There's no pomp and circumstance at this South Carolina beach cottage-just neutral hues and no-frills furnishings.

By Susan Sully
June 09, 2007
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Judy and Fred Reinhard love to sit in the rocking chairs on theporch of their Sullivan's Island beach cottage and tell guests thestory of how they discovered it on a bike trip six years ago.

"When we first rode by," Judy recalls, "the front yard was soovergrown with vines we could hardly see the house." But what theycould see―an old-fashioned raised cottage with a tin roof anda deep wraparound porch―they liked. When they managed to geta look inside, they fell in love with the scrubbed pine floors thathad never been finished, the beaded board covering the walls andceilings, and the open floor plan. "It looked just the way a beachcottage should," Judy says.

Used as a boardinghouse in the early 20th century, the house nowprovides a pared-down getaway. Designed for easy access and guests'privacy, every room has a door that opens onto the porchsurrounding three sides of the house. Windows in nearly everywall―even the interior walls―make the most of theisland's climate, inviting sunlight and sea breezes to flow freelythroughout the house.

With its spare, functional space, the cottage reflects theminimalist aesthetic the Reinhards employ at Fred, a home andkitchen boutique the couple operates on Charleston's King Street,just 20 minutes away from the island. Rows of white dinnerware,clear glassware, and stainless-steel kitchen accessories fill thestore and stand as testament to clean lines and simple living. "Wehave always been interested in houses and the things that go inthem," says Judy, explaining why she and Fred decided to open thestore 11 years ago.

It was only after opening the boutique and settling into a19th-century Charleston house that the Reinhards began to searchfor their beach cottage. While they wanted a seaside retreat forthemselves, Fred also hoped to create a place where their two grownchildren and the grandchildren would visit. "I spent every summergrowing up at my grandparents' beach bungalow in Seaside Heights inNew Jersey," he recalls. "I want my grandchildren to have the samememorable experience of summers at the shore."

The Reinhards chose Sullivan's Island because of its traditionalcharm and family-friendly community. Most of the houses on thesmall barrier island are permanent homes for families who livethere year-round. Playing children and romping dogs are commonsights, and beach traffic stays light.

At the end of every spring, Fred and Judy move out of the cityto the cottage, where they spend the entire summer. Using an almostall-white palette, they have kept the decor as informal aspossible. A pair of comfortable old sofas slipcovered in whitesheets faces a generously sized table in the living room. Someitems came with the house, including the twin beds in the guestroom and a tall mirror that leans against the living room wall.Flea market and antiques store finds make up the rest.

"I've begun collecting mismatched old wooden chairs," says Judy."They must have unusual characteristics and cost less than $10."One has a back carved in the shape of undulating waves; another hasa seat with a star pattern perforated into the wood. To unify thedifferent designs, Judy painted these pieces and much of thefurniture in the house high-gloss white. "White never goes out offashion," she says.

The varied textures and shapes of white forms―turned tablelegs, cotton bedspreads, paneled doors, and painted windowmullions―reflect the shifting coastal light and cast shadowson the salt-bleached floors and walls. Ceiling fans whir gently,spinning a pale blur of blades. Glimpses of color offer subtlecontrast in each room: the soft honey of an antique pine wardrobecrowned with earthenware crocks, an American flag Fred found washedup on the beach, an unstained wood table from Pottery Barn.

With its uncluttered attitude, the cottage is a cool andpeaceful retreat. Yet it becomes a busy hub of family activitythroughout the summer when Fred and Judy's children andgrandchildren visit from Charlotte and Atlanta for weeks at atime―just as Fred had hoped they would.