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A New York family applies its discerning style to a vacation home on South Carolina’s Kiawah Island
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Certain things just can’t be taken from one house to another. Differences in light and landscape demand that a new address have its own aesthetic personality.
Such was the case for the Kiawah Island, South Carolina, vacation home of Christina Anderson, her husband, and their four children. Used as an escape from the big-city life of Manhattan, the oceanfront abode revels in the beauty of its natural surroundings. Perched 800 miles south of the structured daily schedule that includes school and work, the house abandons all formality to usher in relaxation and play.
But a change in location didn’t leave behind Christina’s discerning level of taste and refinement—or her keen attention to detail. She clearly articulates a style that heralds the street vibe of New York and the craft of the Hudson Valley. In the family vacation home, however, she wanted to retain those elements within interiors that exude the feeling of a serene oasis.
Enter Cortney Bishop. The Charleston-based interior designer proved the perfect visionary for the Anderson home. After all, she knew the house. She’d been around it for decades.
“My parents bought a house there, so I grew up on that street looking at that house,” Bishop, a 2014 New Trad honoree, says. “Back then, the house looked very different.” Today, it boasts the beauty of a structural renovation for this family by architect Mark Maresca.
“He recommended me for the project to take the interiors the rest of the way, so they would be more youthful and modern than what is traditionally seen on Kiawah Island,” Bishop says.
Taken down to the studs by Maresca, the Andersons’ new residence, originally built in the 1970s as a spec house, shared nothing in common with its former iteration. Maresca’s roster of alterations included changing every window and every room configuration, reworking the roof lines, eliminating unusable porches that measured only 4 feet deep, and creating a cohesiveness between the exterior and interior and with the natural environment.
“It’s not unusual to have a house that becomes old and dated over time,” Maresca says. “But what made no sense in this case is that the house didn’t take advantage of the gorgeous views. There was no connection to the ocean or the surrounding trees. Now most of the rooms have at least two exposures to the outdoors. It’s no longer just about the house but the location as well.”
Along with Christina’s sophisticated taste came a sophisticated palette to give her the light and bright ambience she dreamed of. Classic sensibilities led her to avoid asking for bold colors. Instead, tonal variation comes through texture.
Maresca layered in a warm, tactile vibe architecturally with beamed ceilings, shiplap and beaded-board paneling, and marble on bathroom walls.
Bishop took the cue and enhanced it using natural textiles, patterned rugs with nubby finishes, leather, and furniture in sculptural forms, some of which the Andersons brought from their New York home.
The prevailing light and airy mood begged for an element to inject a visual jolt without disrupting the flow between rooms. The design collaborative pulled from the edginess of the New York City street scene, ushering black into the scheme.
Used to accentuate and punctuate the lyrical stair rail, kitchen cabinetry, ceilings in the library and bunk room, and rugs throughout the house, black serves as a graphic tool that gives the interiors attitude and a bit of hardness to contrast the soft neutrals. Most notable in the kitchen, a black pattern on statement tile anchors the room and coordinates with painted cabinetry.
“We were excited about the bold pattern of the tile,” Bishop says. “We needed strength in color without going to solid black. This kitchen isn’t huge, so the pattern gives it the backbone to stand up against the larger rooms. The darkness of the floor, range, and cabinets allows the cerused oak island to shine.”
Style wasn’t the only directive that Christina brought to design discussions. Practicality and sense of family were high on her list, too. Case in point: the bunk room. Christina wanted the children to be together. A suite that carves out space for a playroom and sleeping quarters ensures the kids remain connected.
“Christina knows that this is a special time in her children’s lives, and she wanted them to be together,” Maresca says. “Bunk rooms should be tight and intimate. The kids can see and talk to each other, all while taking in the view of the ocean.”
Bishop stretched a tribal-theme runner across the length of the bunk room to lay a lighthearted path to the playroom, where a round table and shapely chairs guarantee that the room is functional and good-looking, too.
Clearly, this beach house doesn’t subscribe to a conventional blue-and-white scheme with stripes and novelty patterns. It does, however, meet the requirements for respite and deliver a sense of peace and tranquility.
“When we designed the house, we wanted to avoid the conventions that have defined classic beach house style—they often felt stuffy and dated,” Christina says. “Instead, we wanted to design a home that felt bright and serene but also playful and welcoming to our children and their friends.”