Growing up in the Midwest, dreams were often filled with fantasies of what life would be like living near an ocean. The months of summer were often spent riding my bicycle as fast as I could, all-the-while making believe that the breeze and swaying corn husks were the rolling waves of the sea.
There is something very liberating about the ocean. So, it isn’t any wonder why I jumped at the opportunity to experience the 2018 Idea House of Coastal Living magazine. The magazine has been a mainstay of my cocktail table for many years. It has been a portal to what life at the coast might be like.
This year’s show house was located in the very charming neighborhood of Habersham in Beaufort, South Carolina. It is a 20 year-old community designed by a collaboration of New Urbanists with a specific goal in mind: walkability. A mixture of bungalows and manor homes share the sidewalks within the core of commerce and life. It is a place where neighbors actually speak to one another. (A rather retro-concept, by today’s agenda…) Architecturally, the homes possess the hallmarks of their low country heritage (metal roofs, lap siding, front & rear porches), yet they are equipped with modern amenities and scale for today’s lifestyle.
Eric Moser is Habersham’s town urbanist and the architectural designer of the 2018 Idea House. He worked in tandem with interior designer Jenny Keenan of Charleston. While the house is less than 3000 square feet, it is big with comfort and sensibility.
I couldn’t help but hesitate a moment or two on the front porch. The view was right out of a southern-Gothic novel: The live-oak trees were dripping with Spanish moss and seemed to tip-toe to the surrounding marshland. No corn fields here. It was enchanting without even opening the front door.
Upon entry, I was transported from my moment of nostalgia to a current episode of a home network show: before me was the ever so-desirable “open floor plan”. Yes, the kitchen, dining area, and living area were all one. The little segregated rooms which are often associated with a bungalow-style home were gone.
It was nice. It was fresh.
Keenan had selected a dark peacock-blue grasscloth wallpaper as the springboard of the décor’s palette. Even the trim was painted this same color, contrasting with the bright white of the ceiling and limed oak floors. The windows seemed to frame the breathtaking views. I could only imagine what it must be like to see each season through them.
Attached to this same area was a beautiful screened porch. It acted as an extension of the space, rather than a separate room. It, too, enjoyed phenomenal views of the adjacent marshland. Cocktail parties, birthday parties, and family reunions would all be a major success in this home. Everyone would feel a part of the gathering, no matter where you might be seated.
As a fellow interior designer, I was intrigued by the color scheme and patterns found throughout the home. Keenan did not go down the path of the expected blue-and-white color palette with loads of seashells, sailboats, and fish motifs. Such was nearly non-existent. ---Instead, it was kaleidoscope of colors, all reflective of the surrounding environment. While some of the patterns sported a near-retro motif, they all had a current appeal to them. This was truly the work of a seasoned professional.
The master bedroom suite was everything one would hope it would be. A quiet sanctuary located on the main level, at the rear of the house. With its own covered porch in tow, it felt very private and serene. The low-threshold shower and adjacent closet/laundry made aging in place possible.
Up the stairs I journeyed. The bright white shiplap walls and wood ceiling reflected the natural light of the clerestory windows. Yes, this looked like and felt like a coastal home. It was most appropriate and the perfect “hyphen” between the first and second floors.
The second floor was the “guest suites”. The bedrooms shared a comfortable den which featured a mixture of pop-art, mid-century modern upholstery, and views of the surrounding live-oak trees. Nothing trite here. Instead, it felt like it could be in any modern setting. I really, really like it!
A stroll about the property soon revealed a couple of delightful entertaining spots. Each taking full advantage of the incredible marshland views and potential water breezes.
A sense of calm seemed to prevail.
I wanted to sit and relax.
I wanted to breathe the air and hear the rustle of the Spanish moss.
I wanted to sip a glass of wine with a friend.
I wanted to share dreams.
Perhaps, this is a consequence of coastal living. Perhaps, it is something we should all do-- no matter our address.