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Soothing, Elegant Vacation Home

A Bucks County, Pennsylvania, couple leave their cares—but not their style—behind when they head to South Carolina’s Kiawah Island

Written by Mara Boo
  • Erica Dines

    If the notion of seaside decor conjures navy-and-white rooms accented by nautical kitsch, consider, instead, the Kiawah Island getaway of Chris and Tom Motamed. With nary a sailboat nor bright stripe in sight, the couple’s Shingle-style home leans in an unexpectedly formal, rather than beachy, direction. “We wanted an elegant house,” says Tom, “but one that would allow you to put your feet up and relax.”

    Which is precisely what they got, courtesy of interior designer Tammy Connor—with whom the Motameds have already collaborated on five homes. “We understand each other, that’s for sure,” Connor says. “Chris and Tom wanted this house to be nice, but not precious. Even though it’s filled with quality things, it has an approachable casualness.”

    The distressed chest in the entry evokes a similarly carefree air.  

    Photography: Erica Dines
    Produced by Jenny Bradley Pfeffer

    Interior designer: Tammy Connor, Tammy Connor Interior Design, 2336 20th Ave. S., Birmingham, AL 35223; 205/871-9797,   

    Chest of drawers: owner’s collection.
    Pair of lamps: Parc Monceau,
    Butterfly garden under glass: Alexandra AD, 843/722-4897.  

  • Erica Dines

    Sitting Room

    A gaggle of grandsons—four under the age of 12, to be exact—proves her point. “They love running up and down the stairs from the bottom to the top and around again—preferably with the dog chasing them,” says Chris with a laugh. Never mind that they whiz past family heirlooms, antiques, and fine furnishings that less relaxed grandparents might leap to protect. “No calamities yet!” says Tom. 

    Painted floors and informal furnishings add a casual grace to the sitting room.

    Drapery and striped cushion on ottoman (“Montana”/Turf #910017-03): Rogers & Goffigon,
    Drapery hardware: Iron Studio,
    Hanging lantern (vintage): Hollywood at Home,
    Upholstered sofa; floor lamp; wicker ottoman; upholstered chair: owner’s collection.
    Blue pillow on sofa (Mimosa” #MV01): Carolina Irving Textiles,
    Floral pillow on sofa (“Katsuri Flowers”/Matcha, Collection EB-01, by RP Miller): Hollywood At Home,
    Art behind sofa (painting of green tree, by Paule Marrot): owner’s collection.
    Basket on ottoman: A. Tyner Antiques,
    Pillow on chair (remnant): Tammy Connor Interior Design,
    Pillow trim (“1-inch Liège Linen Brush Fringe”/Natural #983-45774-04): Samuel & Sons,
    Console table at window (wood console with stretchers, product line varies): South of Market,   

  • Erica Dines

    Sitting Room

    Tom's calm is matched by the soothing hues of the home’s interiors. Inspired by the Lowcountry’s earthy colors—marshes that transition with the seasons from summer’s greens to the yellows of fall and the taupey browns of winter, along with the deep blue-green of the Atlantic Ocean—the hues unite, visually and literally, with their natural surroundings. “The colors invite the outside in,” Connor says. “There’s no competition. When you survey these rooms, your eye connects right to the exteriors.” 

  • Erica Dines

    Living Room

    A series of French doors, terraces, and decks magnifies the effect, ushering the outdoors into practically every room. So does the home’s most generous gesture—floors, walls, and ceilings embellished with shiplap, wainscot, beams, and coffers, lending what Tom calls a “tree house” effect. “This house is full of wood,” Connor says. “It provides texture that painted drywall never could. It also gives it that older, simpler, less formal feel.”

    Indeed, the rusticity tempers the more refined aspects of furnishings, fabrics, artwork, and accessories. So does an inspired mix of styles, textures, periods, and provenance. “Things in this house don’t necessarily match perfectly, but they work well in combination,” Connor says. “Along with new pieces, we incorporated family heirlooms, things from their other houses, and antiques. You get an extra layer of warmth and depth from different time periods and different types of materials. It doesn’t look like we went to five furniture stores in one weekend and just bought everything.”

    A pair of back-to-back sofas from Dessin Fournir marry well with antiques and a neutral palette peppered with dashes of sophisticated color.

