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Beautiful Family Home on Kiawah Island

As relaxed as the lazy tides at its doorstep, a Carolina home designed by Melanie Turner cocoons a family with memories, mementos, and meaning  

Written by Mara Boo
  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Before they built their getaway on South Carolina’s Kiawah Island, before they gathered for home-cooked dinners in its proper dining room (not the kitchen, ever!), and before their three teenage kids decided the living room banquette is the best place to play card games, Leah and Gee Aldridge bought a painting—massive, vividly colored, and depicting a group of villagers fishing. “The painting is of the sea,” Leah says, “but it’s really about communing, connecting, and gathering.” 

    Next to the fireplace, a white-painted, open-back chair and an ottoman covered in Schumacher fabric nestle beneath a painting by America Martin. 

    Photography: Emily Jenkins Followill

    Architect: Christopher Rose, Christopher Rose Architects, 3509 Meeks Farm Road, Johns Island, SC 29455; 843/559-7670;
    Interior designer: Melanie Turner, ASID, Melanie Turner Interiors, 425 Peachtree Hills Ave., Suite 31A, Atlanta, GA 30305; 404/250-0134;
    Builder: Nolan V. Sires Construction, Charleston, South Carolina; 843/729-6992.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Pretty Living Room

    The same could be said for the house she and Gee eventually built around that painting. “We began collecting for this house eight or nine years before it even existed,” Leah says. “By the time we moved in, we had plenty of pieces that represented our family, our travels, and our life.” Among them are the living room rug purchased in Turkey, the World War II posters hanging in her Churchill War Rooms museum-loving son’s bedroom, and glassware identical to glasses the family sipped from while vacationing in France. They include a framed gallery of oversize photos taken on a Florida beach in 1958—the very beach where Leah’s parents met while on spring break in, you guessed it, 1958. Even the master bedroom’s custom bookcase is filled with memories—or, more -precisely, conch shells. “Ever since our honeymoon, my husband has been skin diving and pulling up conch shells for me,” Leah says. “I have 25 years’ worth.” 

    The living room’s Oly chandelier floats above a glass coffee table. The sofa is from Lee Industries; window treatments are Duralee sheers. 

    Wall paint “Sea Pearl”: Benjamin Moore;
    Sofa “Two Cushion Skirted Sofa,” upholstered club chairs 3701: Lee Industries;
    White chair discontinued, coffee table discontinued, similar items available: Julian Chichester;
    Ottoman discontinued: Bradley;
    Window sheers: Duralee;
    Side tables discontinued: Hickory Chair Co.;
    Chandelier “Serena Rustic Chandelier”: Oly;
    Framed artwork above fireplace: America Martin;
    Table base “Wire Basket”: Design Legacy;
    Tabletop: Bradley;
    Artwork above banquette: homeowners’ collection.
    Sconces flanking artwork “Arras Cone Wall Light”: Vaughan Designs;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Breezy Banquette

    She also has definite ideas about living on the water. “This may be a beach house, but it’s still a home,” she says—which is why, though open, airy, and flooded with light, the house is more traditional and cozier than might be expected. “I wanted spaces where my family could commune, not where we’d feel overwhelmed in a loud, cavernous room,” Leah says. “I wanted us to linger around a dining table the way you do in a restaurant—not line up for dinner at a breakfast bar where we’d look at a refrigerator instead of each other.” 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Crisp Kitchen

    That meant separating the kitchen from the living room and creating an actual dining room by building a wall that blocks the beach view. “It was the best design decision we made,” Leah says. 

    Brass-lined custom light fixtures by Avrett are suspended above a waterfall island crafted of Calacatta Gold Extra marble. Custom bar stools wear a combination of green leather from Jerry Pair and white vinyl by Castel. 

    Cabinetry custom: ECR Joinery;
    Range hood custom: Melanie Turner Interiors;
    Lighting custom: Avrett;
    Range, refrigerator: Subzero and Wolf;
    Dishwasher: Bosch;
    Leather for chair back “In the Moo’d” in Grass: Jerry Pair & Associates;
    Vinyl for chair seats “Bragard” in Creme: Castel;
    Barstools custom: homeowners’ collection.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Dining Room

    It was also a seminal design decision, as the couple’s beloved painting—created by muralist Jorge Guy—now hangs on that same wall. The painting’s bright blues and greens sail through the house as cheerful counterpoints to mostly white rooms.

    A pair of custom dining tables by Bradley USA allows for versatility. One table perfectly accommodates the Aldridges’ family of five; together, the tables make entertaining larger groups a breeze. 

    Table custom: Bradley;
    Chairs custom: homeowners’ collection.
    Leather for chair back “In the Moo’d” in Grass: Jerry Pair & Associates;
    Vinyl for chair seats “Bragard” in Creme: Castel;
    Rug discontinued: Designer Carpets;
    Chandelier “Pelle Long Bubble Chandelier”: Y Lighting;
    Wall sculptures discontinued: Tommy Mitchell;
    Framed artwork by Jorge Guy: homeowners’ collection.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill


    Anchored by dark wood floors and enveloped by waves of white walls, interiors are calmed by a lack of pattern save for pillows, artwork, and the occasional carpet. Still, while it feels relaxed, it isn’t exactly beachy. “You won’t find starfish and anchors here,” says interior designer Melanie Turner. “This lives like—and looks like—a full-time house.”  

    Between the kitchen and dining room, a custom concrete console table by Bradley USA rests beneath driftwood from Bali.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Gorgeous Bar

    To wit, beautifully crafted architectural detailing prevails, from the living room’s richly embellished ceiling treatment to marble-framed kitchen windows. Draperies and accessories layer rooms with visual warmth. “Most beach houses are more sparse,” Turner says, “but Leah leans toward the traditional, so that’s the direction we went.”

