With equal measures of élan and cowboy-boot comfort, a renovated beach house is a perfect fit for fashion designer Stephanie Carter.
Written and produced by Eleanor Lynn Nesmith
Photographs by Colleen Duffley
Most rising stars in the fashion industry would set their sights on New York or Los Angeles, but Stephanie Carter, founder of her own fashion house, Judith March, opted for a runway less traveled. At 31, she has come a long way from her family’s Alabama farm to make a splash in the world of fashion—all the while retaining close ties to her Southern roots and small-town sensibilities.
When the clothing designer set up shop in Florida, she was initially content to live in a dated ’80s beach house a block from the Gulf in Seagrove, an older waterfront village. But when the time came to update her digs, she turned to Paige Sumblin Schnell, a designer at Tracery Interiors. “We met through mutual friends who owned a local wine bar,” recalls Stephanie. “I loved her shop in Rosemary Beach, and then we realized we grew up 40 miles apart in rural Alabama.” It was a perfect fit. “I gave Paige my vision. She took it and ran.”
Surrounded by the pattern and color of her fashion career, Stephanie prefers to dial down the volume at the end of the day. “The house is a backdrop intentionally muted and monochromatic to allow Stephanie to experiment with fabrics, patterns, and colors with different seasons,” explains Schnell. For continuity and a sense of calm, the interior designer used the same shadowy gray paint throughout the house, changing the percentages of the formula to create varying intensities. “It’s a surprisingly complex color, changing during the day depending on the light,” she notes. The house is surrounded by trees that also influence the color tones in different spaces.
“A fashion designer must be changing constantly, which is good, because I get easily bored,” admits Stephanie. “I wanted a home with good bones, one that would give me the option to mix things up.” The multi-shades-of-gray palette sets the perfect stage for layering and pairing of textures and materials.
Schnell relaxed the living room with a jute rug and a cowhide ottoman, and happily incorporated vintage items Stephanie had collected. The roof of the house was raised to create the living room’s vaulted ceiling, which is clad with pecky cypress. The height introduces volume and natural light, and accommodates Stephanie’s cherished antique doors that sit above the mantel.
A scalloped archway added to the foyer sets the stage for the elegant touches to come in the living room, including a ballroom-worthy chandelier and stately antique sideboard with mirror. The dining room table is another of Stephanie’s prized possessions. Schnell combined it with an upholstered bench with scalloped back, an antique crystal chandelier, and slipcovered chairs in tune with Stephanie’s casual approach to family meals and entertaining.
To enhance the home’s wide-open, sun-washed feel and to link the living room and sunroom, Schnell opened up walls on either side of the fireplace. The symmetrical openings encourage traffic from indoors to out, while bringing in more Florida sun. A new two-sided fireplace also makes both rooms more inviting.
Like Stephanie’s approach to fashion, the house sways from glam to kid-friendly without missing a beat. For all the sophistication, it’s still a beach house and home to Stephanie’s 6-year-old son, Fox, who is decidedly all-boy. Consequently, there’s nothing fussy about Fox’s bedroom. Custom-designed twin beds, which appear to hang from the ceiling on ropes, are actually grounded on platforms. Old gym lockers offer playful and practical ways to store toys and shoes.
Before the renovation, there was a balcony at the top of the stairs. Schnell capitalized on this previously wasted space to create a dressing area accentuated with an archway similar to the one in the foyer.
The space that might witness the most activity, however, is not a room but Stephanie’s closet, a capacious sanctuary carved out of found space under the raised roof. The master suite is truly Stephanie’s inner sanctum. Enlivened with personality through unexpected pairings of textures and materials, the room is as moody, cloistered, and dramatic as a vintage haute couture gown. Sweeping curtains of raw silk hang from industrial hardware.
Stephanie believes that living apart from the hustle and bustle of the industry affords more leeway for creativity when designing. She also maintains that there is inspiration in the moment—anything can inspire the next collection. “My home is my anchor and my blank canvas,” says Stephanie. “It allows me to be me.”
Interior designers: Paige Sumblin Schnell and Anna Kay Porch, Tracery, 72 Main St., Rosemary Beach, FL 32461; 850/231-6755, traceryinteriors.com.
Paint (“Ozark Shadows, #AC-26, changing percentages for varying intensities): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, benjaminmoore.com.
Chandelier: Bohlert-Massey Interiors, 850/231-3940, bohlertmassey.com.
Chairs; sofa: Lee Industries, 800/892-7150, leeindustries.com.
Cabinet above mantel (antique): Antiques on Holiday, 850/837-0488, antiquesonholiday.com.
Lounge chair by mantel (#C3277-01); fabric (“Campbell”/White): Lee Industries, 800/892-7150, leeindustries.com.
Pillow in lounge chair (discontinued): Dwell Studio, 877/993-9355, dwellstudio.com.
Cane-back chair by mantel (family heirloom): antique.
Chair-seat fabric (custom): Lewis & Sheron, 404/351-4833, lsfabrics.com.
Area rug (Jute/Natural): Surya, surya.com.
Wing chair (#C1937-01); fabric: Lee Industries, 800/892-7150, leeindustries.com.
Cocktail ottoman (custom); ottoman fabric (cowhide): Tracery, 850/231-6755, traceryinteriors.com.
Flooring on main level (“Wirebrushed Red Oak”/Regal finish): Seashore Floor Co., 850/267-3677, seashorefloor.com.