Clean, coastal and happy: Traci Zeller Interiors designs a vacation home that lives large with durable finishes and classic appeal.
by Sharon Smith | photographs by Julia Lynn Photography | styling by Kate Malpeli
When interior designer Traci Zeller teamed up with a Charlotte couple to design their vacation home in Wild Dunes near Charleston, she knew from the outset the project would need to evoke a strong “sense of place.”
“It’s at the beach. It’s relaxed, it’s fun, it’s casual,” Zeller says about the three-story Isle of Palms home overlooking the boardwalk. While Zeller had the benefit of a good rapport with the couple, having previously designed their primary home in southeast Charlotte, this was a very different project.
For starters, the couple purchased the property during the early days of the pandemic. “Everything was harder during the pandemic because you had to deal with supply constraints and labor issues,” Zeller says.
The project also evolved. What started out as a plan to give a rental property a facelift turned into a full-scale renovation to create a family retreat. “The scope grew as we went into it, just because they saw the potential … and how they could enjoy it,” Zeller says.
The homeowners had an idea of what they wanted: durable, cheerful and beachy — but not too beachy. They also needed to maximize space, with adults, older children and a young grandchild all under the same roof.
“Traci did a good job of listening and putting that into actual design,” says the homeowner, who appreciated Zeller’s flexibility as they changed course.
In the compact living room, Zeller chose a large sectional and swivel chair by Wesley Hall to maximize seating. Ottomans on either side of the entertainment console provide extra seating when needed. An indoor-outdoor rug by Annie Selke, a coffee table by Mainly Baskets and Hudson Valley wall sconces complete the room.
Left: A woven bed by Bernhardt adds texture and anchors the primary suite, while a striped drapery fabric by Thibaut adds color. Zeller chose a coordinating desk instead of a second nightstand so the husband could have a quiet remote working spot when the household gets busy with visiting family.
For the kitchen, the homeowners wanted a total overhaul to improve function and flow. Zeller says they reoriented the kitchen by removing a wall, relocating a window and switching out the peninsula to make room for a more useful island with a modern waterfall countertop.
To continue the coastal blue hues of the family room into the kitchen and breakfast room, Zeller worked with Charleston-based Ro Sham Beaux to create a custom blue-beaded chandelier, a favorite piece of the homeowners. “People would walk by on the boardwalk and I could hear them talking about that chandelier, so that was fun,” she adds.
A Four Hands table with a reclaimed wood top adds to the casual, welcoming vibe. The oval shape and pedestal design also makes it easier to fit more people, Zeller says.
In the powder room, Zeller chose a Savannah Hayes wallpaper with a modern, bright blue design. “It’s just a really fun way to add a lot of color and fun and personality in a space that doesn’t really have any.” New cabinetry, countertops and Visual Comfort sconces also update the room.
In the second-floor bedroom, Zeller chose a Katie Ridder drapery fabric with sailboats and bright red accents. “It’s so happy and manages to maintain a sense of sophistication while being fun and youthful.”
The homeowner says her favorite room is the primary suite on the third floor. “It just turned out so beautiful, just really calming,” she says. “That room, for me, felt like a private retreat in a busy house.”
The modern coastal vibe continues with a whimsical print of divers from Wendover Art above each bed and blue gingham X-benches from Serena & Lily.
Outside, the most popular feature “that everyone fights over in the morning” is the large porch swing made by a family member. “At night it’s also a fun place to hang out or people watch and chat with people walking by on the boardwalk,” the homeowner says.
As for Zeller, she says they hit the sweet spot in creating a classic beach retreat. “In respecting the homeowner’s taste, being true to the classic projects that we put together at Traci Zeller Interiors and also just honoring the coastal, casual, relaxed, youthful vibe of a beach home.”
It goes back to that sense of place Zeller believes is so important. “This feels very much like it belongs on the beach — it belongs in Wild Dunes.” SP