Tour One Family's Island Getaway in South Carolina
It would have been way too easy for Cortney Bishop to decorate her client's house on Sullivan's Island in Charleston, South Carolina, with typical beach tchotchkes. But sailboats and seashells gave way instead to vintage pottery and artwork and custom detailing on upholstery and case goods.
Fortunately for Bishop and her team, the 1936 cottage home was already in great shape, having been renovated by previous owners. Its current occupants, a husband who is in banking and a musicologist wife, live nearby in Charleston and wanted to use the home as a weekend retreat for themselves and their three high school- and college-age sons. They enlisted Bishop, who happens to live on the small hamlet which she cheerfully likened to Pleasantville, to create a space that was relaxed, yet cool, for this young, active family that enjoys the outdoors.
It was a home Bishop had long admired on the island. At 3,400 sq. feet and with a handsome exterior, "the house has such great bones," she said. "It has the romantic quaintness of a beach cottage with stained wood shutters, horizontal clapboard, and a wrap-around front porch, but it needed warmth and layering." Citing the family's love of sports and fishing and their desire for a simple life, Bishop set out to create a home in which they could spend time with each other and turn off without worrying about fussy furnishings or fabrics. "That was their intention—quality family time," Bishop said.
Here, the expert designer takes us inside the family home and explains the design decisions they made.
Beach House Reimagined
"The house needed a little bit of depth, but they didn't want a typical coastal beach house," Bishop says. "It needed personality on a level of uniqueness and artisanal goods." Bishop adds the wife asked her to, "Bring it up a notch and make it more personable and more functional."
Dining Meets Living
Out went the formal dining room (who dines formally at the beach?) and in came a custom, locally made banquette Bishop designed and upholstered in a woven cotton blend fabric by Zak + Fox. She paired it with a durable ironwood table and dropped them in between the living room and the kitchen. It was a bold, but effective, move, tying together both spaces.
"We capitalized the back side of the kitchen island," Bishop said. "We lost the bar stools, but we got a big gain with a table that opened to the living room and kitchen. You can still have a conversation with someone in either room. It's all one big family space."
The Nap Room
She also converted a one-time salon room, whose original purpose was to enjoy tea, into a napping room. Outfitted with a deep sofa and Moroccan rug, it's one of the most used rooms in the house. "On a rainy day, you can sneak away and wrap yourself in a blanket and be in a layered and cozy room connected to the house."
To add depth throughout the home, Bishop brought in rich color. Navy blue drapery panels and pillows with ocean hues in the living room are a nice contrast to the woven accent chair and vintage coffee table.
Mix & Match
Inspired by the ceiling beams in various wood tones, Bishop also didn't fret about having everything match. Light and dark color wood happily co-exist on furnishings. "We mixed and matched different stained woods for a more artisanal vibe," Bishop said.
One guest bedroom delights with a pair of yellow beds from Schoolhouse Electric and geometric, colorblock-printed drapery panels.
The designer also used controlled doses of pattern to add additional layers of depth. A Verellen sofa in the living room has a small-scale checked fabric. "It gave a lot more personality than the standard white sofa," she said with the knowing confidence of designer who isn't afraid to take risks.
Bishop relied on vintage pieces and original architectural details to keep the home looking relaxed. The floorboards are vintage heart of pine and no one ever even considered tearing them out. She scoured local markets and the internet to pepper the home with unusual finds, including vintage drinks tables, Moroccan rugs, and pottery. Art was no exception. That pretty, bright, framed sunset in the living room is by John Duckworth.
Take a Dip
Sullivan's Island is a linear island bookmatched with the marsh behind you and the ocean in front of you, Bishop explained. "You're surrounded by the color of the ocean, a rich emerald green. And the sand is an earthy gray—not white, not brown." Temperatures on summer days can easily skyrocket to 100 degrees F. For those languid hot summer days when a napping room just won't do, a plunge pool beckons right outside the living room and just beyond is Sullivan's Island Beach.
"They spend a lot of time here in the summer," Bishop added. "Walk right out the door to the pool or the beach."