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Easy Breezy Beach Retreat

Susan Bohlert Smith Creates an easy-breezy beach retreat on Florida’s Gulf Coast

Written by Leslie A. Westbrook
  • Colleen Duffley

    It all began on a tennis court, when two mothers met, hit it off, and forged a working relationship that has endured for years. Interior designer Susan Bohlert Smith was watching her then-preteen daughter, Bo Massey. Annice Steinhart was there cheering on her daughter, Fallin, 11 at the time, who was lobbing balls with Bo at a Rosemary Beach Racquet Club tennis clinic in Florida.

    Not long after meeting the designer, Annice and her husband, Lance, who reside in the suburbs of Atlanta, were interviewing her about a weekend getaway home they planned to build in WaterSound, Florida. Southern-bred Bohlert Smith “scored” by combining a neutral palette with oodles of texture to create a stunning retreat with far-reaching views of sand and water for the couple and Fallin, who recently turned 18.

    The designer began with construction modifications to existing plans to better accommodate the family’s needs. She was on-site with building contractors from start to finish, which greatly helped the couple, who reside a five-hour drive away.

    Photography: Colleen Duffley 
    Produced by Jenny Bradley

    Architect: Paul Geary, T.S. Adams Studio Architects, 5281 E. County Hwy. 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459; 850/231-4631, and 2969 Hardman Court N.E., Atlanta, GA 30305; 404/262-3499,
    Interior designer: Susan Bohlert Smith, Bohlert Massey Interiors, 10343 E. County Rd 30A/#C-102, Panama City Beach, FL 32412; 850/231-3940,
    Builders: Will Dunn and Whitney Davis, Davis Dunn Construction, 150 Industrial Park Rd., Suite 5, P.O. Box 699, Destin, FL 32540; 850/654-9152,  

    Chest (“Empire Chest” #1105): Amy Howard Collection, 901/547-1448.
    Lamps (antique Regency lamps): Antiques on Holiday, 850/837-0488.
    Clam shell (antique): Bohlert Massey Interiors,
    Art (by Camella Starr): owner’s collection.
    Sheer drapery (“Edisto”/Oat): Casa Fiora,
    Drapery hardware (Provence Collection/Earthen Rust finish): Robert Allen,
    (true lathe plaster): Stucco John Inc., 850/267-3727.
    Wall color (“Alabaster”#SW 7008): Sherwin-Williams,
    Area rug: owner’s collection.  

  • Colleen Duffley

    Sitting Pretty

    Annice and Lance wanted the interior spaces of the house, named Legal Ease, to be unique and “not look like any other house.” Predictably, the number one goal was to maximize the views. Neatly posed on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the house is situated next to one of the world’s rare dune lakes (others exist in New Zealand, Australia, and Madagascar).

    “The gray color palette and Belgian look has become more fashionable now,” says Bohlert Smith, noting that the house was finished a few years ago. “The reason we used grays and neutrals was to create a quieter interior. The house is about that view and where you are, but I didn’t want it to be boring or flat. I was respectful, but they also let me be really creative and do interesting things with finishes that most people would cut costs on.”

    Four grand-scale Verellen linen chairs make a perfect conversation area around a drum ottoman from Lee Industries. Large lamps are from Circa Lighting.

    (designed by Susan Bohlert Smith): fabrication by E.F. San Juan,
    Plumbing (selected by Susan Bohlert Smith): supplied by Mary Ezell, The Fixture Exchange, 850/654-8883.
    Custom cabinetry (designed by Susan Bohlert Smith): fabricated by Alan Niehaus Cabinetry Inc., 850/240-0863. 
    Countertops: fabricated by Nelson Davis, Hard Rock Stone and Tile, 251/645-3439.
    Metal work (designed by Susan Bohlert Smith): fabricated by Robert Preston, Creative Metal Works, 850/932-0888.
    Custom sewing: Sherry Davis for Bohlert Massey Interiors,