    Paint (“Oyster Shell”): Sherwin-Williams,
    Drapery (“Score”/Fawn 10): Norbar Fabrics,
    Drapery trim (“2-inch Oxford Border”/Bisque, Cream #977-36358-02): Samuel & Sons,
    Drapery hardware: Iron Studio,
    Chandelier (custom): Tammy Connor Interior Design,
    Area rug (custom): Eve & Staron Studio,
    Spool chair (antique): English Accent Antiques,
    Spool-chair fabric (“Hammond” #F3627-08, by Colefax and Fowler, colorway discontinued): Cowtan & Tout,
    Coffee table (“Madison” #6061, custom size): Paul Ferrante,
    Box on coffee table: Max & Co.,
    Sofa (“Paige Sofa” #KJ0903, by Kerry Joyce); sofa fabric (“Montrose”/Straw #1232/02, by ClassicCloth): Dessin Fournir,
    Blanket on back of sofa (vintage textile): Pat McGann Gallery,
    Ivory-patterned pillows on sofa (“Oxus” #R0493, silk): Robert Kime,
    Blue pillowsSteven Harsey Textiles,
    Trim on blue pillows (custom, #968-1): Smith & Brighty,
    Table at left of sofa (antique Spanish Work table): English Accent Antiques,
    Table lamp: Edgar-Reeves,
    Art over mantel (by Edgar Hunt): antique.   

  • Erica Dines

    Game Room

    A similar flexibility answered the couple’s request that Connor provide a medley of decorative moods. “Diversity of room styles was something we really wanted,” Tom says. “We’re both from the North, so even though this is a beach house, we wanted to be able to experience the familiarity of a cabin in the woods.” And so, while the light and airy living room is enveloped in creamy white and furnished with pale sofas, linen draperies, and French antiques, the game room alludes to colder climes, courtesy of paneled walls and a plaid rug. “I tend to think of rooms the way I think of seasons or the differences between night and day,” Connor says. “The living room feels like a bright, sunny day; the game room is just a bit heavier, like nighttime.”

    Located on the ground floor, the game room shrugs off the antics of bathing suit-clad kids. A quartet of upholstered chairs—rather than a more predictable pair of sofas—surrounds a put-your-feet-up coffee table. 

    Area rug (custom, flatweave #140 500-059): Eve & Staron,
    Lounge chairs (#3907-01): Lee Industries,
    Chair fabric: Giati,
    Pillows on lounge chairs (“Devonshire”/Blue, Green #JP 6420, by Jasper): Michael S Smith Inc,
    Coffee table (antique): English Accent Antiques,
    Long cabinet (antique, French Ash and Pine enfilade with original finish): owner’s collection.
    Bar stools: Foxglove Antiques & Galleries,
    Drapery: custom.
    Drapery hardware: Iron Studio,
    Billiard table;  counter stools to right of billiard table: owner’s collection.
    Counter-stool fabric (“Cottage Tweed”/Lime #DE10559): Holland & Sherry,
    Table between counter stools: Artistic Birmingham Iron, 205/226-8822.

  • Erica Dines

    Dining Room

    In the dining room, an heirloom silver tea set flanked by crystal lamps rests atop an early American sideboard. The could-have-been-imposing vignette is softened and freshened by a stunning Gracie wallpaper blooming in pretty profusion and a grass rug bound in leather. Even the walnut dining table, dignified as it is, welcomes the swipe of a sponge. “When everyone’s around the table together, you know they’re going to be there for a long time,” Connor says. “I wanted this to be a really nice place to sit for hours on end—somewhat feminine and very comfortable.”

    A decorative bridge between the living room and kitchen, this space is perhaps the most formal in the house. The dining chairs are cloaked in cotton. 

