is known for its high-profile home designs, which have have made it one of the state’s most decorated firms since its founding in 1977. Max Crosby opened this Mt. Pleasant construction company and attracted affluent clients with his reputation for creating luxurious homes. President Jamison Howard, who has a master’s degree in architecture, joined in 2002. The team also includes interior designer Widney Pierson, a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program at The Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, DC.
The iconic structures by Max Crosby Construction have price tags up to $15M. The firm builds throughout Daniel Island, Isle of Palms, Johns Island, Sullivans Island, and Charleston. It has collected a long list of industry awards from Southern Living Magazine and the Trident HBA. Press coverage has been just as impressive. In 2012, Charleston Home and Design Magazine credited the firm as one of Charleston’s “Most Influential Builders.” Notably, Max Crosby Construction is the only builder to have completed showcase homes for both Coastal Living Magazine and Southern Living Magazine.
2) Gabriel Builders
Website | 864.879.3035 | 641 Garden Market Drive, Travelers Rest, SC 29690
As one of the few Certified Master Builders (CMB) in South Carolina, founder Gus Rubio likes to emphasize that every home he builds is handcrafted. It is a big reason why Gabriel Builders has achieved national recognition, in addition to the detailed quality assurance manual he uses for all operations. Rubio started in construction through summer jobs during college. With a Bachelor of Science from Furman University, he served as quality control manager at a remodeling firm, W.R. Grace. It was there that he saw first hand how quality control systems can improve a company’s product. That’s why Gabriel Builders employs a full-time quality assurance manager.
Elegant manors with two-story gyms, and chateaus with turret spiral staircases, are some of the hallmarks of a home by Rubio’s team, which are priced between $1.2M and $10M. The firm serves Travelers Rest, Charleston, Lake Keowee, and Highlands. In addition to being recognized by the NAHB as Custom Home Builder of the Year in 2014, Gabriel Builders has won 15 Southern Home and Garden Bridge Awards, nine South Carolina Pinnacle Awards, and the 2015 Ocean Home Platinum Custom Home Builder of the Year Award.
1) William Byrd Homes
Website | 843.686.4166 | 2 Corpus Christi Place, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
This Lowcountry firm is distinguished by its expertise in coastal building and by its founder, who is an iconic figure in the Hilton Head home building scene. William Byrd started in construction by accident. Originally from the Baltimore-Washington area, Byrd lost his parents at age 16. To support himself, he built a home and sold it two years later. He found the whole experience to be as satisfying as it was lucrative, and he continued working at construction jobs.
After a trip to Hilton Head in the late 1980s, Byrd decided to relocate to South Carolina. He opened this business in 1988. When the residential construction market tightened, Byrd shifted his focus. He built luxury homes in the 10,000-square-foot range, which were still in demand. Today, Byrd builds in any area of Hilton Head Island. He has an A+ rating with the BBB and belongs to the US Green Building Council. The oceanfront wonders by William Byrd Homes, which have received numerous LightHouse Awards, require about 150 skilled artisans. They cost up to $15M and often grace the pages of Architectural Digest.