When it came to building the perfect getaway on Isle of Palms, S.C., this Charlotte couple had a few guiding principles: They wanted open living spaces so everyone would feel connected. They wanted big windows to showcase the stunning ocean views. And they craved a casual vibe that was perfect for both entertaining crowds and cozily whiling an afternoon away with a book.
In short: “a place that felt like a home, not just a vacation house,” says Cornelius-based David Smith of Custom Interiors, the longtime friend they tapped to help design the home from the ground up.
Smith, who also owns a retail shop by the same name, worked with the couple on their primary residence at The Pointe on Lake Norman, helping them transition the décor from a formal ambiance—think glazed cabinetry and heavy window treatments—to a softer, more modern feel that more befitted a lakefront abode.
So when it came to the Isle of Palms home, Smith was involved from the very beginning. Rounding out the dream team was Philip W. Smith General Contractor, based on Isle of Palms, and Steve Herlong of Herlong Architects on Sullivan’s Island.
The result: a 5,100-square-foot, six bedroom home that marries Caribbean touches with Lowcountry charm befitting a getaway a mere half-hour from Charleston, S.C.
The couple has spent a lot of time in Bermuda and the Bahamas, and loved the casual elegance of those homes. Herlong—who has designed many a home in the Caribbean and even lived on a boat himself for six years—knew the overarching goal for a beachfront home: views of the water.
So he designed an open-concept living room and kitchen area with extra-wide sliding doors that lead onto a back deck running the length of the house. When opened, the doors nearly double the living space. As for the porch, Herlong designed it extra deep, so rather than have a row of rocking chairs, Smith could bring in furniture arrangements. “I treated it as an outdoor living room,” says Herlong.
The back deck even has screens tucked into the ceiling, that, when activated, drop to create a screened-in porch. And with heaters built into the ceiling and a custom oversized daybed hanging from the ceiling, it’s the perfect spot to relax any time of year.
“It’s a laidback space, a laidback feeling,” says Smith. “Just to be able to sit and watch the waves and smell the beach, you immediately just unwind. It’s a slower mentality, a slower pace. Things just don’t impact you the way they do in our normal work routine lives.”
Casual entertaining—whether for big parties or just a handful of close friends—was at the forefront of Smith’s mind as he designed the interiors. The living room features a long sofa, a sectional, and a custom iron coffee table with a hair on hide top, where the family plays cards and games. Sun-bleached, old reclaimed wood beams add to the cozy feel.
The upstairs features two Oceanside master suites, each with porch access and incredible water views. Every one of the six bedrooms has an en-suite bathroom—a small touch that ensured every guest felt they had their own private retreat.
And while the home’s open and breezy layout is a modern touch, Smith wanted to include vintage elements as well. Consider the Pecky Cypress, a textured wood that burst onto the design scene in Florida in the 1940s and ‘50s, which appears throughout the space, from the wall in the living room to the island in the kitchen.
The beautiful wood—bleached and stained a warm gray—is also what the built-in bunk beds (and the steps doubling as drawers) are made from in one of the guest rooms. With three grown children (ages 25, 29, and 31), the couple wanted the home to accommodate future grandchildren as well.
When designing the butler’s pantry and laundry space, Smith was even inspired by the laundry room at none other than the Biltmore Estate. Years ago, he saw the iconic Asheville spot’s walnut-framed doors with white paint, and had long wanted to emulate it. He let Walker Zanger tile complete the vintage look.
“A home like this, I wanted to have a bit of an old throwback feel to it,” says Smith.
Of course, there are always the beachfront-weather considerations, including doors and windows made to resist high winds and hurricane-force weather. Smith even removed the glass from the oversized black lantern on the ground floor patio.
“You wanted strong winds to whip through it and not whip it around,” says Smith.
The zinc-coated copper roof added character and salt-air durability. Because it takes decades for a copper roof to develop the beloved green patina, Herlong opted instead for a zinc-coated option, which adds character with a soft, silvery finish.
The family often splits their time between the beach (the home is just 50 or so feet from the dunes) and the stunning ground-floor pool—the perfect spot for taking entertaining outside.
And, of course, should they long for the buzz of the city, there’s an easy solution: their perfect beachside escape is just a 30-minute drive from their favorite dinner spots on Kings Street in downtown Charleston.