Shipshape Cottage

Georgia's St. Simons Island enchants vacationers, naturalists, and full-time residents with its rich nautical history and relaxed atmosphere. Microcosms of the larger community, Coast Cottages and The Villas at Coast Cottages embody all the things that attract people to this isle. That's why we've chosen to build our 2003 Coastal Living Idea House here. Designed to emphasize views, the beachside sanctuary opens wide to sea and sky.
By Cathy Still Johnson
"I wanted to create a place in keeping with the old St. Simons," says developer Denval Hamby. Since ground was broken in 1995, this seaside neighborhood has turned out houses reminiscent of those built in the area during the '20s and '30s. Front doors and porches open to a brick street lined with palms, giving the development a small-town sensibility. "I bought the land because I appreciated the trees, the marshes, and the quaintness of the village," says Denval. "It's a place where people live, not just a resort community."

The main street of Coast Cottages, the first phase of the project, extends to the development's 300-foot stretch of beach. "When we first started out, we built smaller homes," says Denval. "Then people started asking for bigger houses."

To answer requests, Denval began the final phase of the development, The Villas at Coast Cottages. This section offers 3,500-square-foot luxury townhomes. Such conveniences as enclosed parking, private pools, roof-top decks, and elevators mark these innovative properties. "It's the next generation of beach homes," says Patrick Anderson, vice president for sales and development for The Hamby Corporation.

GREAT ROOM
"When the doors are open in the great room, you find yourself sitting on the beach," says Coastal Living design consultant Linda Woodrum. To create what the architects call a "living porch concept," UV-filtering glass doors and windows wrap three walls of the soaring 25-foot space. Sliding doors open to covered porches and further blur the line between inside and out.

The large room encompasses the living, dining, and kitchen areas, but Linda made the space feel more intimate by clearly defining each section. In the seating area, matching linen sofas flank a brown leather ottoman that serves dual purposes as a footrest and coffee table. Two pairs of floor lamps tower like palm trunks behind the sofas.

In the dining space, Linda chose an extendable pine table and oval-backed chairs. For contrast, armchairs, with a darker finish and subtle plaid upholstery, anchor each end of the table.

To avoid overpowering the room's graphic architectural details with excessive pattern and color, Linda chose neutral tones punctuated with blue accents: the palette of sand, sea, and sky. Vases, plush pillows, and a striped throw coordinate with the Caribbean blue-painted rafters above.

KITCHEN AND BUTLER'S PANTRY
To define the kitchen as its own space within the great room, the designers separated it with architectural detailing. Caribbean-inspired decoration such as the turned pine posts and scrollwork over the stove adds interest. "The posts on the island are just like ones I saw on a four-poster British Colonial bed," says architect Thad Truett.

In addition to hiring craftspeople to create these elements, the architects worked with a cabinet company to further customize the space. Maple wood, finished in a linen hue, forms side cabinets. Reaching almost ceiling height, the wall units feature shelving with glass doors, a buffet counter, and open display storage below.

Surrounded by a stainless steel backsplash, an aluminum porthole-style window over the stove looks out onto the stairwell. A dual convection oven with gas cooktop provides various cooking options. Six burner grates offer plenty of room for using the kitchen's stock of dishwasher-safe, hard-anodized, nonstick cookware.

While the oven takes center stage here, the architects designed a butler's pantry for other functional items. The cabinets extend to this galley-like room, and there's also space for a built-in wine rack, an ice maker, a stainless steel prep sink, a microwave, and a counter-depth refrigerator.

MASTER BEDROOM
A queen-size platform bed dominates the master bedroom. Crafted from split-and-woven rattan and accented with braided leather, this West Indies-influenced piece stays in keeping with the breezy architectural spirit of the house.

Above the bed, a collage of oil paintings by local artist Janet Powers reflects her view of this island's marshy landscape. "There are incessant changes in the light, the tides, the atmospheric conditions, and seasons," says Janet. "It's truly a delight to merely sit on our back porch and experience these changes." Other sculptural pieces by Janet hang over a green-and-white cabana-striped chair.

Linda custom-designed tie-top draperies to give privacy to the dressing alcove and to frame the windows. "Drapes add a cozy feeling to the room," she says. Choosing from a large variety of solid and patterned fabrics, Linda notes that this sturdy weather-resistant material, traditionally used outside, works just as well indoors.

GUEST BEDROOM AND BATH
Because there are only two bedrooms in this version of the floor plan, Linda decided to outfit the guest room with twin beds. Shutter-style headboards underscore the home's tropical flair. Monogrammed scalloped sheets and a thermal cotton blanket provide just enough cover for the warm climate. In case of a cool spell, a quilted crimson toile spread waits at the foot of each bed.

Juxtaposing these cottage comforts with island style, Linda accented the room with bold floral art and bamboo lamps. Unlike the soothing colors in the rest of the house, this one boasts vibrant red. "It's always fun to have one room in the house that's a little different," Linda says.