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Green Office

    Painted in Benjamin Moore’s “Amazon Moss,” Leah’s kitchen office features a desk by ECR Joinery and a Design Within Reach chair.

    Wall paint “Amazon Moss”: Benjamin Moore;
    Desk custom: ECR Joinery;
    Chair “Herman Miller—Eames Aluminum Management Chair ”: Design Within Reach;
    Lamp discontinued, similar items available: Arteriors Home;
    Chevron chest of drawers discontinued: Bernhardt Furniture;
    Framed artwork: Wendover Art;
    Lamp “Calhoun”: Arteriors Home;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Porch Living

    Even so, the house acknowledges its scenic locale—along with its trio of teenage occupants and their big, black, four-legged companion named Daisy. “Yes, there’s a lot of white furniture in this house,” Turner says, “but much of it is upholstered in indoor-outdoor fabric or leather-look vinyl. Leah wanted the kids to be able to come in wet from the beach and sit down anywhere they want.” 

    A woven sectional on the porch is accommodating for the whole family.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Porch Dining

    She also wanted the house to honor South Carolina’s rich heritage of artisan craftsmanship. Thus, hand-forged iron light fixtures were custom-designed for both interior and exterior spaces, and venerable Charleston antiques are juxtaposed with less serious pieces. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Powder Room

    Patterned marble evokes sand and sea in the brass-accented powder room. 

    Cabinet custom: homeowners’ collection.
    Sconce discontinued, similar available: Currey & Co.;
    Mirror discontinued, similar available: Made Goods;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Entry Hall 

    A custom hanging lantern illuminates the foyer, where a Designer Carpets stair runner climbs each flight. 

    Sconce “Selfoss” in Bronze/Gold by Circa Lighting, hanging lantern “Bedons Alley Chandelier,” custom by Peyton Avrett: Avrett Lighting;
    Stair carpet “42 Gala” in Blue/White: Designer Carpets;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Master Bedroom

    Of course, the biggest juxtaposition of all just might be the difference between life in Atlanta, where the Aldridges reside most of the year, and Kiawah Island, their chosen escape. “The rhythm of our life changes dramatically at the beach,” Leah says.

    Farrow and Ball’s “Mole’s Breath” cocoons the master bedroom. The upholstered bed is from Hickory Chair; lamps are from Circa Lighting. 

    Wall paint “Mole’s Breath”: Farrow & Ball;
    Bed “Montauk,” discontinued: Hickory Chair;
    Side table discontinued, similar items available: Hickory White;
    Lamp discontinued, similar items available: Circa Lighting;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Stylish Showcase

    “Things slow down,” Leah says. “We’re not running around in the car; we’re riding our bikes. We hang up our baseball bats and lacrosse cleats so we can read and swim and paddleboard and surf. And I cook. A lot!”

    The bedroom's custom bookcase is filled with sentimental treasures.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Her Master Bath

    The house features two master bathrooms. Leah’s includes a marble-topped vanity and a separate dressing table.

    Fabric for Roman shade “Garden of Persia” in Blush Conch, F. Schumacher & Co.;
    Wall mirror BW3006: Mirror Image Home;
    Sconces flanking mirror “Camille”: Circa Lighting;
    Makeup chair custom: homeowners’ collection.
    Vinyl for chair seat “Bragard” in Creme: Castel;
    Cabinetry custom: ECR Joinery;
    Faucets discontinued: Waterworks;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Her Bath

    A glamorous soaking tub and framed artwork complete the feminine retreat.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    His Bath

    The blue-gray cabinetry in Gee's bathroom is crisp and sophisticated.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Boy’s Bedroom

    King-size beds ensure the children’s bedrooms can double as guest rooms. The brass trunk-style nightstand is from Bernhardt. 

    Wall paint “Van Courtland Blue”: Benjamin Moore;
    Trunk table “Argos Chairside Table”: Bernhardt Furniture;
    Lamp discontinued, similar available as “Dale”: Arteriors Home;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Blue Bedroom

    A surfboard above the bed nods to the home's location. A large black-and-white mirror adds a graphic touch.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Chevron Chest

    A quartet of black-and-white art from Wendover hangs above an eye-catching chevron-pattern chest in the bedroom. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Black-and-White Bathroom

    Black accents dot the adjoining bathroom.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Soothing Retreat

    Bedrooms walls wearing a whisper of blue coordinate with the upholstered headboard.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Desk Area

    Curved legs and scalloped details lend feminine flair to a petite desk nestled into a bedroom nook.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Blue Bathroom

    The bedroom's soothing scheme continues in the bathroom. Coral-look sconces add a touch of beachy flair.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Pretty Bedroom

    You could just melt right into this dreamy gray bedroom. Nailhead trim enhances the curves of the headboard.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Window Seat

    A cozy window seat provides the perfect perch for watching the waves or snuggling up with a book.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Pretty Bathroom

    A flowered sconce and light pink drapery panel give this bathroom a distinctly feminine feel.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill


    A separate guesthouse with an elliptical staircase pampers visitors while ensuring privacy for the Aldridge family. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Guest House

    The guest cottage living area is a showcase of textures. Woven chairs cozy up to a Lucite table for dining. A kitchenette completes the retreat. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Bunk Room

    A green-and-gray palette rules the bunk room, which is perfect for slumber parties.

    “Being together is what this house is all about for us,” Leah says. “It’s about spending time and making memories. It’s about gathering.” 

    Just like the painting on the dining room wall. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Rear Exterior

    Gabled, shingled, and trimmed in white, the Aldridge family’s Kiawah Island vacation home—designed by architect Christopher Rose—is just steps from the water and features a deck that offers expansive views.

  • Designer

    Melanie Turner was one of Traditional Home’s 2012 class of New Trad designers.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill