Photographs by Tria Giovan
Written by Amy Elbert
Quiet. No pagers, no traffic noise, no battery of questions and interruptions from colleagues—just the lap of water in the nearby bayou and the swish of a happy golden retriever’s tail. This is what greets Gene and Renee Evans when they return to their Lynn Haven, Florida, home after nonstop, pressure-filled days in the medical world. (He’s a gastroenterologist, and she’s a pharmacist.)
“I love to fish, and sometimes after I come home from work, I can go out in the boat for half an hour and just unwind,” says Gene. Or he and Renee relax on the deep bow-shaped porch with Lindy, their 7-year-old golden retriever, and enjoy the views of Mill Bayou, one of the many bays and inlets that flow into the Gulf of Mexico in the Panama City area.
“We chose this location because it is an established neighborhood. We didn’t want the hustle and bustle of a beach vacation community,” Gene says. “And we chose the area for the natural beauty—the stately live oaks and the beautiful vistas over the bayou. We were captivated the minute we saw the property.”
Instrumental in creating what the Evanses call their dream home were interior designer Phillip Sides and architect Eric Watson.
Watson, who is based in Tampa and has designed many beach homes in Florida vacation communities, gave the Evanses a brick U-shaped house with large windows and an elevated porch that takes advantage of the views. “Every one of the primary living spaces except one guest bedroom has a view of the water,” Renee says. “The living room, den, kitchen, and dining room have French doors that open to this wonderful traditional porch.”
The U configuration wraps rooms around a landscaped center courtyard. At the base of the U is the bowed porch that faces the water. “The house is organized with an informal connection and layering of rooms without hallways,” Watson says.
“Eric laid out the house with the living room almost acting like a pavilion between two wings of the house,” Sides explains. “The living room has three big windows that face the front and two sets of French doors on the back. When you walk through, it’s a very transitional indoor-outdoor space.”
The floor plan allows for views through the house, and for easy movement of light and people. It’s no typical open floor plan, however; each space retains a sense of separateness and historical authenticity. “Coming from the North, I’m used to homes with walls, and I wanted walls here,” says Pittsburgh native Renee. Rather than have doors separating rooms, simple cased openings connect the spaces while retaining intimacy. “It flows nicely,” Renee says. “We can entertain very comfortably in this home.”
Sides, who studied architecture as well as design, stepped into the project with detailing and interior design solutions that add more character and a sense of age to the new home. He installed custom-built cabinetry in the kitchen, reclaimed antique oak paneling in the den, glass-paneled walls in the dining room, and a bayou-inspired color palette that bathes the home in comfort.
Custom cabinets that define the kitchen work area and breakfast room were hand-painted on-site. (Sides wanted to be able to see brushstrokes, Renee explains.) “The kitchen was designed to look like a ’40s kitchen, with independently hung wall cabinets that look more like furniture,” the designer says. The green-khaki cabinet color is one of his favorites because it resembles what was often used in traditional old Southern kitchens. “It’s a real pungent green. I call it the color of raw peanuts,” says this true Southerner, who hails from Wetumpka, Alabama.
The range fits into a tiled niche so it looks as if it’s tucked into what might have been a former cooking fireplace. “It harks back to a different time,” Sides says, explaining how he aimed to make the house seem as though it was renovated rather than newly built. The ceilings in the kitchen and pantry are rough-sawn heart-pine planks that were painted to simulate an aged texture. “I wanted it to look like an old wood ceiling that might have been discovered when newer drywall was removed,” notes the designer.
The bookcases in the den and the pantry cabinets are made of reclaimed oak finished with a lime wax. “You can see the worm and insect holes. The wood has beautiful character,” Renee says.
Green is the house’s predominant color—a favorite of Renee’s. In the living room, a velvet ottoman, which Sides calls a “giant green toadstool,” is parked in front of the fireplace with a pair of oversized wing chairs. “I love ottomans. When people entertain like the Evanses do, they are great for extra seating.” Sides always fits ottomans with ball casters so the stools will roll easily and freely. “Wheels are like creaky old men; they don’t want to move. Ball casters are much better,” he adds.
The living room has a main seating group centered on the fireplace, and above it (surprise!) a large-screen plasma television that’s concealed behind glass panels. “Gene was adamant that we put a large-screen TV in that room,” Renee explains. “He said if we didn’t, it would just become a pretty room that we never used.”
So Sides designed mirrored panels made with restoration hand-poured glass (typically used to replace windows in historic buildings). The bottom two panels open to reveal the 60-inch plasma TV. Speakers are hidden under the floor, so no wiring is visible.
“We have Super Bowl parties and have big crowds in there,” Renee says of the versatile room. “Even though it’s a formal living room, everything Phillip selected for it is comfortable. People aren’t afraid to put their feet up.”
Comfort and color are the key words for the dining room. Chairs that Sides describes as “orange as orange can be” circle a 78-inch round table—perfect for conversation when the Evanses host casual dinners. Sides designed paneled walls with antiqued-mirror insets in an arched niche on one side of the room. Walls are painted a yummy color named Peach Froth. “It’s pink and yellow at the same time, a beautiful color that just glows,” the designer says.