The architects looked toward examples of regional architecture from the early 20th century when designing the bedrooms. Before air-conditioning, people used vaulted or tray ceilings to let heat rise. A powerful energy-efficient ceiling fan keeps the air moving, even when the windows are closed. "Exposing the ceiling structure also gives the rooms much more volume," says Thad.

The house plan includes three full baths?one in each downstairs bedroom and a third in the loft. Matching vanities, built like pieces of furniture, are topped with granite countertops, chosen for their textured good looks. In the shower, guests can change the spray configurations with a simple twist. Nickel-finished fixtures offer clean, classic style.

LOFT AREA
A mezzanine wraps the second floor of the great room, leaving it open to the vaulted ceiling and room below. Much like vacationers on the promenade of a cruise liner, homeowners and guests will flock to this level to take in casual conversation and coastal views. Three walls of crank windows impart the feel of boundless space. French doors open onto a deck that points due south. Here, Linda arranged two upholstered wooden armchairs and an ottoman as a gathering area. "It's a great cocktail spot for the end of the day," she says.

Because of the exposed interior structure, the design team had to get creative in hiding the air system. "We didn't have a lot of room for the air-handler system," Thad says. "So we used high-velocity heating and cooling and hid the vents behind the box beams." Small circles, nodding to porthole design, give the quiet, energy-efficient system entrance to the vaulted room.

An all-inclusive electronic system provides the most up-to-date technology. "It's intuitive homes wiring," says Mike Galyean, the branch manager of AVI. Homeowners customize features to operate lighting, music, security, and more. "You can set the system to automatically turn lights on and off when you walk in and out of a room," Mike says. "You can program different settings for a dinner party or pool party, depending on your mood."

In the loft bath, a whirlpool tub transforms the room into a mini-spa. The tub fits a small area but still gives maximum comfort with its added depth, headrest, and contoured lumbar support.

OUTDOOR LIVING/CABANA
"The house is a marriage of several styles," Thad says. "We pushed them all together and made a kind of Brunswick stew."

Nowhere is this mix more evident than on the porches. Shutters suggest West Indies style, the heart-pine posts are Cracker-inspired, and deep overhangs nod to the post-Reconstruction period. Decks on the upper levels and a cabana room below all point seaward. Durable composite boards run long, like planks on a boat.

Hardy natural and synthetic wicker seating in traditional styles ensures everyone has a place to rest. Linda put together several collections in different finishes to give the lounging areas the sense of being assembled over time. On one side porch, rocking chairs line up like seagulls on a pier. A rope hammock, still made in accordance with its century-old design, swings gently in the constant breeze. Ceiling fans, crafted out of weather- and tarnish-resistant materials, whir overhead with the reliability of the tide.

Wood screened doors carved with decorative fish open onto the area beneath the deck where some might store surfboards or canoes. But the space became a private retreat instead. "Everyone wanted to reclaim this spot as an outdoor room," says Linda. "It has an amazing breeze. You're on the beach but also have a lot of privacy."

The design team installed a therapeutic spa, with power jets that soothe necks, backs, and feet with the touch of a button. Remote-controlled, retractable screens fit the structural openings framing the spa. Made from ultra-sheer fiberglass mesh, they let the breeze in but keep pests away.

For this outdoor space, Linda chose weather-resistant fabrics and furnishings. If the house came with frozen-drink service, loungers would never leave the cabana room's chaises or built-in bed.

EXTERIOR AND LANDSCAPE
When the design team first met with Coast Cottages developer Denval Hamby, they decided the home should be oceanfront. The dramatic site begged for a Caribbean-style house, agreed architects Keith Summerour and Thad Truett of Summerour and Associates. "After we surveyed the perimeters," says Thad, "we took it and ran with it."

Along coastal Georgia, trees on the dune line reaching at least 20 feet determine the building setback. On this lot, three trees reached this height, forming a triangle. "I believe you can work with the environment," Denval says. To allow the home to blend with the island's architecture and landscape, they kept it just under 2,700 square feet.

Though it appears to be an established beach cottage, this house offers the most modern amenities available today. Constructed with stylish, long-lasting, environmentally friendly materials, the structure can withstand winds up to 120 mph. "The house is so solid," says builder Dick Pipe, "that you could pick it up and turn it upside down and it would still stay together."

Landscape architect Bryce Vann worked with the lot's shape and the house's design to create the garden layout. "I wanted it to feel like it has always been here," she says. Bryce enhanced existing foliage by adding plants indigenous to the area. "After these plants get established, the homeowners won't have to do much at all."

FLOOR PLAN
The triangular lot line guided the shape of the floor plan. "It's bigger on the street side and narrows on the oceanfront," says architect Keith Summerour. "It comes to a point?almost like the bow of a ship." Humble compared to most resort homes, the cottage is only 2,688 square feet. But multiple covered porches, a deck, and a downstairs cabana make it feel a little larger. "This would be a great lake or mountain house, too," says Keith, referring to its openness to the outdoors.

Glass wraps three sides of the great room that centers the plan. Two bedrooms and baths extend like wings on either side. A tower-like staircase leads to a loft on the top floor. While the Coastal Living Idea House opens to the great room below, the plan also includes two alternate second-floor versions with bedrooms.