A Charlotte-area couple builds a second home in which they can’t help but relax.
You won’t find a single basket of shells or miniature palm tree at this oceanfront Isle of Palms, S.C. vacation home. Yet, the minute you walk in, you know you’re at the very beachiest of beach houses. And it was designed that way. When a Charlotte-area couple decided to build a seaside escape, they went with their tried-and-true. They hired their long-time designer, David Smith of Custom Interiors, to bring their vision to life. Smith and the couple practically communicate telepathically. “We’ve worked together on many projects,” Smith says. “They trust me.” The trust runs so deep, in fact, that the pair told their architect, Herlong & Associates, to allow Smith leeway to make changes to the blueprints. “I’ve never had that happen,” Smith says. “The architect gave us a beautiful exterior and a basic interior layout based on the needs of the client. It was up to me to design the interiors.” “If the walls needed to be moved to accommodate the furnishings or open a space up or allow for better views, I had that freedom,” he continues. “I was able to design all the interior elements from the walls, handrails, lighting, tile, cabinetry, countertops, decorative beams, and furnishings – all with amazing support from the builder and architect. My clients let me roll with it.” Smith and his clients made the decision to have few walls on the main level. Beyond the extra-large foyer is what Smith describes as “one grand room”. “It stretches the full width of the house,” he says. “It contains the dining room, family room, kitchen, and even the butler’s pantry. Big, sliding doors give an uninterrupted view of the beach.” Also on the main level are two guest suites with private baths as well as a powder room. Lots of natural wood and light, creamy taupes, pale blues, soft browns, and grays – and a complete lack of visual clutter – provide a sedate backdrop for a vacation home meant to induce utter relaxation. Plenty of white space gives the furnishings and art room to breathe. And it reminds homeowners and guests that an oceanfront house is a place to let out a big exhale. As elegant as it is, the couple originally planned on something grander. At first, this house was conceived as the guesthouse. They planned to build it first and then use their land on the adjacent lot to build the main house. But Smith explains that the homeowners fell in love with its comfort, so they no longer needed the second build. “Even though it’s a sizable house, there’s an intimacy to it. It’s relaxing. They decided this was exactly what they wanted.” It’s easy to see why. Their architect designed what Smith calls a “Lowcountry farmhouse with a vintage Southern spin.” “It fits in with its seaside environment, but it doesn’t scream ‘beach house.’” It’s built in the Southern farmhouse vernacular – but with every upgrade imaginable. Yes, the front porch is there. But it’s oversized for outdoor living. A ground-level veranda has a luxurious living area and a dining table that seats eight. The interior, heavy on neutrals and pecky cypress, is designed to soothe – not excite. “One of my client’s only directives was that she wanted to see soft colors,” Smith says. “And that’s the palette I’m most comfortable working in. There’s nothing too bold or loud in this house. There’s nothing wrong with either of those, but this house was designed to be calm and quiet.
The owners have three adult sons and can’t help but dream of the grandkids they hope to welcome to the beach one day. Those future grandchildren were very much taken into consideration in the home’s design. The home’s second story has one guest suite and a showstopping bunk suite with four built-in beds and a boys’ bathroom and a girls’ bathroom. On the upper level there are two master suites with balconies overlooking the pool, landscaped backyard, and ocean beyond. An elevator provides easy transport from one level to the next. Smith managed to pull off the nifty trick of making a house both grand and down-to-earth. As sophisticated as it is, the house is alsowhat he calls “very casual and lived-in.” “This is not a hands-off atmosphere,” he declares. Wicker chairs at the oversized kitchen island, shiplap walls painted a creamy white, and a minimalist aesthetic all combine to make the home feel like a place you want to be barefoot. A beach house doesn’t need to have a beachy theme to remind owners and guests they’re at the shore. In the case of this classic oceanfront home, the wall of windows overlooking the sand and sea do the job quite nicely. The sound of ocean waves crashing against the shore and seagulls chirping overhead is its own kind of symphony.
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