    Sitting Area—
    Chairs  (“Oscar Chairs”); fabric (“Casual Linen”/Oyster): Verellen,
    Pillows in chairs, front (“Delta”/Olive 3301-18); pillows, at back (“Ecorce”/Amande #3007-05): Sabina Fay Braxton,
    Pillow fabrication: Sherry Davis for Bohlert Massey Interiors,
    Mantel (custom, “Bourgogne” mantel in Travertine Scagliola stone, with detailed carvings and Gothic ornamentation): Francois & Co.,
    Mirror: Antiques on Holiday, 850/837-0488.
    Ottoman (“Drum Ottoman” #9203-90): Lee Industries,
    Ottoman fabric (“Satin Suede Leather”/Taupe): Verellen,
    Side tables (Nickel Bistro Tables): vintage.
    Floor lamps (“Studio Pivoting Task Lamp” #TOB1015, by Thomas O’Brien): Circa Lighting,
    Fan (“Acero”): Minka Aire,
    Walls (true lathe plaster): Stucco John Inc., 850/267-3727.
    Wall and trim color (“Alabaster” #SW 7008): Sherwin-Williams,
    Drapery (“Deblois”/Antique): Robert Allen,  

  • Colleen Duffley

    Living Room

    Bohlert Smith began her search for unusual design elements and new furnishings to meet the challenge of creating spaces that were casual and timeless, approaching the project “like an art assignment with limited color choices,” she says.

    The pecky cypress ceiling and millwork, daybed by Lillian August for Hickory White, and jute rug temper the formality of Parisian cut velvet on the pillows. 

    Daybed (“Johanna Daybed” #LA2104L): Lillian August for Hickory White,
    Daybed fabric (“Casual Linen”/Flax): Verellen,
    Floor lamp (“Tara Shaw Italian Wooden Floor Lamp”): Cottage Chic,
    Metal table by daybed (“Galvanized Planter/Side Table” #G85): Aidan Gray,
    Sofa (“Eugenie Sofa”); fabric (“Casual Linen”/Oyster): Verellen,
    Diamond-patterned pillow on sofa (“Simonos Petra”/Pale Green #RX6250.58): Christopher Hyland,
    Cocktail table: discontinued.
    Jute area rug (“Bora Bora, with smooth linen binding in color, Quarry”): Merida,
    Drapery (“Deblois”/Antique) Robert Allen,
    Fabrication: Sherry Davis for Bohlert Massey Interiors,

  • Colleen Duffley

    Sitting Room

    “I searched for anything and everything I could in cream, white, off-white, or gray, even if it was not what might be expected in a coastal home. When you limit your palette, you can do more unusual things.” This meant selecting materials for the construction of the house like pecky cypress ceilings finished with layers of gray washes and various coats of wax—liming wax, brown wax, then a final coat of clear wax for a signature matte patina. To ensure harmony between structure and interior design, she chose a mix of fabrics for sofa slipcovers and pillows, incorporating linens and sheers in a variety of weights and textures that included accents of raw silk and cut velvets.

    French, Belgian, coastal, and industrial design elements merge to create a tranquil space.

    Sectional sofa (#C5287-Series); fabric (“Stonewash Belize Natural Linen”): Lee Industries,
    Blue pillow (“Sudeley”/Eucalyptus #2040/04, by Villa Nova): Romo,
    Leaf-patterned pillow (“Palampore Block Print”/Teal #173612): Schumacher,
    Embroidered linen pillow (“Cartouche”/Arran Grey #M245/02, by Mark Alexander): Romo,
    Vine-patterned pillow (“St. Moritz”/Antique Beige ground with Celadon/Peacock print color): Pintura Studio,
    Pillow fabrication: Sherry Davis for Bohlert Massey Interiors,
    Cocktail trunk (antique dynamite trunk): Antiques on Holiday, 850/837-0488.
    Etagère (by Design Workshop): through Bohlert Massey Interiors,
    Sisal area rug (“Broadway”/Glacier, with smooth linen binding in color Quarry): Merida,
    Drapery (“Edisto”/Oat, sheer linen): Casa Fiora,
    Blinds (driftwood branches, no longer available): Woven Theory, 323/737-2928.
    Floor lamp: Circa Lighting,
    Art (by Maggie Grier): Maggie Grier Painting,
    Walls (true lathe plaster): Stucco John Inc., 850/267-3727.
    Wall color (“Alabaster” #SW 7008): Sherwin-Williams,

  • Colleen Duffley

    Casual Dining

    Low-back chairs with slouchy linen covers surround a gray-washed table.

