Palm Garden Retreat

Welcome to this year's Coastal Living Idea House, where our design team has created a seaside home with old-time ambience, modern amenities, and innovative style.

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A screened porch yields alfresco living, dining, and cooking spaces and overlooks the pool and lagoon. A rattan sofa and armchair feature cushions and throw pillows in coordinating outdoor fabrics. Spunky square ottomans surround the tile-topped cocktail table. "We mixed all different types of furniture?rattan, woven, iron," Connie says. Susan adds, "We're really approaching outdoor spaces the same way we approach interiors because people love outdoor living so much. On the screened porch we added lamps and artwork to make this space as enjoyable as the indoor spaces."

Behind the bar, a five-burner grill anchors the kitchen. Outfitted with an under-counter refrigerator and a stainless steel sink with a gooseneck faucet, the space is ready for an afternoon cookout. Slate countertops work with stainless appliances and cabinet hardware to give the space upscale flair.

"You should feel like you're on vacation when you come home from work," says Don Cooper. A pool, spa, tropical landscaping, and comfortable furniture turn the lagoon-side lawn into a resortlike backyard oasis. Large, cast-stone tiles create a wide pool deck. Luxurious faux-bamboo double chaise longues in a faux-tortoise finish join bar-height bistro sets "for eating, drinking, and being merry," Debbie says. On a wide veranda just outside the great room, oversize black rattan ottomans and chairs topped with oyster-colored cushions create a shady space for reading and napping. "We kept the veranda uncluttered and symmetrical," Susan says, "so that it welcomes you outside, but nothing inhibits the view from indoors."

Just steps from the pool, a bubbling spa entices the weary. Here, low-slung palm trees and sea grapes provide privacy from neighbors. The nearby master porch, draped with lengths of outdoor fabric, offers a place to relax after a dip in the warm spa. A grouping of faux-bamboo chairs and an ottoman invite more relaxation. "We wanted the master porch to be a sort of private patio for the couple to enjoy coffee or cocktails together," Susan says.

A dock stretches over the deepwater lagoon. At its end, kids and adults can climb into a boat and head out to sea for an afternoon of birding, fishing, cruising, or picnicking on the bay.

"The location of the house allowed us to incorporate some plants we couldn't use further inland," says Sean Murphy. Sean and Jaime Ebberts, both of Atlanta's Amenity Architects, designed the home's landscape plan. "We were able to include several species of palms in order to complement the architects' tropical detailing," he says. Triple- and single-trunk coconut palms, foxtail palms, travelers palms, and a teddy bear palm?which sports a furry brown trunk?serve that purpose.

Street-side, Sean and Jaime framed the square, redbrick courtyard with beds and softened the silhouette of the garden fence. "We wanted the landscaping in front to be very lush," says Sean. Crape myrtles frame the front door, while bromeliads and caladiums thrive in the shade below. "There are also quite a few varieties of heliconia, a tropical plant, in the beds," Sean says. Along the fence and arbor, the pair trained vines on copper wire, wrapping and twisting them to create shapes. "We selected varieties such as Confederate jasmine that climb by twining, so that the vines don't adhere to the structures," Sean explains.

"Behind the house, we wanted people to focus on the pool and the view," says Jaime. "We didn't want to overpower the space." Around the pool, ample containers hold tropical plantings that bring texture, color, and a mix of large leaves to the expansive tile surround. Tall palms frame the view of the lagoon, and bromeliads of several colors circle the trunks.

Two terraces?off the master porch and the outdoor kitchen?also garnered their attention. "We knew those would be focal points," Sean says. He and Jaime crafted radically different gardens in the twin spaces.

Around the spa, a lush garden gives privacy from neighbors and passing boats. "By mixing all kinds of foliage with interesting, large leaves, we created a strong screen," Jaime says.

On the opposite side, Sean and Jaime built a succulent garden centered on a bonsai-style plumeria tree. "We added a few limestone boulders to the space, and behind it planted a huge cardboard palm."

For Mike Morris and his team at Bayfair, the battle between building products and the harsh coastal environment is a constant one. "In this climate, I don't know what we'd do without composite products," says Mike. "We do appreciate the look of natural products, but with the moisture, salt air, and sun, they can be impractical."

Exposed to the elements, a home's exterior can take a beating within a year. A composite-siding product, offered in a number of styles, maintains its fresh look. "It cuts and nails just like wood, and you can paint it," says Jennifer Garcia. Mike adds, "You treat it exactly like wood, it's just more durable and longer-lasting." Upstairs, exterior handrails and floors and the outdoor kitchen floor boast a composite-wood product that will not rot, crack, or split. "You can use it in an application where regular wood wouldn't apply," Mike says.

A metal roof, common to coastal architecture, features a contemporary Dutch-seam design. Aluminum-clad windows and doors require little maintenance, are energy efficient, and can be painted or stained.

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