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Sep 30, 2022

Pandemic Paradise in Palmetto Dunes

Cheryl Ricer

Photography By

J.Baganz Photography
Couple finds peace on the island amid covid chaos

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Katie Latham and James Norton, partners at Talman consultants, were going a bit stir crazy during the pandemic quarantine in their downtown Chicago residence. In April of 2020, after scouring the country online for places offering respite from the months of chaos caused by the Covid lockdown, they found the first Airbnb available, and it was in South Forest Beach on Hilton Head Island.

“We were never so happy to visit a place we had never been,” James said. “We booked the South Forest Beach rental for a week and spent the entire time outside enjoying the outdoors and exploring the island.”

Katie agreed. “Coming to Hilton Head Island was spontaneous and idyllic. We were simply heading south to somewhere we’d never been, and our kids loved it so much. They got to play on the beach, ride their bikes to the corner store, and experience an independence that they don’t ever get in Chicago. We had so much fun that we stayed a second week, this time at a home in Palmetto Dunes.”

It was during the second week when Katie and James were out walking the Palmetto Dunes neighborhood while simultaneously holding a remote business meeting on the phone when they stumbled on a second-row home for sale. James took picture of the Bunting Construction sign. After their call ended, the couple (both engineers) had a walk around the home, looking astutely at the exterior construction and at the interiors—only what they could see through the windows. They liked what they saw, but it was time to head back to Chicago.

Upon their return north, the peaceful respite offered by the couple’s vacation experience only heightened, and the allure of that home for sale in Palmetto Dunes only strengthened.

“When we got back to Chicago, things were getting worse by the day, which made us long for Hilton Head even more,” James said. “The kids were remote learning at the time, so not only were they at home being tutored, we were also having to run our business from home. It was so disruptive.”

Bolstered by the negative events, Katie and James decided to take things into their own hands and shift to positive. In late May, James called Scott Bunting, and the couple interviewed him about the home they’d only seen from the outside.

“This home was designed to serve as a second home that can handle multi-generations at the same time,” Bunting said. “Everything about the home is built at- or above-code, and its location is close to the beach and accessible to all the best parts of the island.”

Bunting shared with the couple that this home was built to last, with solid pour foundations, full under-house garage parking and storage, a maintenance-free exterior of hardy plank and PVC materials that will stand test of time, and then treated with a borate system to prevent pests. Additionally, the home has generator capabilities to allow things to keep running during a storm.

Once satisfied with the answers Bunting provided and with the images he sent them of the interiors, the couple decided to make an offer.

“Scott’s brother, Robbie Bunting, served as our Realtor,” Katie said. “We closed on the home in August 2020, and we immediately began using it for family retreats. I grew up going on extended family vacations, so being able to host our parents, our brothers and their families, our aunts, uncles, and the cousins, it’s simply perfect.”

Though the home can support a multi-generational family, privacy is maintained. There are six bedrooms, each suite-like, large enough for lounging and with its own bath. Two oversized master bedrooms offer custom closets, cabinetry, and shelving, and master baths with walk-in showers and free-standing tubs. There is a bunk room with Murphy beds for the kids and a rec room on the second floor. An office at the front part of the house is perfect for Katie and James, who may be on a working getaway and need to make business calls while the family is enjoying the house.

Entertaining here is easy. With a generous open concept living room and dining room with a large island and plenty of seating, everyone has a seat at the table for big family dinners, and everyone can participate in the conversation, even when the cooking is going on.

“I love the Sub-Zero/Wolf appliances,” Katie said, “and the wine refrigerator is super convenient when we have lots of company.”

One of the nicest things about the home is the screened-in porch. The vaulted roof allows for more light, both on the porch and into the home. It also makes watching the kids swim in the huge outdoor pool/spa lots more fun for parents and grandparents when it’s hot out. Downstairs is a covered full kitchen and outdoor grilling area, as well as a fitness room.

“The togetherness offered by this home is what makes it so desirable,” James said. “Plus, not only does the house have a great flow, it also has an elevator, which comes in handy for our older family members. The driveway includes lots of parking, which is such a commodity. We have enough parking for family and friends, and an even extra carport parking in addition to our garage.”

The couple says they officially became “locals” when they realized they love the island most during the off season. “We spent the past two holiday seasons in our Palmetto Dunes home,” Katie said. “The kids were swimming in the pool while I was cooking Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. We golfed on Thanksgiving Day.”

The couple has grown to love the neighborhood and the people in their community. They enjoy the restaurants nearby and at Shelter Cove, along with shopping and family events there. They additionally tout the benefits of working with the Buntings. They now share their home through vacation rentals, managed by Hilton Head Properties R&R.

“Robbie and Scott live up to everything this island projects,” Katie said. “They are not just a Realtor or contractor. They really rolled out the welcome mat and took us under their wings. They were and still are always available, whether we had a question about the home or the transaction, even if we just need a restaurant recommendation.”

Katie and James consider their Palmetto Dunes home their Covid miracle. Though the decision may have been risky and emotional, they took a gamble; they made it work.

“We come here and focus on family,” James said. “It’s been amazing, and we love it.”

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