    Table (“Pedestal Dining Table”/Grey Wash): CFC,
    Dining chairs (“Low Back Slipcovered Chair”); fabric (“Eco Linen 2”/Flax): Verellen,
    Chandelier (“Bordeaux”): Canopy Designs,
    Banquette (custom Gustavian bench for Bohlert Massey Interiors); pillows (“Casual Linen”/Flax): Verellen,
    Pillow trim (“Litchfield Braid”/Moonstone #63335): Schumacher,
    Banquette fabric: discontinued.
    Roman shades (sheer Italian linen, by C&C Milano): through Holland & Sherry,
    Walls (true lathe plaster): Stucco John Inc., 850/267-3727.
    Wall color (“Alabaster” #SW 7008): Sherwin-Williams,
    Ceiling: cypress beams and millwork with pecky cypress tongue-and-groove ceiling.
    Finish (5 step paint, stain and wax recipe): custom. 

  • Colleen Duffley

    Striking Kitchen

    In the kitchen, Bohlert Smith installed a La Cornue range in stainless steel with nickel fittings and a wall of tiny gray glass mosaic. “My favorite element is the pewter hood,” she says, “as well as the cast limestone shelves mounted over a wall of glass that goes to the ceiling. We used tiny brick mosaic that looks like pale gray stained glass with cast limestone open shelves to display the pewter-rimmed dinnerware.”

    The kitchen countertops are white Italian Calacatta marble (Lance didn’t want granite). Factory stools were incorporated “just to knock the edge of formality off the kitchen,” the designer says. “I didn’t want it to feel too formal, even though we used grand elements. I wanted to keep it casual and a bit more rustic.”

    Bronze-and-gray oak stools add weight and informality. The hanging light fixture is from Aidan Gray.

    Cabinetry (designed by Susan Bohlert Smith): fabricated by Alan Niehaus Cabinetry Inc., 850/240-0863.
    Cabinetry hardware (stainless steel bar pulls): Emtek,
    Bar stools (by Design Workshop): through Bohlert Massey Interiors,
    Hanging pendant (“Eda Pendant”): Aidan Gray,
    Countertop: Calacatta Gold marble.
    Backsplash (“Hida Silk Mini Brick Glass Tiles,” Sumi-E Series): Lunada Bay Tile,
    Sink (“Manorhouse 36-inch Double Bowl”/Stainless Steel #MHX720-36): Franke,
    Island faucet (“Bridge Faucet with Metal Cross,” by Perrin & Rowe); vegetable sink faucet (“Bridge Faucet with Metal Levers and Wall Unions,” by Perrin & Rowe); pot filler (“Wall Mount Swing Arm Pot Filler,” by Perrin & Rowe): Rohl,
    Refrigerator (Stainless Steel): Sub-Zero,
    Range (“CornuFé 110”/Stainless Steel and Polished Nickel): La Cornue,
    Range hood and shelves (custom, “Colette” stack in  Cold Cast Pewter, paired with custom shelf profile and modified KB320 corbels in limestone cream Scagliola stone): Francois & Co.,
    Roman shades (sheer Italian linen, by C&C Milano): Holland & Sherry,
    Shade trim (“Litchfield Braid”/Mooonstone #63335): Schumacher,
    Drapery hardware (Provence Collection/Earthen Rust): Robert Allen,
    Walls (true lathe plaster): Stucco John Inc., 850/267-3727.
    Wall color “Alabaster” #SW 7008): Sherwin-Williams,

  • Colleen Duffley

    Kitchen Range

    White oak custom cabinets are glazed gray and lime-waxed, weaving together the custom pewter hood, limestone shelves, La Cornue range, and tile backsplash. 

  • Colleen Duffley

    Master Bedroom

    The Steinharts’ Yorkie, Buster, finds a soft spot for a nap on the Oly bed. A tape trim from Samuel & Sons embellishes the coverlet. 