    Wallpaper (#SY-200, customized): Gracie,
    Sisal area rug (“Agave Superior”/Caramel, with leather binding): Merida,
    Chandelier (antique, 18th-century giltwood): Foxglove Antiques & Galleries,
    Drapery (“Petite Fleur”/Cashew #1006-01): Kerry Joyce Textiles,
    Dining table; chairs; silver coffee and tea set: owner’s collection.
    Chair fabric (“Palmerstone”/Sunflower #1128/03, by ClassicCloth): Dessin Fournir,
    Sideboard (antique): Tucker Payne Antiques,
    Mirror above sideboard (antique giltwood): Mrs. Howard,
    Lamps on sideboard (midcentury with turned form): Parc Monceau,

  • Erica Dines

    Casual Kitchen

    For all its graciousness, the dining room sidles easily against the far more casual kitchen—in this house, as in most others, everyone’s favorite place to gather. “And that’s really saying something,” Connor notes, “because there are many, many places for everyone to be together in this house!” Spacious, sunlit, and a showcase for Tom’s culinary talents (“Tom loves to cook, and I love to watch him,” jokes Chris), its ivory cabinets, Calacatta Gold marble countertops, and shimmering, watery-tone backsplash tiles honor both sand and sea. “The colors are soft and the feeling is peaceful,” Connor says.

    Wide-plank oak covers the floors. Handmade glazed ceramic tiles climb the range wall. Iron light fixtures from Charleston-based Urban Electric Co. and iron-framed bar stools honor the Lowcountry’s metalworking heritage. 

    Wall, trim, and ceiling paint (“Tapestry Beige” #OC-32): Benjamin Moore,
    Cabinetry: custom.
    Cabinetry hardware: Rocky Mountain Hardware,
    Countertop: Calacatta Gold.
    Tile on range wall; sink in island: Waterworks,
    Range; wall ovens: Wolf,
    Microwave: Miele,
    Pot-filler faucet: Newport Brass,
    Island faucet (#1030): Barber Wilson,
    Hanging lanterns over island (“Urban Smokebell”/Small #MA-9106HS): Urban Electric Co.,
    Counter stools (#F24 Rush Bar Stool”): Laura Lee Designs,
    Brass scales: English Accent Antiques,
    French Tian bowl: Foxglove Antiques & Galleries,

  • Erica Dines

    Keeping Room

    The adjacent keeping room is equally evocative. Crowned by a delightfully adorned ceiling, it expresses the home’s hallmark ability to cocoon Chris and Tom in cozy comfort as effortlessly as it accommodated the 16 overnight guests they hosted last Thanksgiving. With spaces both ample and intimate, “It’s great for large groups,” says Tom, “but you can also go and find a quiet corner for yourself when you need to.”

    A pinnacle of the home’s shiplap-clad design, the keeping room is Chris and Tom’s favorite spot to enjoy morning coffee. “The fireplace gives it a hearth-and-home feeling,” interior designer Tammy Connor says. 

    Wall, trim, and ceiling paint (“Tapestry Beige” #OC-32): Benjamin Moore,
    Drapery (“Nebula”/Antares #92534-06): Rogers & Goffigon,
    Drapery hardware (color: Camo Brown): Iron Studio,
    Chandelier (“French Single Tier Chandelier”/Large #515C): Scofield Lighting,
    Dining table: owner’s collection.
    Dining chairs (“Chesapeake Arm” #21-0905-A, and “Chesapeake Side #21-0905-S): David Iatesta,
    Seat cushions on dining chairs (“Fiji”/Lagoon #2308/03); wing-chair fabric (“Bloomsbury”/Kiwi #3005/02): Rose Tarlow- Melrose House,
    Wing chairs (“Hollyhock Barrel Back Chair” #HHH-07): Hollyhock,
    Ottoman in front of mantel (antique): Tucker Payne Antiques,
    Ottoman fabric (“Penzance”/Terracotta #1234/04, by ClassicCloth); Dessin Fournir,
    Art over mantel; hurricanes on mantel: owner’s collection.
    Mantel: original to home.
    Rattan chest under window: A. Tyner Antiques,
    Table to left of wing chair (antique): English Accent Antiques,
    Lamp on table (iron-and-brass student lamp, product line varies): Edgar-Reeves,

  • Erica Dines


    The chestnut walls of the office add a layer of warmth to the space. "This is more of a 'nighttime' room with heavier textures to make you feel cozier and enveloped," says designer Tammy Connor. 

  • Erica Dines

    Powder Room

    A powder room tucks perfectly inside the rounded space near the front door.

  • Erica Dines


    The sophisticated new vacation home, designed by architect Christopher Rose, convincingly displays always-been-there charm courtesy of rich architectural millwork and a mix of rustic and refined materials. 

