A veteran gaming designer voted into the Pinball Hall of Fame in 2004, Joe Kaminkow’s future vacation home was always bound to be playful. True to expectation, the Kiawah Island, South Carolina, getaway he shares with wife Benita Riley Kaminkow, a retired attorney, embraces arcade ambience—right down to a game room tripped out with a billiard table and, of course, plentiful pinball machines.
Guests catch wind of the retreat’s lively nature right from its breezy entryway, where a collaborative canvas by Detroit artist Christopher Franchi and Park City, Utah, artist DeVon—one of numerous artworks Joe commissioned for the residence—sets an upbeat tone with a cartoon likeness of Richie Rich cannonballing into the swimming pool. In the foreground of the piece, a sharp-suited man carries a tray laden with Diet Coke—Benita’s beverage of choice. Nearby, a riff on an iconic Andy Warhol series depicting “killer shrimp soup” serves as a nod to Joe’s favorite restaurant in Marina del Rey, California. To bring in the vibrancy of their primary home in Las Vegas, Joe says: “Works by Nelson De La Nuez, Michael Bryan, LeRoy Neiman, Steve Kaufman and Olivia De Berardinis round out the mix.”
Tapping interior designer Laura Page Bischofberger to follow this pop art thread was a no-brainer, as the clients had already worked with her design firm before. Regular visitors to Kiawah Island, the Kaminkows were vacationing at a local resort appointed by Bischofberger’s colleagues when they learned of a beachfront property for sale. Authored by architect Wayne Windham, the abode boasts traditional coastal hallmarks like high ceilings, shiplap walls and free-flowing spaces. And thanks to the timing of their shoreside purchase, the couple could tweak Windham’s three-story residence to their specialized requests.
“We wanted it to feel like an extension of Charleston, but with a new vocabulary—nothing antiquated or stuffy,” says Bischofberger of her fresh coastal approach with fellow designer Emily Walsh, which capitalized on the beachy palette of ocean blues and sandy hues their clients love. Bischofberger and Walsh’s regional references include entryway floors inlaid with a bright geometric motif—a modern take on the painted floors often seen in historical homes—and a kitchen featuring terrazzo-style quartz countertops embedded with an amalgam of recycled glass chips and oyster shells, lending a subtle nod to local vernacular.
Utilizing a material inspired by old-fashioned tabby—think shellstone—for the great room fireplace was another selection rooted in sense of place. Centuries ago in the Lowcountry, “They built foundations out of tabbies: essentially cement mixtures combined with oyster shells,” says Bischofberger, who relied upon builder Scott Koenig to execute a host of architectural changes, including revising the floor plan to make room for a workout area, massage room and small office within the primary suite.
Bischofberger and Walsh appointed such spaces with a stated goal of connecting the interiors to the seascape beyond. Finishing touches such as a handwoven rug customized to mimic the sand and ocean tides bring balance to the great room complete with a reclaimed timber ceiling. “Thanks to the architect’s vision, the windows are so well positioned it’s like being on a cruise ship; all you see is water,” adds Bischofberger, who teamed with Walsh to place an oversize, sand-toned sectional large enough for both Benita and Joe to lounge comfortably. Meanwhile, an oak sideboard with a driftwood finish buffers the sofa and breaks up the sea of upholstery while doing double duty as a dining area storage piece.
In this spot, wooden dining chairs with a woven texture mimic the sweetgrass baskets common in the area. For more literal allusions to the coastal surroundings, Joe commissioned an iconic Scabetti glass fish chandelier for the dining area and tapped a friend, Nubia Palacios Mora, to fashion a bespoke sea turtle motif for the new home—an emblem now emblazoning spa towels, floor mats, even the license plates on beach cruisers. The latter are in great demand when any number of the couple’s five children and six grandchildren come to visit—as is the playful bunk room, where a removable slide between the teal-colored beds keeps the good times rolling.
Successfully capturing both spouses, the resulting harmony of high style and whimsy is perfectly suited to a client who built his career on leisurely pastimes. Sums Bischofberger of the getaway: “It’s a place where you can kick off your shoes and relax, but still know you are somewhere designed with intention.”