Lowcountry Cottage Charmer
Peaceful, Easy Feeling
It all started with a shiny turquoise-and-white fridge. "We saw it online, along with a dreamy blue range, and immediately fell in love," says the owner of this Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, cottage, who scooped up the bright appliances as she began renovating the home. "They had this retro, surfer vibe, which really inspired the overall look." Designer and fellow islander Cortney Bishop shared her appreciation for the colorful kitchen pieces. "They're like sleek sports cars," Bishop says. "The minute you see choices like these, you know you're off to the races with a very exciting client."
Bishop was right. The homeowners—a couple with three children and two Labradors—had been spending summers in area rentals for years. When they decided to look for a getaway property of their own, Sullivan's Island was at the top of their search list. "We wanted someplace that felt like a small town, and where we would be able to easily walk to restaurants, shops, and the beach," says the homeowner.
Second on the list was finding a house that honored the island's trademark cottage aesthetic. After a three-year hunt, they found their paradise: A three-bedroom cottage on a tree-shaded corner lot one block from the beach. "It's the quintessential Sullivan's Island house—vertical shiplap interior walls, original heart-pine floors," says Bishop. "And its size—just 1,500 square feet—really gave it a cozy, family feel." Adds the homeowner: "We loved that it's an old-fashioned cottage with plenty of quirks—nothing fancy and not too big."
The Master Bedroom
While the home's vintage sensibility was a draw for the couple, the interior configuration needed some work. Low ceilings, a clunky brick fireplace, and a wall that cut off the kitchen from the living room made the space feel cramped. To pack the most punch into the home's modest size, the layout would have to open up, Bishop decided. "As a designer, I'm drawn to smaller spaces because they force you to be more creative with what you have," she says.
The Dining Area
Working with local builder Bart Beasley, Bishop took down the wall between the kitchen and living room and replaced it with a counter-height bar and a built-in banquette, creating one seamless living space. The team removed kitchen cabinetry in favor of open shelving, and raised the flat, 8-foot ceilings by 10 feet at the ceiling's peak—enough to accommodate an overhead loft space (accessible via a custom ladder) outfitted with two double beds. "The higher you go with the ceilings, the more light you get, which helps to make a room feel larger and more airy," Bishop says.
The Living Room
To reinforce the home's cottage details, she continued the shiplap to the ceiling, and painted it bright white throughout. The shade reappears in the kitchen by way of glossy subway tiles. "In a small bungalow, an all-white home makes you happy and clear-headed without feeling monotonous," Bishop says, adding that it also provides a blank canvas for layering pattern, texture, and color. "Our permanent home in Virginia is very traditional," says the owner. "We knew we wanted something more fun and modern here, but still comfortable."
Get the look: The design team vaulted the ceiling in the great room, making space for a sleeping loft behind custom iron railings, and painted the walls and ceiling Wevet by Farrow & Ball to unite the living room, dining area, and kitchen.
The Son's Bedroom
Working closely with the owner, Bishop complemented the white backdrop with midcentury-influenced wood furniture, local photography, and antique, surf-inspired collectibles. "The wood really helps to balance out the bright, so everything doesn't feel too modern," says Bishop.
Get the look: In the son's bedroom, graphic print pillows and monochromatic local artwork complement the black-and-white collage wallpaper, which is by Life on a Wall and features family snapshots. Navy and woodpaneled beds by Room & Board, turquoise sconces by One Forty Three, and a Dash & Albert rug add pops of watery blue.
The Guest Bedroom
The shore was the driving force behind the blue-and-green palette, from kitchen countertops reminiscent of sea glass–speckled sand to the banquette fabric with a cool wave-like motif. "Here, the marsh is a prominent part of the landscape, so bringing in that Lowcountry green is just as important as the blue," says Bishop. Palm-leaf wallpaper in a guest room contrasts graphic blankets on a pair of twin beds; across the hall, a more neutral palette highlights custom wallpaper created by the owner with black-and-white family photos. "It's flashes of their lives, from when the kids were young until now," says Bishop.
Get the look: A bold palm wallpaper by Cole & Sons creates a fun, tropical backdrop for a pair of powder-coated steel twin beds by Schoolhouse Electric. The mod wall sconce is by Design Within Reach, and the mirror is vintage.
The Master Bathroom
It's also a symbol of the memories the family will make here, in a beach house that just fits—literally. "The wife is a mathematician, so many things, like the dining room table, were custom designed to the quarter-inch to fit their family," says Bishop. And after spending their first summer in the home this year, the family couldn't be happier with their cheery retreat. "We're always trying to find ways to spend more time here," says the owner. "It's the kind of place that just makes you happy the moment you walk in."
Get the look: The vanity in the master bath is painted Blue Green by Farrow & Ball.
Little Rooms, Big Ideas
Designer Cortney Bishop shares her secrets for tiny houses that live large.
Embrace Open Shelving. Nixing upper cabinetry makes the kitchen feel larger and creates additional space for displaying collectibles. Mix functional items like dishes and books with decorative pieces like artwork and pottery.
Keep Lighting Neutral. Bishop painted pendant fixtures in the kitchen the same color as the vaulted ceilings to simplify and streamline the look. The monochromatic scheme also amplifies the room's airy feel.
Think Up, Not Out. By raising the ceiling height, the team created enough vertical space to carve out an overhead loft that can sleep up to four more people. The higher, vaulted ceilings also make the great room feel more spacious.