Can one imbue a new house with an old soul? That was the issue confronting Thad Truett, a St. Simons Island-based architect, as he prepared to design an oceanfront home on Sea Island, Georgia.
The homeowners wanted a residence that would echo the brickwork and terra-cotta roofs of Casa Genotta, the 1932 home built by playwright Eugene O’Neill, which sits just two blocks away. This is not the high-style Spanish of Palm Beach, 360 miles to the south, but is instead a more rustic version that marks the northern reach of Spain’s colonization along the Eastern Seaboard.
The completed house rises above the dunes, with an asymmetrical blend of round and angular shapes composing a welcoming façade. Like many of its neighbors, the home has the pleasing texture of local Georgia brick, which Thad lime-washed to give it a light color.
Thad went to great lengths to produce the kind of crafted details that confer a sense of authenticity. Hand-painted tiles and a marble basin are hallmarks of Mediterranean Revival style. The geometric tiles are from Ann Sacks.
Atlanta-based interior designer Susan Lapelle found ways to incorporate antique pieces but update them for a fresh feel. She chose stairwell tiles with bold geometric designs instead of the classic Tuscan versions. “They would have looked too dated,” Susan says.
Thad had all of the black ironwork in the home—including the front gates and the entry balustrade—custom-made by a craftsman Charles Calhoun in Atlanta.
The design contains a convenient open living area anchored with comfortable upholstered pieces and light sisal rugs, rather than the Oriental carpets topped with heavy, wood-framed settees that are more often associated with strict Mediterranean Revival style.
A sisal rug by Stark Carpet anchors a coffee table from A. Tyner Antiques and tight-back upholstered sofas from South of Market, both in Atlanta. The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s China White.
In the bedrooms, Susan chose slightly off-white bed linens that are soft to the touch and organic natural window sheers that filter the sun’s glare.
In the master bedroom, a pair of vintage French club chairs is upholstered in pale green fabric by Cowtan & Tout. A regal headboard from Mrs. Howard and an Oushak rug by Allan Arthur Rugs establish a rich atmosphere.
For all of its careful attention to history, the house is not a museum. On the contrary, the clients sought to mix their home’s traditional architecture with some subtle modern touches.
The kitchen countertops are granite, with shells and sea life embedded in the stone. The terra-cotta tiles were aged with dark wax.
On late-summer evenings, the family gathers with drinks on the poolside back porch. In the hush of dusk, the setting is indistinguishable from gatherings on the same stretch of beach 80 years earlier, just as the family had intended.
Pillows on the loggia and by the pool are by Schumacher.