Camens Architectural Group
After taking a five-week vacation to Seabrook Island in 1998, Marc Camens sold his 18-year old architectural firm in the Adirondacks and moved to the South Carolina Low Country. “In New York I developed strong relationships with my clients because I listened to them,” explains Camens, who is the owner of Camens Architectural Group on Johns Island, SC. “What made me successful in the Adirondacks I anticipated would make me successful here.”
Turns out his logic was right, as Marc’s architectural designs now pepper Kiawah Island, James Island, Sullivan’s Island, and Daniel Island. “We’re definitely a client-driven practice,” says Marc of his five employees. “Our mantra is, ‘Listen to your dreams and we will listen to you.’”
Listening to the site is also important to Marc when he designs a home. “The site is going to tell you what’s happening on this property and where the potential lies, where the views are,” he says, “It will also tell you what kind of constraints exist, what the neighborhood is like, where privacy is needed, and what the interplay of all of the elements are.”
A graduate of Kent State University, Marc gathers as much information from his clients as possible during the initial phases of the design process. He looks at photographs of architectural details that they like. He talks with them about how they live, how they cook, and how they envision living in their home. “I try to gather up everything I can so we can jointly create a philosophical statement of what home is about,” he says. “Then I wrap the building around their lifestyle. I meld everything the site and client is describing to me, and I build the plan from the inside out.”
As he designs, Marc pays particular attention to the light and flow of the structure. “The light inside the building is the life force of the building,” he says. “The flow allows you to move within the spaces and experience them freely.”
Fond of the creative process, Marc enjoys sitting down with a blank piece of paper and sketching the homes of people’s dreams. “I’ve designed more houses on airplanes and other places because I just go into my design process and focus and drown out the world and drown out the clock,” he says. “I love that part of it.”
As the son of a developer, Marc worked on his father’s crews as an apprentice carpenter and later had his own design/build firm in Alabama. Throw in the fact that Marc has also built his own home, and it is easy to see why he has such a strong penchant for construction.
I try to solve problems from a buildability side and an aesthetic side. I try to merge them,” explains Marc. “My success is my ability to work, listen and communicate with clients and contractors. I am not the guy who works on job sites and says, ‘I know everything, do it my way.’ I think the project only becomes better if you allow things to happen on site.”
Marc, who has been known to climb on the roof to talk to a subcontractor about framing, believes that everyone from the client to the tile installer is part of the synergy of a home. Everyone’s point of view is important to him, and it is through this open line of communication that the structure truly becomes all that it can be. The main goal for him is to always create a home that has a wholeness to it that feels right to everyone who experiences it. “It’s important for me to try to create things that are interesting but yet have balance and are whole.”
Designing approximately eight to 12 homes a year, Marc has a high referral rate and often does repeat projects for clients. “The award our firm seeks is our client’s satisfaction. If someone likes what we have done for them so much that they want us to do more, that is the highest compliment they could give us,” he says. “You listen to what the clients desire, and you give it back to them with the craft and they give it back to you.”
Q&A more about Marc…
What do you like about doing business in the low country?
It’s just a great place. The environment is so phenomenal. Every setting is unique. Working in the South is wonderful because the people are nice to work with, and the pace is right – it’s just a little slower.
What is the most unique project you have done?
I’ve designed a lot of churches, but the most unique project I’ve done is a cheese plant.
Are most of the homes you design second homes?
The homes we’re designing are for great clients who want a wonderful home. The budgets are great. We’re not doing shoestring kind of things, but we’re not over the top either. This is mainly a second home market with people thinking about retiring to their second home. Most of these people are my peers so we have had a lot of similar experiences.
Do you still design homes for the Adirondacks?
I still get calls from past clients and new clients in the Adirondacks.
Camens Architectural Group
3461 Maybank Highway
Johns Island, SC 29455
Perspectives on Design – Carolinas
It’s often difficult for many people to step back and acknowledge that they are simply one small part of a bigger picture. Marc Camens, however, is not one of the many. A creative thinker influenced by real-world realism, Marc strongly believes that his architectural contribution is just as important as the last man’s on the construction crew. His design approach is different; it’s a much appreciated breath of fresh air to his contemporaries, construction crews, and for the dozens of homeowners he now calls friends. Marc takes the business of creating life spaces seriously and knows the importance of his job in the holistic scheme of the homeowners’ lives. His work is a reflection of his philosophy of listening to people’s dreams.
After taking a five-week vacation to Seabrook Island in 1998, Marc sold his 18-year-old architectural practice in the Adirondacks and moved to the Low Country. He was convinced that no matter where he located his practice, people generally wanted the same things: attention and customization. Marc gathers as much information from his clients as possible during the initial phases of the design process. Pouring over photographs of architectural details they like, he finds out how they live and how they envision living in their home. Energized by the creative process, Marc most enjoys sitting down with a blank piece of paper to sketch the homes of people’s dreams and aspirations.
“When homeowners start realizing the architectural impact of their house on the natural landscape, their outlook begins to change.” – Marc Camens
“I put a tangible design to my homeowner’s desires. Sometimes it’s exactly what they didn’t know they wanted.” – Marc Camens
“My goal is to design dream homes for people to enjoy with family and friends, creating a sense of place for today and for future generations.” – Marc Camens
“Sometimes it’s important to put blinders on when designing a home. What works for some families may not work for others. Families have to pay attention to their needs and wants, really focusing in on where they are right now. That is the key” – Marc Camens
“An indoor space should connect seamlessly to the outdoor space.” – Marc Camens