You are here

Casual, Classic Southern Beach House

A South Carolina beach house gets a relaxed but tailored look

Written by Ronda Carman

When Birmingham-based interior designer Tammy Connor was asked by a long-time client to take on a beach house on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, she knew a relaxed but tailored home was in order. The homeowner wanted a family dwelling that would comfortably accommodate kids, wet bathing suits, casual cookouts, and holiday gatherings with extended family.

Architect Scott Anderson employed traditional details such as custom paneling, an elegantly simple but sweeping circular staircase, and classic windows—allowing Connor to integrate suitable antiques, contemporary furnishings, and interesting art. Sturdy fabrics of varying textures and subtle colors were woven into the mix as well—a trademark of Tammy Connor Interiors.

A painted buffet from Ainsworth-Noah topped with a pair of lamps from Edgar-Reeves Lighting and Antiques give guests a colorful first impression of the home.

Designer Tammy Connor produced a cozy vignette to play off the sweeping staircase designed by architect Scott Anderson. A slipcovered chair from South of Market and a pedestal table from Jayson Home add seaside charm and easy elegance to the space.

Dressmaker details applied to upholstery, pillows, bedding, and window treatments give each room a fresh take on traditional tailoring. “When small details are executed with precision, it takes everything to an entirely different level,” Connor explains.

Classic architecture and a quiet palette allow artwork and furnishings to pop. 

The sofa and chairs are from South of Market. The rug was custom-designed by Connor. 

Furnishings and materials—including antique French white oak floors, reclaimed driftwood countertops, and grass-cloth wallpaper—were chosen based on quality, durability, and versatility to create a functional and family-friendly home. 

Connor offers a nod to the home’s island location with custom driftwood countertops. Bar stools are from Bungalow Classic. Light fixtures are from Ainsworth-Noah.

As a designer, Connor has long believed that quality has no substitute, no matter the style or scope of a project. “I tell my clients to buy things they love,” she says.

Dark paneled walls and window treatments, along with a mix of patterns and textures, create a warm, inviting feel in the den. The tufted armchair is covered in a striped fabric from Elizabeth Eakins, and the trunk is from Halo Styles. 

A collection of wooden tops makes an interesting centerpiece.

A covered porch off the den offers a serene space for relaxing or entertaining. Embracing the surroundings, Connor and Anderson incorporated organic materials where possible, including a wood-plank ceiling, stone on the fireplace surround, and textured, patinated furnishings.

With a reputation for creating casual, classic interiors infused with Southern elegance and charm, Connor’s attention to detail and relaxed approach to formality underpin both her work and her character. The results? Inviting rooms, sophisticated interiors, and enduring homes. 

Connor used a subtle palette to reflect the natural beauty of Kiawah Island and allow the view to be the star of the space. The light fixture is from South of Market.

Serenity now! A pretty, neutral palette provides uninterrupted respite in the lofty bedroom.

The architecture in the bunk room—beadboard walls, high oval window, and peaked ceiling—contributes to its charming appeal. The colorful bedside shelves are from Maine Cottage. A one-of-a-kind overscaled lantern draws the eye upward, celebrating the room’s beautiful architecture.

“I truly believe that good design is timeless,” says Connor. “However, the notion of timelessness is highly individual and very personal. A Barcelona chair can be just as timeless as a Hepplewhite chair. At the end of the day, your home needs only to make you and your family happy.”

Designer Tammy Connor's five tips of the trade: 

  1. Use dressmaker details to incorporate something unexpected in every room.
  2. Take cues from the architecture. The architectural details of a house should always be your starting point.
  3. Combine old and new. Using comfortable upholstery alongside antiques makes a house feel more approachable.
  4. Layer thoughtfully. The combination of antique pieces, one-of-a-kind rugs, and special objects you’ve collected over time injects depth and personality.
  5. Invest in quality pieces that you’ll love forever. Always go for quality over quantity.

Photography: Colleen Duffley       

Traditional Home