‘Nowadays, it’s not smart to build homes that waste energy. This is the way we have to go.’The water views aren’t bad, of course, but there’s a bigger reason that Ernst and Christina Bruderer chose to build their home in Windmill Harbour: The area, conceived by Charles Fraser with sustainability in mind, is one of the most progressive on the island, one that enables and encourages the kind of eco-friendly construction that is the home’s hallmark. (Photography by Butch Hirsch)

A self-proclaimed “frustrated architect” with a vision for an ecologically friendly home, Ernst Bruderer approached architect Terry Rosser and Chris VanGeison of VanGeison Construction, who had recently built an Earth Craft home in Palmetto Bluff, to help make his green vision a reality — not to be trendy, not to cut power bills, but because, as Bruderer says, “It is our responsibility.”

Looking for a quick, tasty way to go green this spring? Start outside your window.

Grow your own edible container gardenMarch in the Lowcountry can be a magical month, as the life cycle begins again and our coastal landscape awakens. I love to watch this time of year as our marshes begin their gradual shift to green, our trees take on fresh chartreuse tones and our lawns begin to re-emerge after a long winter.

But green is more than just a color, of course — it means a gradual evolution in the way we live and do business. And one of the newest trends in our area’s evolving green industry is the “edible landscape.” That’s a fancy term for growing your own food, a practice that reconnects us Mother Earth, delights our children and is rich in health benefits.

The sun is shining and the ground it’s warming; it’s time to begin laying the groundwork for your spring garden. Here are four ways to get started.

Is there anything sweeter than March in the Lowcountry? The air fills with the sweet scents of wisteria, the land begins to send out lush new growth and the nurseries brim with fresh, colorful new offerings. But March is also a busy month, one filled with a long list of planning, planting and maintenance tasks. Knowing where to start in this seemingly overwhelming “to do list” can be a great help; here’s a quick primer to get you started:

How to Green your houseSo you're already doing your part to protect the planet by bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, using low-energy light bulbs and looking for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle every day. Here are even more tips and tricks to live so “green” you’d swear it was always St. Patrick’s Day — many of which will even put some green back in your wallet.

Let the light shine bright

Next time you’re dusting, give those light bulbs a good onceover — you can coax 50 percent more light out of your bulbs just by dusting them regularly. Turn off the light, let the bulb cool down and clean with a dust-grabbing dry cloth. (And, of course, when a standard light bulb burns out, replace with an Energy Starrated bulb.)

Can a kitchen be sexy? Can a bathroom be dramatic?

The answer is yes, and it’s what home builders and buyers are looking for. That’s why smart homeowners are adding value to their homes with simple, affordable projects in these two rooms that bring out the drama and showcase the sex appeal.

SEXY KITCHENS

The latest trends in kitchen design recognize that your itchen is not simply a utilitarian room where meals are produced but the gathering place. It’s a real family room and the walls between the kitchen, dining room and family room are coming down — a trend that’s here to stay.

Home Discovery: 9 Cambridge Circle, Wexford

Home Discovery: 9 Cambridge Circle, WexfordPHOTOGRAPHY BY ROB KAUFMAN

This home on the water in Wexford affords its owners a spacious, sunlit retreat from those North Carolina winters.

When Tom and Jacquelyn Morgan decides to do something abouth their shared desire to spend more time in warmer climes, they turned to Wexford Plantation and Hugh Hobus' RCH Construction.

The Waynesville, N.C.couple contracted with Hobus to remodel a three-decade-old home at 9 Cambridge Circle in Wexford Plantation, a renovation that completely transformed the 5,400-square-foot, 4-bedroom, 4 1/2-bath home on Wexford Harbor off Broad Creek.

Home Discovery: SOUTHERN SANCTUARYClassic touches, custom features and a focus on natural light give this Berkeley Hall home a relaxed elegance.

It’s no wonder the 4,328-squarefeet neo-Mediterranean property at 30 Lancaster Blvd. in Berkeley Hall was a 2010 Lighthouse Award Finalist in five categories — including the prestigious Best Overall.

Randy Jeffcoat Builders, Inc., along with in-house designer Dan Bennicas, worked with owners John and Edie Tarbell to create a second home that could serve as a relaxing escape from the couple’s Maine winters, while showcasing the spectacular views that drew them to Berkeley Hall in the first place.

This casual, French-inspired residence, crafted largely from reclaimed materials, lends a European air to Colleton River.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROB KAUFMAN

76 Oak Tree in Colleton River PlantationSituated under its own forest canopy, the rustic residence at 76 Oak Tree in Colleton River Plantation blends French country-inspired design with the majestic natural surroundings of the Lowcountry. Constructed for Barbara and Patrick Sommers by architectural firm Court/Atkins and built by Pat and Ron Strimpfel of Bluffton based Reclamation by Design, the lakeside property was conceived using a meticulous design theme that aimed to preserve as much of the surroundings as possible. That meant using reclaimed materials and maintaining the property’s five live oak trees; in the end, only a small amount of strategic pruning was required to accommodate the 8,000-squarefoot living space.

The house is built in part from reclaimed wormy heart pine. The outdoor living space and sidewalks are made from a creative blend of brick, bluestone and crushed stone. The beam trusses and siding were rescued from Ruby Mill, N.C., and a feature lintel that sits above the billiard room’s custom-built mahogany door was reclaimed from a 100-year-old building on Bay Street in Savannah.

11 HEADWATERS ROAD, BLUFFTONThis “casual, warm” home at the headwaters of the May River is designed for rustic comfort — and the location is perfect for its photography-minded owners.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY BUTCH HIRSCH

11 HEADWATERS ROAD, BLUFFTON

With its Lowcountry appeal, thoughtful design and character-rich features — such as wooden beams and a quirky garden railroad — it’s no wonder the Palmetto Bluff property at 11 Headwaters Road won the 2009 Gold Aurora Award for being the best house in competition across the southeast United States and the National Best in Living Award for best custom home of 6,500 square feet or greater.

Kitchen and BathSometimes, the big, splashy home design trends you see in the slick pages of magazines don’t always translate to the Spanish moss-framed homes of the Lowcountry. And while the rest of the country follows the latest trends in designs and products, the South has often simply followed its own sense of style.

“In the southern marketplace, it’s more traditional,” said Lora Donoghue, president of the Carolina Chapter of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). “In the northern marketplace, it’s more contemporary.”

Kelly Hughes of Designing to Sell, a home staging business, said today’s market is different than it has ever been.