WWhen it comes to designing a beach home, there is the obvious route and then there is the road less taken. Sea shell accessories, shades of misty blue hues on the walls, and a beige slip cover on the sofa to hide the sandy leftovers are typical, if not traditional, requests associated with water-front properties. So when interior designer Cortney Bishop’s longtime clients commissioned local Charleston architect Hunter Kennedy to custom-build their home— a mere three blocks away from the Atlantic ocean—she knew this space was about to chart new territory.
It wasn’t that her clients weren’t traditional, far from it. “I like to say that they are a modern southern family who appreciate those time-tested southern values,” says Bishop of the homeowners, and their two young boys, who travel the world for pleasure, often picking up design inspiration throughout every trip. "Their tastes combine the wife’s love of worldly, ethnic art and influences along with her husband’s appreciation and great knowledge of furniture design—especially mid-century modernism.” The homeowners came to the table with their personal collection of art, vintage rugs and furniture, and an edited selection of accessories from their travels to make the home sing. Comfortable, practical, and most importantly, unique were the terms inflicted upon the designer to give this brand new home an old soul.
Coming in off the wrap-around porch, the home opens in typical southern fashion. A grand plantation-style hallway with pine flooring repurposed from an old church, unfolds throughout the entire first floor. In front, the formal living and dining room are traditional in nature, perfect for entertaining but not necessarily spaces that the entire family can enjoy. So, in the back of the house, the walls were removed, creating an open floor plan that combined the large, custom kitchen with the laid-back family room, allowing the family to spread out yet still be together.
When entertaining guests, the formal living room and dining room play off each other in perfect harmony. Each piece, from a vintage sofa in the living room to the custom-made table in the dining room, was carefully selected (over the two-year design process, nonetheless) to add purpose and fully-developed character to each room. “In many cases, we used new pieces that are throwbacks to a more traditional design. Then we upholstered it in a modern fabric from an Italian design house that almost feels historic yet new and playful,” she says. “The mix of different time periods and refined textures are what bring each space to life yet also flow seamlessly from one room to the next.”
With all of the reclaimed wood in the home, Bishop needed an element in each space to make the dark and dapper elements pop. “My clients were not afraid of color,” she says of the gray-greens and milky blues that swath each wall. “The local Lowcountry landscape was our grounding palette and then we layered in different shades of red and blue with plenty of black. I’m always pushing for that contrasting edge.”
One place where she didn’t have to push her edgy agenda was in the kitchen. The savvy home owners requested the subdued yet bold-in-choice hue on all of the cabinets. The color, to Bishop, made sense and elevated the overall design of the home while, at the same time, balanced the eclectic and collected interior.
“We allowed their ideas to unfold into ours and in the end, we presented something that is completely unique to them,” she says. “The biggest reward, with any project, is that point where I’ve gained my clients trust.” Eventually, the brand-new home by the sea didn’t seem so new, after all. The modern translation of Bishop’s design recoiled simply into more personality and less proximity—the culmination of a true southern charmer.