A Sophisticated Beach House on South Carolina's Sullivan's Island

sullivan island house tour entry doors and stairway
Photo: Katie Charlotte Photography

Designer Cortney Bishop defies "beachy" stereotypes, proving that modern design and clean lines work for the shore, too.

01 of 09
sullivan island house tour entry doors and stairway
Katie Charlotte Photography

Sometimes an interior designer is tasked with giving an outdated or ramshackle home a modern makeover—other times he or she gets to start with a totally clean slate. Cortney Bishop of Cortney Bishop Design was happy to take on the latter when she was commissioned to design a beautiful custom-built home on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina. Her clients, a young couple with two teenage daughters, wanted a home that felt streamlined yet relaxed, minimal yet comfortable, and that provided an escape from the hecticness of the day-to-day.

The 4,000-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bathroom dream house (with a pool!) is just around the corner from the ocean, but the family did not want their home to feel like your average beach house decorated with shabby chic furniture, ocean motifs, and shell knickknacks. "Even though the home is only two blocks from the beach, our client still wanted the home, the living room in particular, to exude a relaxed sophistication and not feel like a traditional beach house," says Bishop.

To give her clients the look they wanted, Bishop and her team chose a neutral palette of black and white, and a clean modern design, accented with dramatic features like black cabinetry, graphic tiles and shiplap with a modern twist. Bishop understood the family's vision and was able to easily see their dream of a clutter-free oasis to fruition. "The project was very straightforward," she says. "[They were] clear about what was important to them upfront."

Ahead, Bishop walks us through the project.

02 of 09

Minimal Yet Cozy

sullivan island house white living room
Katie Charlotte Photography

This home proves that a minimalist space can still have texture, intrigue, and coziness. With two teenagers, Bishop's clients wanted the home to feel organized, but also approachable, with a space that provides comfort for the family. In the living room, cushy couches adorned with patterned throw pillows and blankets do the trick, adding a softer element to the modern vibe.

03 of 09

Make It Simple

sullivan island house tour minimalist black and white kitchen
Katie Charlotte Photography

It was very important for the family to have a tidy space. "The design reflected our client's preference for a clutter-free home," says Bishop. "They preferred a very neutral family home where everything has its own place and the vibe is easeful." Bishop designed the kitchen so everything is enclosed, and she kept the art and furniture sparse without making the room feel empty. The family also really wanted a waterfall island.

04 of 09

Try Tone on Tone

sullivan island house black and white hexagon floor tile
Katie Charlotte Photography

To ensure each room was its own space but still flowed seamlessly into the next, Bishop used a tone on tone aesthetic to create a cohesive vibe. Different shades of the same foundational colors—gray, white, and cream—run throughout the home tying it all together. "[I] established a strong, foundational palette throughout the house by balancing and repeating colors and tones from room to room," says Bishop. "It creates thoughtful cohesion."

05 of 09

Add an Accent

sullivan island house tour modern kitchen
Katie Charlotte Photography

Bishop was particularly fond of the black window frames throughout the home. "I love a crisp dark casement window with thin mullions and this house is full of them," she says. "They're striking architectural details that really stand out from both the inside and outside of the home."

06 of 09

Invest in the Bones

sullivan island house gray and white bathroom
Katie Charlotte Photography

When it comes to the budget, the family wanted to invest in the bones of the home and get it right the first time, so they wouldn't have made changes ten years down the road. "They invested in wide plank floors, impactful marble stone, and lighting that really stood out even with nothing else in the room," says Bishop. "We saved by repurposing several pieces of furniture from their previous home into their new one."

07 of 09

Consider Scale

sullivan island house tour dining room
Katie Charlotte Photography

The dining room can often become and overlooked and unused part of a home, but this one feels both chic and comfortable enough to draw anyone in. Bishop credits this to planning and scale. "It's important to evaluate the size of the room and select furniture pieces that appropriately fit the space," she says. "Of course, we want our dining rooms to seat as many people as possible, but avoid overcrowding the area with too large of a table and extra seats."

08 of 09

Go Bold in the Bathroom

sullivan island house bathtub in corner
Katie Charlotte Photography

This bathroom is a show-stopper. Bishop says it all goes back to our client's wish for a minimal, sophisticated yet bold design. "She loved dark cabinetry so that was no brainer... and the pull detail really shines, even against a dark background," she explains. "The tile fit the bill on all fronts—it was graphic, relatively neutral and in budget!"

09 of 09

Update the Walls

sullivan island house gray walls and white couch
Katie Charlotte Photography

Bishop is not a huge fan of sheetrock, so if there's an opportunity to add a finish to the walls (and the budget allows it!), she'll take it. Her clients were game when she suggested shiplap. "Shiplap is a clean, crisp visual that packs the punch," she says. "To keep it looking modern, go for a wider horizontal shiplap." She typically recommends at least eight-inch boards.

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