On the Intracoastal Waterway, minutes from the white-sand beaches of Gulf Shores, our 2007 Idea Cottage offers location, style, and plenty of inspiration

By Elizabeth Raines BeelerText by Abigail B. Millwood
August 12, 2008
Jean Allsopp

If you could design your own coastal getaway, what would it look like? That's the question we put to interior designer Carol Murphy of Tracery Interiors in Rosemary Beach, Florida. She responded with a distinct vision for this new waterfront home. "The goal was to keep the house casual, young, and user-friendly," she says. "Bold colors are great, and I love to use them, but here I kept things soft and neutral."

Furniture slipcovered in linen signals that the den is a place to relax. Friends and family can crash on the comfortable seating after a long day at the beach. Windows open onto a private courtyard.

*lofty ambitions: To make the pair of windows at the end of the den appear taller, Carol hung Roman shades and draperies close to the high ceiling. The rod height gives the impression that the glass stretches right to the crown molding.

Roman shades, drapery, and yellow pillows: Sunbrella. Upholstered furniture: Lee Industries. Paint: Valspar. White pillows: Calico Corners. Windows: Marvin Windows and Doors.

This small but well-equipped kitchen occupies a prime location, opening to both the breakfast area and den. A wide island makes a great spot for homework or a quick meal. The sleek stainless steel faucet (with a unique pull-down nozzle) matches the fridge, oven, and hood.

Carol planned the color palette in the kitchen around muted beach tones such as sand and sea foam. She painted the cabinets a rich, neutral taupe and brightened the island with a complementary marsh green. "I wanted a punch of color but didn't want it to cover the whole wall, so the island was a great place to do it," Carol explains. Bar stools upholstered in a stain-proof fabric continue the theme, uniting the cabinetry colors with the den and breakfast area.

*stylish tile: Trade in your square-tile backsplash for a fresh look. "You see penny rounds [small, circular tiles sold in sheets] a lot in functional rooms, on the floor," Carol says, "but in the kitchen they give off a hip, young, family vibe." In the Idea Cottage, she chose tiles that echo fabric colors from adjoining rooms.

Paint: Valspar. Appliances: Viking. Fixtures: Delta Faucet. Bar stools: Lee Industries.

Living and Dining
In the living room, Carol painted the walls a soft blue and had oversize chairs outfitted in easy-maintenance slipcovers. She customized neutral pillows with ropes and grommets for a subtle nautical effect.

Elegant drapes and dark-wood furniture give the room a sophisticated air, while a candy-stripe rug and vibrant accent pillows keep it from feeling overly formal. "A little bright color goes a long way if you want the room to still be restful," Carol says. She prefers to save bold colors for small, eye-catching details, such as the turquoise and orange throw pillows.

Carol used the same trick in the dining room, which she designed to feel formal enough for large dinner parties but comfortable at the same time. She paired slipcovered dining chairs with a table reproduced from an antique. A splash of bright mango on the binding of the rug and trim on the chairs makes a big-but not overwhelming-statement.

Carol fell in love with the glass pendant lights over the table, but wanted a more casual look. "I had the fixtures hung with rope to take them down a notch and add a more rustic touch," she says.

*conversation starter: Carol suggests creating a seating arrangement with a circle of chairs, rather than sofas positioned across from each other. "People sit more comfortably in their own chairs, and it's better for conversation," she says.

Chairs: Lee Industries. Paint: Valspar. Drapery and neutral pillows: Calico Corners. Windows and door: Marvin Windows and Doors.

*coastal chic: A hallmark of Carol's fresh, coastal look is the combination of formal elements (such as the floor-to-ceiling semi-sheer draperies shown here) with informal, bright pillows and accessories. Even the daybed she used in place of a traditional sofa emphasizes a breezier feel. "It's a great spot to lie on a lazy afternoon and see the water," she says. "And it doesn't block the view from the other seating area."

Master Bedroom
Neutral fabrics, dark, woven-wood shades, and bold draperies give the master bedroom a crisp, modern look. Carol loved the clean lines of the upholstered bed but wanted to add a graphic touch, so she railroaded a striped fabric on the edges. Using a vertical stripe horizontally on the rise of the wings "totally transformed the bed," she says. She introduced a colorful twist with the patterned drapes. "I really wanted a block print, but this fabric has that hand-blocked look without the cost," Carol explains. "It seems youthful and carefree." A side door at right opens onto a covered balcony overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.

*less is more: If your bed is positioned snugly between two windows, install only one drapery panel on each. "Hanging a panel on one side doesn't crowd the space," Carol says. "That way the bed is the center of attention."

Bed: Lee Industries. Paint: Valspar. Drapery: Calico Corners. Windows and door: Marvin Windows and Doors.

Master Bath
To create a relaxing master bath, Carol used sumptuous materials and soothing colors. She positioned a luxurious, freestanding soaking tub directly under a window (but out of neighbors' eyesight) to maximize water vistas. She also chose a creamy marble to top the rich, walnut double-sink vanity. "I love having really clean surfaces, so I select stones that don't have a lot of pattern," she says. "The French vanilla has a clean look, and it's sandy, like the beach."

*timeless appeal: Carol installed a piece of custom-made furniture rather than a stock vanity when she outfitted this bath, turning what could have been a utilitarian room into a beautiful space. The sculptural tub becomes the focal point, and the handsome cabinetry provides dark contrast.

Sink base: J. Tribble Antiques. Fixtures: Delta Faucet. Paint: Valspar.