    Bed (“Dakota Bed with Platform”): Oly,
    Coverlet (“Casual Linen”/Oyster): Verellen,
    Tape on coverlet: Samuel & Sons,
    Fabrication: Sherry Davis for Bohlert Massey Interiors,
    Sisal rug (“Paraiba”/River, with smooth linen binding in color “Wild Silk”): Merida,
    Bedside tables (“Regency Etageres”/Grody Grey #259): Amy Howard, 901/547-1448.
    Chair, fabric (white linen): Lee Industries,
    Drapery and shades (“Casual Linen”/Oyster): Verellen,
    Drapery trim (“Addington Molded Tassel Fringe”/Moonstone #63284); Schumacher,
    Fan (“Acero”): Minka Aire,
    Bench (“Gustavian Bench” in antique white with muslin upholstery): Chelsea Textiles,
    Wall, trim, and ceiling paint (“Horizon” #OC-53); beams and window mullions (“Decorators White”): Benjamin Moore,

  • Colleen Duffley

    Turquoise Bedroom

    Wallpaper from Osborne & Little shrouds the room in a lovely turquoise hue—a color repeated on the floral accent pillow.

    Bed (“Standard Bed” #6918): Corsican Furniture Co.,
    Accent pillow (“Jangala Rose,” discontinued): Osborne & Little,
    Chandelier (“Manoir”): Canopy Designs,
    Rug: Flokati,
    Wallpaper: Osborne & Little,
    Floor mirror: vintage.
    Bedside table (“Sienna End Table” #287, finish, Urn Taupe and Chocolate Mousse): Amy Howard Collection, 901/547-1448.
    Bedside lamp (“Gourd Bedside Lamp” #SL3811): Circa Lighting,
    Chair (Gustavian Chair in antique white frame, muslin upholstery): Chelsea Textiles,
    (“Holland Mesh”/White): Horizons Window Fashions,
    Drapery (“Edisto Alabaster Sheer”): Casa Fiora,  

  • Colleen Duffley

    Posh Bathroom

    For Annice, there’s no question which room is her favorite. “I love my pantry, I love my pantry,” she says in her southern drawl. Lance favors the bathroom designed for their daughter, for good reasons. “Fallin always wanted to use our bathroom, and she’s got bunches of friends, so I could never get in the bathroom! We wanted to make sure that her bathroom was the nicest one in the house. And guess what? She doesn’t use ours anymore. She’s got this giant shower that could easily fit six people!” he says with a laugh. “She still tries to sneak up to our room to sit on the deck off the master. It has an incredible view.”

    Turquoise glass inserts in the Calacatta marble custom tile floor and turquoise plumbing handles repeat the colors that daughter Fallin also chose for her bedroom. 

    Bathtub (“Cella” #6636): BainUltra,
    Towel bar (vintage bamboo and lucite): Antiques on Holiday, 850/837-0488.
    Chandelier (“Florentine”): Canopy Designs,
    Flooring (Custom Octagon Mosaic in Calacatta); countertop (Calacatta marble): AKDO,
    Vanity: Alan Niehaus Cabinetry Inc., 850/240-0863.
    Sink faucets (“Raven” #1GRVL with aqua handles): Rubinet,
    Drapery (“Edo Alabaster Sheers”): Casa Fiora,
    Walls, ceiling, trim (tongue and groove, painted “Decorators White”): Benjamin Moore,

  • Colleen Duffley

    Breezy Porch

    “I named the house Legal Ease, a play on legalese,” says Lance, an attorney. “That’s always been the theme to me—just a place to relax. I can work here, but still relax. It’s hard to describe. It’s just a lot more relaxing doing the same things here that I would do at home or in the office.”

  • Colleen Duffley


    “The house is just earthy,” Bohlert Smith says. “Very peaceful and calm when you walk in. It sets you up for the views, which are the end game.”  

  • Colleen Duffley

    Gracious Home

    Decks provide plenty of outdoor spaces to enjoy views of sand and water.

  • Colleen Duffley


    The end game of the project—and the sign of a successful collaboration between designer and client? The families became good friends and remain so to this day.

    “We even spent New Year’s Eve together!” the designer notes. Admiring the views, of course—both inside and out.

    Homeowners Annice and Lance Steinhart enjoy relaxing in the home’s outdoor spaces.

  • Colleen Duffley