We've Found the Most Relaxing Beach House—Ever!
Symphony in White
"I think of this house as a symphony in white," says architect and designer Julia Starr Sanford of the airy, escape-ready home she designed on a corner lot in Alys Beach, Florida. Just steps from the front door, snow white sand glistens against the azure sea. "To me the home feels strong and rugged, built to last a millennium," says Sanford, "and yet sensual and serene at the same time."
Besides wanting a vacation home that feels intimate enough for family but big enough to host friends, her Atlanta-based clients gave the designer carte blanche—and blanche it became. "All the whites play off each other and the varying textures, modern forms, and classical curves. The light illuminates each one a little differently," says Sanford. Here's more on how she turned the beach's go-to neutral into a showstopping color scheme.
Making an Entrance
A pair of sabal palms frame the entrance to this North Florida beach house, outfitted with creamy cement tile steps, curved bronze railings, and a mahogany door limewashed to a light gray.
Vary Your Neutrals
"This is a large room—the ceiling soars to 22 feet," says Sanford. So it was doubly important to layer in several different shades of white and contrasting textures to keep it from feeling cold. Along with whitewashing the woodwork, the designer included super soft materials, like a natural-hide ottoman and bleached natural-weave rug (great for bare feet!), in shades of beige to warm up crisp white walls and a smooth concrete coffee table. The sea fan artwork is by Karen Roberts.
Limewash the Wood
"This is where the family watches TV, and where the teenagers retreat," says Sanford of the limewashed pecky cypress sitting room on the second floor. The ceiling has a steep pitch, like a tented beach cabana. Surf scenes by artist Thomas Hager hang above Danish oak folding chairs that read like groovy poolside loungers.
Warm Up the Whites
Marble countertops and a book-matched backsplash (the lower and upper sections of the Calacatta Borghini stone mirror one another) dazzle in the sunlight in this wood-warmed kitchen. Windows replace traditional upper cabinetry, and the white surfaces are a smooth counterpoint to the horizontal-plank island and more rustic limed-oak ceiling. Curvy-cool acrylic stools relax the ultra linear island and pendant lighting.
Salute the Sun
A sunset toast ends any day on a high note, especially when raising glasses from this white-on-white rooftop deck. "The views are just breathtaking," says the designer, who tucked the room behind a large outdoor fireplace to shield winter's prevailing breezes. Bleached concrete pavers help keep the flooring cool, and a bleached teak coffee table and coral rock planters are organic reminders of the lofty perch's natural surroundings. The furniture is by Restoration Hardware, and the cushion fabric is by Perennials.
Choose Watery Blues
The teak pool bar is outfitted with hand-painted blue cement tiles in a shade that resembles pool water. "These are fun and appropriate for a great outdoor bar, without straying too far from the neutral palette," says Sanford, who designed the lighting for her own line, Sublime Originals.
Plan Your Escape
Simple white linen drapes lend an air of privacy to the pewter-finished English soaking tub, making the spa-like master bath feel more like a super private hideaway. Sanford chose the frosted-glass chandelier for its visual link to the ocean—"It reminds me of sea glass," she says. The statuary marble floor tiles are arranged in a handsome herringbone pattern.
Give It Character
On the ground floor near the guest rooms, Sanford designed this indoor/outdoor room to double as a guest lounge. Sliding doors open to the pool, bar, and courtyard, and "concrete walls and ocean breezes keep it comfortable and cool," she says. She found the antique bleached-teak coffee table and console in Bali. "They're really old. I love how they have those scars of time after sitting out in the sun for hundreds of years."
Stephanie Hunt writes home stories, features, and essays from her home near the beach in Charleston, South Carolina.