The Cape Club

The Cape Club

March 15, 2024

Categories: Legends Magazine

Story by Hailey Wist
Above: An artist rendering shows the infinity pool and deck at The Cape Club. Design is subject to change.

At the edge of the maritime forest on the west end of Kiawah Island, a new amenity is taking shape. Today, the site bustles with construction, the sounds of hammers and drills echoing through the cool December air. Trident Construction project manager Nathan Stone hands out hard hats and Day-Glo vests to the group. We’ve gathered for a first look at The Cape Club, the newest chapter in the Kiawah Island story. In just a few months, the new beachside club will welcome Members. 

There is talent in attendance today. Cortney Bishop, an internationally recognized interior designer, has been involved with The Cape since its inception. She has shaped the look and feel of the project, the visual experience of the place. Renowned chef and Charleston darling Mike Lata, tapped as executive chef for The Cape Club restaurant, has envisioned the dining experience. 

This ambitious project represents the confluence of great talent. East West Partners (EWP), a national developer, partnered with San Francisco-based architect Hart Howerton to evolve the seven acres along Kiawah’s west end. The Cape will include six residential buildings with a total of seventy-eight luxury residences. At its center, The Cape Club will boast a beachside bar and restaurant, an infinity pool, a fitness center, and over 11,000 square feet of decking. The Club is the crown jewel of the larger project, an enhancement that will bring new flavor to the already impressive lineup of Club amenities on the Island. 

Nathan leads us up a sandy drive, crisscrossed by wide tire tracks, between two three-story residential buildings crawling with workers. As we walk toward the beach, a warm winter breeze cuts through the cold. We arrive at the back side of the new Club, and Nathan stops to explain the master layout and landscaping, painting the picture of a grand central lawn punctuated by palms and native plants. We climb a back stairwell, passing through what will be the kitchen of the restaurant and emerging onto a sunlit deck. The views are astounding. It feels as if we’re floating above the dunes, one hundred and eighty degrees of blue-green ocean sparkling on the horizon before us. 

Cortney takes the helm now, leading the group through the bar area and onto the vast deck. She and Mike sideline about various aspects of the restaurant, the flow of service, the size and capacity of the bar. For now, the concept is coastal Mexican with a focus on local fresh ingredients. Mike is a shining star of the national food scene. His two Charleston restaurants, FIG and The Ordinary, have graced the pages of many national publications. A multiple James Beard Award winner, he has appeared on The Today Show, Top Chef, Iron Chef America, and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. The Cape Club restaurant is Mike’s second collaboration with Kiawah Island Club. His inaugural project, B-Liner at The Beach Club, brought a new level of culinary excellence to the Island. “The Cape Club is a beautiful property that really speaks to bright, simple, flavorful cuisine,” he says. “We think coastal Mexican really hits the mark, not only for this property but as another amenity for the Kiawah Island Club.”

Cortney details the materials and color tones as she walks us toward the fitness center. “The interior palette is organic, with greens and light coastal beach colors, a lot of texture and stained woods,” she tells us. “I wanted it to be a little bit sexier and moodier, a little spice and flavor.” As we talk, workers are setting the forms for a series of large planters, the beginning of an elevated dining space taking shape. At this stage, the scene is all wood and concrete, but you can imagine the space trimmed with lush greenery and tall palms, the deck filled with chaises and sunbeds. “Imagine beautiful hues of pinks, burgundies, and rusts. There is this rustic safari vibe that plays to the natural beauty of the Island, the green ocean and the orange and pink of the sunsets,” she says.

Cortney pulls inspiration from a deeply personal experience of the Island. She spent her childhood coming to Kiawah, riding her bike to the old Straw Market, and exploring sandy roads on the backside of the Island by Jeep. She got married at The Beach Club, gathered with her nearest and dearest in the place she loves most. So when EWP approached her in 2018, she jumped at the opportunity to participate in The Cape project. “It was serendipitous,” she tells me. “I’ve been able to pull from my experience here to create something fresh and different.”

Kiawah Island Club COO Tom Nevin, Trident Construction Project Manager Nathan Stone, Cortney Bishop, and Mike Lata

The Cape has been touted as a “last of its kind” project, situated just east of Beachwalker Park at a convergence of the Kiawah River and the Atlantic Ocean. The maritime forest transitions to low-lying dunes and shrub thicket, a comely mix of green and tan, texture and foliage. As always on Kiawah, the “Designing with Nature” approach has informed the planning of the project since its inception. Exterior colors and materials will blend with the natural environment and appear folded within the landscape. “I want to build on this environmental awareness,” Cortney says. “Our ocean isn’t blue, it’s green. We’re surrounded by nature, beautiful trees. That’s where I wanted the interior palette to go.” A Kiawah safari indeed. 

The Cape Club will soon open its doors, marking the culmination of this collaborative vision and an ever-present commitment to blending development with the natural environment. Standing at the edge of the infinity pool in the slanted winter sun, we see a line of pelicans coasting along the water’s edge, riding the updraft. It’s easy to imagine reclining on a sun bed, sipping a margarita, and staring out at this view. — H.W.