Step Inside Our 2018 Habersham Idea House
Take A Peek Inside The 2018 Searching Idea House
There’s wisdom in the walls and woodwork of old cottages, says architectural designer Eric Moser. "I tend to think that the simpler a structure is, the more beautiful."
So it's little wonder that Moser drew inspiration for this year's Idea House from the modest, historic cottages that have dotted the marshy South Carolina coast for centuries. "Even though our lives are much different now, these older design principles—ideas like using front and rear porches to help cool a house naturally and leaving bare the raw beauty of natural wood—remain at the core of how we design today," he says.
But old doesn't have to mean old-school. Both Moser and interior designer Jenny Keenan had plenty of modern updates in mind. For instance, at 2,915 square feet, the marshfront cottage in the community of Habersham (about eight miles west of downtown Beaufort) is larger than the original bungalows. To give the vernacular style more breathing room, Moser designed the home as two small cottages with a sunny connecting hall. On the inside, Keenan took a vibrant approach to color and art. "I wanted to show how you can take a traditional cottage and really energize it for today, but still keep it warm and familiar," she says.
And behind every design decision were the views. The home's narrow lot slopes down to the banks of the marsh and overlooks the Broad River in the distance. "More than half of Beaufort County is marsh and estuaries," says builder Allen Patterson, who grew up along the same shoreline. "That's what is so special here. The tide going in and out, the changing colors, the unique ecosystem—we wanted to incorporate these elements as much as we could."
Here, more on how the talented team modernized this classic cottage while maintaining a deep connection to its architectural roots and watery setting.
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Venture out of neutral territory.
Don't shy away from doing a stronger color in an earthy coastal environment, advises Keenan. "The contrast often works like a frame for the view, bringing it into sharper focus." Here, she covered the living and dining room walls in a peacock sisal grasscloth, and even painted the molding the same shade. A bright, semigloss white ceiling and a varied collection of natural woods and woven textures keep the rich hue from leaning moody or dark. And a vibrant abstract by Sally King Benedict (Lighthouse Face, 2018) layers in a youthful mix of pinks, aqua, and yellow.
JENNY LOVES: Artwork as a color map. "Choose a handful of dynamic colors, and then use a great piece of art, or series of pieces, to pull them all together."
Turn dish duty into a plum assignment.
A sunny, scaled-down workspace off the kitchen houses a second sink, double oven, and loads of storage. "The back kitchen is designed to be incredibly hardworking," says Moser. "After a big dinner or party, you can move the dishes in here, close the door, and finish off the evening, and nobody feels like they need to help clean up." But charming "extras" like ceiling-height windows overlooking romantic oaks and a spirited tile backsplash make it a nice place to work at the end of the night. Pro tip: Choosing glazed terra-cotta tiles (as opposed to natural) make walls like this one feel more modern than rustic.
JENNY LOVES: Small spaces. "They are like little laboratories for pattern and color, not to mention ideal spots for bigger-ticket tiles and wallpapers."
Slim down weighty cookspaces.
"I'm seeing homeowners leaning away from kitchens that are heavy with upper cabinetry and appliances, and rethinking what sits at eye level," says Keenan. Here, it's a pair of light tile arrangements and shiplap paneling. The square-cut backsplash tiles reflect natural light, the graphic aqua tile helps conceal the hood, and horizontal paneling turns the fridge into a smart architectural element. And because the sink and primary prep area are in the marble-and-white-oak island, "hosts don't have to turn their backs on guests while readying dinner," Moser notes.
JENNY LOVES: Open shelving. "I have open shelving at home and I find it so practical. The key is using it for things you grab every day."
Weave in the classics.
The dining area is tucked into a nook in the great room. "It's open and has amazing views, but it still feels cozy," says Keenan. Her starting point was a faded black ticking stripe, which she used on the pair of host chairs. "It's a classic pattern that feels slightly worn-in," adds the designer. "Together with the cypress paneling, it brings character and age to the room." A portrait by fine-art photographer Anne Menke and a midcentury-inspired brass chandelier pop in a youthful edge.
Master Sitting Room
Turn a passageway into a cozy hangout.
The sunlit sitting room is part of a 30-foot corridor connecting the main cottage to the master. Moser paneled the space in local pecky cypress, which is indigenous to the swamps of South Carolina, "as a way of turning a transition area into something that feels a bit more special, like an escape," he explains. Keenan boosted this idea by creating a gallery wall with original works by East Coast artists and furnishing the space with a luxe linen daybed so it can be used as extra sleeping quarters or a five-star nap room.