Light dramatically affected color selection because the strong coastal light intensifies the actual hue, he notes. He points to the green living room ceiling: “When you see that color on the chip, it looks white, but here it is green.”
Sides kept the master bedroom whisper soft with a calming gray-and-ivory combination. Tufted leather set into gold picture-frame molding serves as the bed’s elegant headboard. A fabric-covered folding screen behind the headboard adds softness and breaks up the boxiness of the space. “It’s a very soothing room,” the designer says.
Evening is one of Gene’s favorite times to enjoy the house. Landscape lights illuminate the heritage oaks that drip with Spanish moss. “We can stargaze, hear the water lapping and fish jumping in the bayou,” Gene says. “Phillip, Eric, and the builder gave us a beautiful home where we can truly relax and unwind.”
Architect: Eric Watson, Eric Watson Architect, PA., 701 S. Howard Ave., Suite 201, Tampa, FL 33606; 813/644-7245, (or 813/835-7595??), ericwatson.com.
Interior designer: Phillip Sides, Phillip Sides Interior Design, 3421 Lansdowne Drive, Montgomery, AL 36111; 334/240-3333, phillipsidesinteriordesign.com.
Contractor: McIntosh-Myers Construction, 111 W. Beach Drive, Panama City, FL 32401; 850/769-8980.
Wall and trim paint (“Linen White” #912); ceiling paint (“Hawthorn Green” #379): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, benjaminmoore.com.
Drapery (“Serenity”/Lemongrass #2511-10, by Larsen): Larsen, larsenfabrics.com, through Travis & Co., 800/258-2214, travisandcompany.com.
Drapery tape trim (#1104-07 in Sky); cord trim (#1107-07 in Sky): Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068.
Fabrication: Susan Daves, Drapery Workroom, 770/205-6075.
Drapery hardware: Phillips Metalworks, 334/263-9931, phillipsmetalworks.com.
Tibetan rug (custom): Tamarian Carpets, 336/886-3164, tamarian.com. Through Phillip Sides Interior Design, 334/240-3333, phillipsidesinteriordesign.com.
Chandeliers (“Two Tier Chandelier”): Paul Ferrante Inc., 323/653-4142, paulferrante.com.
Landscape painting: by Doug Foltz, dougfoltz.com.
Sofa (#645, custom): Travis Upholstery, Travis & Co., 800/258-2214, travisandcompany.com.
Sofa fabric (“Memory”/Beige #8686-01, by Larsen): Larsen, larsenfabrics.com, through Travis & Co., 800/258-2214, travisandcompany.com.
Patterned throw pillows on sofa (“Isfara”/Tilleul #4556-02, by Manuel Canovas, discontinued): Manuel Canovas, manuelcanovas.com, through Travis & Co., 800/258-2214, travisandcompany.com.
Silk pillow on sofa (“Regency Silk”/Willow #10074-08, and “Regency Silk”/French Blue #10074-10): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900, cowtan.com.
Pair of lounge chairs (“Newcastle Chair”): Gregorius/Pineo, 310/204-0400, gregoriuspineo.com.
Chair fabric (by Travers, discontinued): Zimmer + Rohde, 212/758-7925, zimmer-rohde.com.
Lumbar pillows: Baker, 800/592-2537, bakerfurniture.com.
Drink table by lounge chair (“Gregor Side Table” #418): Ironies, 510/644-2100, ironies.com.
Cocktail table (“Nanking Tea Table”): Gregorius/Pineo, 310/204-0400, gregoriuspineo.com.
Box under table (antique, black lacquer and gilt): Bjorling & Grant, 612/827-3000, bjorlinggrant.com.
Side table (“Escala Console” #455): Ironies, 510/644-2100, ironies.com.
Lamp on side table (“Grande Bottle Lamp” #PH011): Baker, 800/592-2537, bakerfurniture.com.
Pair of vases (antique): owner’s collection.
Klismos settee (custom); upholstering (by E.J. Wright): Phillip Sides Interior Design, 334/240-3333, phillipsidesinteriordesign.com.
Settee fabric (“Solstice”/Silver #12499-08, by Larsen): Larsen, larsenfabrics.com, through Travis & Co., 800/258-2214, travisandcompany.com.
Bronze table (“Elgin End Table”); chair (‘French Tub Chair”): Gregorius/Pineo, 310/204-0400, gregoriuspineo.com.
Wing chair (“Highback English Wing Chair” #DL-CH40): Dennis & Leen, 310/652-0855, dennisandleen.com.
Wing-chair fabric (“Pavia”/Lin #4565-19): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900, cowtan.com.
Ottoman (custom); upholstering (by E.J. Wright): Phillip Sides Interior Design, 334/240-3333, phillipsidesinteriordesign.com.
Ottoman fabric (“Legacy”/Lime #9672): Pindler & Pindler, 212/888-3333, pindler.com.
Brass drink table (“French Moderne Side Table”): Global Views, 888/956-0030, globalviews.com.