Shop owner and designer Kay Douglass shares her tips giving a brand-new beach house a lived-in, comfortable feel.
Text by Steele Thomas Marcoux
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The Test of Time
Maybe it’s because sophistication comes with age, or because they really don’t make things the way they used to. Or maybe it’s simply the allure of history―a weathered texture or the glimpse of an object’s former life. Whatever the reason, there’s no denying the fascination with all things old when it comes to decorating a house, especially one at the beach.
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From Plain to Perfect
When shop owner Kay Douglass and her husband, Jim, purchased this new house―designed by architect James Carter―in Rosemary Beach, Florida, they relied on Kay’s knack for repurposing old objects to create an interior space that reflects the same character as the house’s architecture. Here, Kay reveals her top 10 ways to take a beach cottage from plain-Jane to perfectly imperfect.
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Simplify the Palette
“I stuck to a pretty disciplined palette of white, charcoal-brown, and wheat because I wanted to add character to this house with a variety of textures and materials and repurposed objects,” Kay says. “And it doesn’t compete with the view of the Gulf.”
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Add Instant Age with Vines
“Carolina jasmine adds verdant texture and accentuates the house’s architectural elements, such as the courtyard gate,” says Kay. The fragrant, rapidly growing vine is most commonly found in the Southeast.
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Dress Your Best Feature
Highlight existing architecture with swaths of fabric. “The three pairs of French doors with transom windows were the reason we bought this house―we just loved the light and the connection to the water,” Kay says. In order to call attention to them without competing with the view, she flanked each set of doors with flax-colored linen drapes mounted just below the ceiling to emphasize the room’s height.
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Opt for Concrete
“Each one of these pavers is handmade,” says Kay. “They really look like old European stone tiles but they’re concrete and thus practically indestructible.” The color is Buff, one of four finishes available from Peacock Pavers.
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Highlight the Architecture
Using a contrasting paint scheme of bright white and rich charcoal/chocolate makes the house’s double gallery porches, wide eaves, and planked siding and shutters stand out. ”We really wanted to draw attention to the French West Indies architectural elements,” says Kay.
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Repurpose Old Finds
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Perk Up Lackluster Walls
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Pull Up a Seat
“Chairs beside a bed or stools flanking a sofa were the most practical choice in this house because they take up less space and serve as extra seating when we have a crowd,” says Kay. The simplicity of the chairs’ utilitarian forms and smoothness of their worn wood add a sculptural touch and some texture to the space, as well.
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“I fell in love with the dark, worn finish of this oversize French chest,” Kay says. “We needed something that would function as storage as well as a sink console, so we mounted the sinks on top and ran the pipes at the very back to conserve as much drawer space as possible.”
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Despite the snug dimensions of 9-year-old Jack’s room, Kay designed this wide headboard for a pair of twin beds as a more sophisticated alternative to bunk beds that he’d soon outgrow. “This space was really vanilla before―just a tiny drywall box,” she says. “The upholstered headboard adds softness and makes the room so much more inviting. It’s everyone’s favorite design feature of the house.”
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Shop Kay's Look: South of Market
If you’ve fallen in love with Kay’s fresh take on combining simple elegance with rustic texture, you’re in luck. Nearly all of the iconic furnishings, light fixtures, wall art, and accessories that add rich patina to her beach house came from Kay’s shop, South of Market, which has two outposts in Atlanta (Virginia Highland and Buckhead) and one in Charleston, South Carolina.