    Stair railing: custom.
    Carpet on stairs (custom, flatweave with leather binding): Eve & Staron Studio,
    Chandelier (“Karlin Hall Lantern” #6055): Dessin Fournir,

  • Erica Dines


    Gorgeous wood walls and worn furnishings lend a dose of rusticity to this space. "We used a lot of antique tables and sideboards, but incorporated more up-to-date pieces—like leather chairs with down cushions—where comfort counted," says Connor. 

  • Erica Dines

    Game Table

    An antique game table and chairs sit in a sunny nook of the study.

  • Erica Dines

    Master Bedroom

    The peaceful master bedroom is a study in contrasts. Textured ceilings, along with linen and cotton fabrics, are down-home elements; fringe-embellished, damask curtains are elegant additions. The woven linen rug is by Elizabeth Eakins. 

  • Erica Dines

    Master Bath

    In the master bath, pale gray vanity cabinetry with furniture style legs is paired with the Calacatta Gold marble counters and floor for a stunning effect.

  • Erica Dines

    Master Bath

    "The master bath is a balancing act, where shiplap siding and an antiqued nickel tub are about adding warmth to cold stone surfaces," says Tammy Connor. A striped linen roman shade provides privacy; a terrycloth cushion plumps the antique chair.

  • Erica Dines

    Master Bath

    The master bathroom shower overlooks the lagoon and beach. The spacious, octagonal shower has Calacatta Gold marble walls and a custom mosaic tile floor.

  • Erica Dines

    Guest Bedroom

    A seemingly collected-over-time assembly of plates floats above a bed dressed in checked linens. 

    Bed; bench; decorative plates on wall (antique); chest beside bed (antique); table lamp: owner’s collection. 

  • Erica Dines

    Neutral Bedroom

    Soothing neutrals welcome guests in one of the home's many bedrooms.

  • Erica Dines

    Gingham Bedroom

    In this bedroom, gingham curtains can be drawn on the window, and even around the wooden canopy bed, to create the ultimate cozy spot for sleeping.

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    The bunkroom, with it's classic blue-and-white palette, is a wonderful space for the Motamed's four grandsons.

  • Erica Dines

    Window Seat

    A second-story window seat with a deep cushion is an accommodating space that beckons for a good book and a nap!

  • Erica Dines

    Poolside Lounging

    For all its yin and yang, the house is distinguished by a continuity that extends to its outdoor terraces. Capturing a trifecta of stunning ocean, golf course, and lagoon views, these spaces beckon lemonade- and sweet-tea-drinkers to while away an afternoon or to gather in front of a massive stone fireplace on chilly, starlit eves.

  • Erica Dines


    A tree-stump table topped with zinc hails from Mecox Gardens.

    Round table (product line varies): Mecox Gardens,
    Hanging lantern (“Belmont”/Regular #MM-3900HR); wall lanterns on fireplace (“Ravenspoint”/Regular #UE-3100WR): Urban Electric Co.,
    Wicker chairs (Vineyard’s Arbor Chair”): Mainly Baskets,
    Chair-seat fabric (“Paddington Stripe”/Oxford #205-210): Perennials,
    Pillows; armillary; log basket: owner’s collection.  

  • Erica Dines

    Lovely Terrace

    Cushioned rattan chairs assembled in the best of Southern porch tradition provide front-row seats for enjoying the Lowcountry’s scenic charms. “All I can think of when we leave is the next time we get to come back,” Tom says. A comforting thought indeed.

    Terraces paved with bluestone include a rattan-filled porch, shown here, plus an outdoor kitchen, a dining area, and a pool. Natural materials and a subtle color scheme allow for a seamlessness between indoors and out.

    Chairs: owner’s collection.
    Chair fabric (“Gondola”/Tan #DL4001-12): DeLany & Long,
    Large pillows on rattan chairs (“Victoria”/Tumeric #3081125): Raoul Textiles,
    Cocktail table (antique): South of Market,  

  • Erica Dines


    Gently curving steps lead to the impressive home's front door.

  • Erica Dines


    Chris and Tom Motamed relish the Kiawah Island scenery. 

  • Emily Followill