A family’s move from Charleston to the Caribbean includes transforming an outdated cottage into a home away from home. Discover how they did it, step by step.
By Marisa Spyker
1 of 9Photographer: Lisa Romerein; Stylist: Elizabeth Beeler
For many, the choice to pack up and move to an island paradise happens only after lifelong dreaming and years of searching. For Charleston, South Carolina, residents LeGrand and Allison Elebash, a developer and interior designer, respectively, that decision was almost instant. "We were offered an opportunity to build a resort on St. Kitts, which required us to move there for a few years," says Allison.
A whirlwind house-hunting trip led the couple and their two children, Hudson and Chloe, to a circa-1980s West Indies-style cottage overlooking Frigate Bay. "It was a little outdated, but it had so much character," Allison says. Here's how the Elebashes combined Caribbean style with familiar comforts to form an island abode that makes them feel right at home.
2 of 9Photographer: Lisa Romerein; Stylist: Elizabeth Beeler
1. Play to Your Strengths
Not wanting to detract from the house's vintage character, the Elebashes embraced its best qualities, such as its open floor plan, original parquet floors, and West Indies--style vaulted ceilings stained dark brown. "It was perfect—we wanted a home that felt like we were in the islands, but still had an elegance about it, because we entertain a lot," says Allison.
3 of 9Photographer: Lisa Romerein; Stylist: Elizabeth Beeler
2. Outfit Outdoor Spaces
Allison made sure the porch could accommodate the family's daily activities, including seaside siestas in a quilted hammock. "When we're home, we spend most of our time out on the porch," says Allison. "So there's a spot to do everything."
4 of 9Photographer: Lisa Romerein; Stylist: Elizabeth Beeler
3. Get Sneaky With Shades
While the vintage charm of the island retreat appealed to the Elebashes, it did have its shortcomings—particularly when it came to the size of the windows. "They were all very small," says Allison. "So I ordered bamboo blinds that would extend beyond the top of the actual window. Hung higher, it gives the illusion of a taller, more expansive space."
Get the look: The living room blinds are fromSmith+Noble.
5 of 9Photographer: Lisa Romerein; Stylist: Elizabeth Beeler
4. Embrace Antiques
Allison brought several of her treasured vintage finds to St. Kitts, including this bar cart and chair. The collection of coffee table books and pictures creates an interesting display.
6 of 9Photographer: Lisa Romerein; Stylist: Elizabeth Beeler
5. Lay a Neutral Foundation
The family room—with its slipcovered sofa, bold coffee table, and patterned pillows—exemplifies one of Allison's simple design tricks: "I always like to start with neutral sofas, because you can do anything with them," she says. "You can change out the pillows, side chairs, or tables in the room and the sofa still works."
7 of 9Photographer: Lisa Romerein; Stylist: Elizabeth Beeler
6. Refresh With Fabric
Rather than starting from scratch, Allison opted to recycle some furniture from their Charleston home. The only caveat? Their previous aesthetic didn't quite jibe with their new island vibe. "We covered a lot of our antiques and existing pieces with slipcovers so they would feel more island-like," she says. In the master bedroom, Allison gave the couple's existing headboard a makeover with soothing blue fabric.
8 of 9Photographer: Lisa Romerein; Stylist: Elizabeth Beeler
7. Embrace Bright Hues
"Island homes lend themselves to color and prints," says Allison. "You have permission to use brighter, bolder things." In Chloe's room, the designer chose vibrant, statement-making curtains in feminine hot pink. She added an eclectic touch with aqua accents and plenty of pattern.
9 of 9Photographer: Lisa Romerein; Stylist: Elizabeth Beeler
8. Bring Outside Colors In
In her son Hudson's room, the designer took a cue from the water outside, infusing sea-inspired turquoise into the curtains, art, and accents. She grounded the look with natural colors and textures in the headboard and nightstand.