JENNY LOVES: A vibrant gallery wall. "Start with your favorite piece and build around it. Look for common colors and spread them out evenly on the wall." Learn more about Jenny’s design process here.
Freshen up a local favorite.
The powder room's black-and-white palmetto-print wallpaper is an updated salute to an iconic symbol of the Lowcountry landscape. "The pattern has a familiar sense of belonging, but the monochromatic color scheme feels new and unexpected," says Keenan. For a textural contrast to the graphic print, she added a baroque mirror crafted of sea snail shells and other spire-shaped ocean treasures.
Embrace the simplicity of black and white.
In the master bath, "we wanted to keep the vibe as serene as possible, as if you were walking into a spa," says Keenan, noting that black and white is a classic, no-frills palette that works well with nature. Here, a black soaking tub, a vine-patterned Roman shade, and white marble floor tiles convey effortless beauty, especially bathed in light from a pair of windows and a nearby sun tunnel skylight.
Play up your star assets.
"The master bedroom is the closest room in the house to the water, so we really wanted to connect it with the setting, particularly the beautiful shades of green outside the windows," says Keenan. She framed the doors in sage ikat draperies and the windows in emerald hand-painted Roman shades. Exposed rafters elevate the ceiling an extra foot and give the space with the most direct relationship to the marsh "a greater sense of airiness and depth," adds Moser. "Tongue-and-groove pine walls and ceilings, as opposed to drywall, can expand and contract as they get wet and dry. The more they move, the better they look."
Mellow out with pop art.
"Sometimes all you need to set the mood for a room is a great piece of artwork," says Keenan of the Roy Lichtenstein poster she hung in the lounge between the bedrooms. "This piece took the room a little retro—it's lighthearted and graphic and fun." A rose sofa upholstered in a performance fabric keeps it kid-friendly without disturbing the groovy vibe. (Hello, pencil reed cocktail table and leggy chandelier.)
Go a little boho.
"There's a muted, almost dusky romance to the marsh—the colors change so often, from day to day and season to season, and we wanted to reflect that in our color scheme," says Keenan, who painted the walls soft purple and hung a vintage Suzani as textural art. The rattan bed and whitewashed-oak-and-shagreen desk harmonize with the tree canopy outside the windows.
Beach up bolder patterns.
Watercolor-style prints tone down graphic geometrics, making them a fitting backdrop for beach house baths. Keenan layered an intricate shell mirror over this steel-blue wallpaper, strengthening the room's connection to the coast.
Rock some new-school florals.
In the bedroom at the top of the stairs, Keenan paired wildflower wallpaper by noted floral painter Lulie Wallace, who got her start in Charleston, with pieces that have a little more age: woven sweetgrass purses, a candlewicked coverlet, and Turkish oushak rugs. "It's reflective of how the Lowcountry itself has so much beautiful history, but is a very modern, dynamic place," she says.
Throw a few curves.
In addition to wallpaper, Keenan chose furniture with wave-like contours to help soften the room's angular dimensions. For instance, a waterfall desk covered in faux raffia rounds out the nook under the window, and a sinuous painted chest tempers a narrow eave.
Create a smooth transition.
Because the home is elevated nine feet off the ground on the water-facing side to meet flood codes, Moser created a raised courtyard for a gradual connection between house and lot. "The idea is to make the transition between indoors and out as natural as possible," he says, noting that the outdoor room is a full six feet below the house, but still high enough that you see over any cars in the driveway and out to the marsh.
Live larger outdoors.
Moser designed the porch as an extension of the living room, with a similar scale and built-in climate control. (Prevailing winds from the southwest ensure there's always a breeze, and a fireplace warms up the space in the chillier winter months.) "The idea is to remove any barriers from spending time outdoors," says Moser. Just as important, he adds, is that porches double your entertaining space without supersizing indoor rooms.
RELATED: 10 Fantastic Screened Porches
Carve out a prime spot for cocktail hour.
One of the team's challenges in sketching out the design of the house on such a narrow lot was keeping the water side from being blocked by a garage. So they deepened the slope toward the water and tucked the garage beneath the master suite, freeing up the space along water's edge for toasting the tidal river as the sun goes down.
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