Guest Rooms
Connected by a Jack-and-Jill bath, the two guest rooms hold abundant comfort, including stylish Italian linens. Carol started with the fabric for each room, drawing her color schemes from the canopy and headboard materials. She painted one space a soft yellow, then covered the ceiling in a different shade in the same color family for added effect. In the other room, she chose a muted green. "I loved having a white headboard with a pattern, so I carried the green onto the walls to make the bed pop," she says. "You see it a lot more than you would if it were against a neutral wall." Instead of a traditional bench at the end of the bed, she chose two leather-and-stainless-steel campaign stools.

*fabric flair: A small canopy is simple but elegant in a guest bedroom. Carol hung the striped fabric from two trapeze-like rods suspended from the ceiling, and kept the room light and airy with soft linens.

Paint: Valspar. Upholstered furniture: Lee Industries. Canopy and drapery: Calico Corners. Windows: Marvin Windows and Doors.

Carriage House
Carol turned the suite above the garage into a playful work space and game room. She tempered dark bamboo floors with a beachy sea-grass rug, and had the table made from an old butcher block. "If you move into a house and all your furniture is new, it's not going to feel quite lived in," she says. "One-of-a-kind pieces give it that look you want."

*floating display: The designer created a suspended bookshelf with wood planks, thick rope, and hardware from an auto shop. The rope slides through holes drilled in the planks and is bolted on both ends to the ceiling and floor. The shelves are attached to the rope frame with long nails.

Paint: Valspar. Upholstered furniture: Lee Industries. Pillows: Calico Corners.

In a coastal environment, outdoor spaces are just as important as interiors, so Carol ensured they were equally enticing. She turned a closet on the upstairs porch into a full-service bar and equipped the space with a casual dining set. Screens keep bugs out in summer but fully retract into the ceiling on mild days. "I can see the family living out here, watching the sunset and having cocktails," Carol says.

Shutters: J&L Shutters. Siding: James Hardie. Furniture: Gloster. Railing and EverGrain decking: Tamko. Refrigerator: Viking. Paint: Valspar. Cushion fabric: Sunbrella.

"We all have to do laundry. Why not do it in a great space?" Carol asks. The designer brought color to the room with bright art and a striped undercounter skirt hung from a thin metal rod. The curtain can be pulled open for full access to laundry detergent and cleaning supplies and closed to mask everyday mess. The best part: The sturdy outdoor fabric will weather any laundry mishaps. Even bleach won't fade it.

*pretty and practical: Backing open shelves with beaded board painted the same color as the walls elevates them from storage to display space. Carol hung a drapery rod in front of the window to provide a handy drip bar for clothes that need to air-dry.

Paint: Valspar. Fixtures: Delta Faucet. Fabric: Sunbrella. Moisture control: DampRid.

Bon Secour Village
With French Acadian architecture, lush green parks, and walking trails, Bon Secour Village looks like a New Orleans neighborhood on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway. The 1,000-acre wooded community, unscathed by recent hurricanes, makes an ideal site for the type of responsible growth that is now revitalizing the Alabama Gulf Coast."It's going to feel like an entire town when completed," says town founder and developer Eddie Canaday. "We imagine the sense of a great resort area that has access to the ocean, but isn't limited by being on the ocean." Bob McGrath, sales manager of Bon Secour Realty, agrees. "There's more to the Gulf Coast than the beachfront," he says. "The backwaters can be just as coastal." A marina-home to shops, restaurants, offices, and low-rise condominiums-will stand at the center of Bon Secour. Planners hope the community will become "a town inside a town," Bob says. "We'll be inside Gulf Shores, but we'll have our own feel."

When complete, the village will accommodate permanent residents, as well as vacationers seeking fractional ownership. "We're going to have a place for everyone and a price for everyone," Eddie says.

He and the rest of the Bon Secour Village team share a grand vision for the entire 12-mile-long Intracoastal Waterway. Because a seawall protects developments here, they believe that a string of new communities will rise, becoming a beautiful and valuable resource for the Gulf Coast. In the future, they hope to be one of many hot spots along the waterway from Wolf Bay to Mobile Bay, with attractions for both residents and visitors. "We want to build a first-class destination so that everyone who comes to Gulf Shores has to come to Bon Secour Village," Eddie says.

Builder and Designers
To give this community an Old South feel, the developers set aside large green spaces for public parks and opted for narrow residential lots-perfect for traditional, shotgun-style homes. While our Idea Cottage looks like a conventional shotgun from the street, Norcross, Georgia, residential designers Stephen Fuller and Brandon Ingram of Stephen Fuller Inc. put a twist on the plan by moving the main entrance to the side of the house, improving the flow of the interiors. "It's much more efficient to come into the building in the middle rather than the front," Stephen says. "From a space-planning standpoint, it yields a far more interesting layout, fewer hallways, and less wasted space."

Outdoor Spaces
*private retreats: Tynes Stringfellow, president of Jubilee Landscape Inc., designed the small but luxurious courtyard as a haven from the hot Southern sun. Sedum between the paving stones adds texture, and a water feature keeps temperatures cool and provides calming white noise. Upstairs, the master bedroom's covered balcony takes in views of the water.

Outdoor furniture: Gloster. Fabric: Sunbrella. Railing and decking: TAMKO. Brick veneers: Eldorado Stone. Shutters: J&L Shutters. Siding: James Hardie. Paint: Valspar. Doors: Marvin Windows and Doors.