Cottage of the Year 2002: Cozy Retreat

Brian Vanden Brink
Welcome to our Coastal Living Cottage of the Year, nestled among live oaks in South Carolina. This home offers ideas in seaside architecture, interior design, and salt-marsh landscaping.

At 24 River Place, the sun also brings a warm glow to our cottage's great room and screened porch. Plush furniture and throw pillows?each with a punch of yellow or red?beckon visitors to relax. "A cottage is comfortable and warm, laid-back," says Linda Woodrum, interior designer for the 2002 Coastal Living cottage. "This place doesn't take itself too seriously."

"We wanted to blend urban and natural areas using old towns and Southern villages as models," says Bob Turner, codeveloper with Stephen Davis of Habersham, the 5-year-old community. Eventually, he says, it will be an independent town with a school and commercial area.

"Lots of living is going to happen in this room," says Linda of the great room. The first floor of the main cottage encompasses three distinct living spaces: sitting, dining, and living areas. Linda tied them together by keeping the basic decor and color scheme consistent. She painted the yellow-pine plank walls a diluted version of the glossy white on the trim and ceiling. Antique heart-pine floors add an heirloom quality, while bright hues enliven interiors.

The sitting area holds oversize red and yellow leather chairs that make a perfect couple?one with metal tacks and matching ottoman, the other a petite recliner. Shelves displaying art and books flank the stair landing. Splashes of color come from the same rug, lamp, and skirted table that are in the living area.

There, a brightly striped, woven rug defines a traditional family room. Around a brick fireplace are sofas in soft yellow chenille and a pair of rattan armchairs separated by a skirted round table. A generous coffee table displays a shell collection.

Inside the front door, in place of a traditional foyer, a long pine dining table invites guests into the cottage. With two 18-inch leaves, the table stretches more than 8 feet, easily accommodating eight ladder-back armchairs. A low-hung chandelier brings intimate lighting to the table. If a party's in the works, the chairs can be pulled away and the table becomes a perfect buffet.

The hardworking kitchen is equipped for a big family or lots of guests, and the cottage's open floor plan allows hosts to participate in the party. "I love the way the kitchen is integrated into the living area," Linda says, noting the cook's ability to pass samples over the island.

A cooktop with a nonstick grill and self-ventilation system and a combination oven and drop-down-door microwave make preparing dinner a breeze. "It's a great workspace," Linda says. Long-lasting titanium cookware helps the cause. A stainless-finish refrigerator has ample room for leftovers, while the large-capacity dishwasher keeps cleanup to a minimum. Two under-mount sinks featuring goosenecked faucets complete the kitchen. One sits in the pine-topped island; the other looks across the property to the water.

The master quarters, separated from the main house by a vestibule, offer a retreat. A black bed with posts resembling oversize chess pieces commands attention. Luxurious linens, a quilted coverlet, and down-filled pillows and comforter soften the large frame. Overhead, exposed beams add texture, while a whisper-quiet, 52-inch ceiling fan circulates incoming breezes. The bed's black-and-white theme carries over to other areas of the room with checked fabric?a soft throw, a chair cushion, and ribbon tabs topping window sheers. Beyond red double doors, a private porch awaits.

The master bath looks out to a lush courtyard. "Each component of the house has a spectacular view," says residential designer Eric Moser.

Warm, brown walls and ceiling and glossy white trim bring a crisp, classic look to the upstairs girl's room. "I love the contrast," Linda says. "It's very light and girly?without being gooey." To complete the feminine feel, Linda chose all white furnishings: a queen-size bed, round side table, and small-scale armoire with a cedar-lined closet and glass-front drawers. For color, two floral throw pillows, a shade darker than the walls, and a red plaid bolster dress the bed's quilted coverlet and down comforter. A child's vivid artwork finds a home atop the armoire, adding height and interest.

Both upstairs bedrooms have a private dressing and lavatory area leading to the shared bath. Here, a footed tub is outfitted with a rain-style showerhead and a chrome-finished shower system with thermostat. Windows look out to native palms, live oaks, and the river. A high chair rail displaying shells wraps the room, while window seat-style ledges on either side of the tub hold bubble bath, soap, and other niceties.

The boy's room is dressed in sailor-uniform blues. "We started with the striped fabric," Linda says of the window treatments and pillows. "It has a nautical feel, so we built around that." She continued the blue stripe with a natural fiber rug and a bed skirt she fashioned from two star-patterned, twin-size quilts. Completing the maritime theme are tin boat-rental signs and extra pillows bearing a sailing motif.

In the corner, a rocking chair provides an ideal spot for bedtime stories. A tray-topped table inspires daytime art projects. Toys and treasures wait for playtime in woven baskets that line a bookcase. Adding the visual motion of waves, scalloped details run throughout the room's furniture.

Large windows open to the park below, and a web of live-oak branches acts as a virtual headboard for the twin-size bed?turned sideways to open up floorspace. "The placement of the bed makes it almost like a window seat," Linda says. Roman shades with individual safety tassels echo the natural woven texture of the rug and easily lower to shield sleepyheads from morning light.

Connected to the main house by a screened porch, the cottage's guesthouse can stand alone as a studio apartment. With a small kitchenette, bath, and living area, the structure could function any number of ways. "You could even build the guesthouse first, and let the [main house] come as money and necessity allow," Eric says.

The interior plays off a backdrop of natural plank walls. Here, the planks are painted a handsome half-strength gray. Linda contrasted the pale wash with a red leather love seat and bold artwork. Martha Worthy lets nature inspire her paintings, conveying botanical elements in rich, intense colors. "The guesthouse is more earthy than the rest of the house, not as sweet," Linda says. Stairs lead to a sleeping loft, just big enough for two. The open loft makes the small house feel more spacious.

A wide porch stretches across the cottage's face, welcoming passersby. "Part of a cottage community is sitting on the porch and chatting," Linda says. The master suite and guest cottage each have a porch, too, in addition to the screened dining porch. To tie all four together, Linda furnished them with classic wicker from one collection, topped with water-resistant canvas cushions.

Behind the house, a bricked patio connects the living units. "You look out and it draws you there," says builder Ken Troupe. "The front porch is public; the courtyard is a place to relax and not be on display."

Ken's landscape staff created outdoor spaces with a lush, tropical feel. Plantings in front of the house are low-maintenance natives, such as palmettos, with verbena and daylilies for color. Containers simplify gardening in the courtyard.

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