Georgia's St. Simons Island enchants vacationers, naturalists, and full-time residents with its rich nautical history and relaxed atmosphere. Microcosms of the larger community, Coast Cottages and The Villas at Coast Cottages embody all the things that attract people to this isle. That's why we've chosen to build our 2003 Coastal Living Idea House here. Designed to emphasize views, the beachside sanctuary opens wide to sea and sky.

By Cathy Still Johnson
July 06, 2004

"I wanted to create a place in keeping with the old St. Simons,"says developer Denval Hamby. Since ground was broken in 1995, thisseaside neighborhood has turned out houses reminiscent of thosebuilt in the area during the '20s and '30s. Front doors and porchesopen to a brick street lined with palms, giving the development asmall-town sensibility. "I bought the land because I appreciatedthe trees, the marshes, and the quaintness of the village," saysDenval. "It's a place where people live, not just a resortcommunity."

The main street of Coast Cottages, the first phase of theproject, extends to the development's 300-foot stretch of beach."When we first started out, we built smaller homes," says Denval."Then people started asking for bigger houses."

To answer requests, Denval began the final phase of thedevelopment, The Villas at Coast Cottages. This section offers3,500-square-foot luxury townhomes. Such conveniences as enclosedparking, private pools, roof-top decks, and elevators mark theseinnovative properties. "It's the next generation of beach homes,"says Patrick Anderson, vice president for sales and development forThe Hamby Corporation.

"When the doors are open in the great room, you find yourselfsitting on the beach," says Coastal Living design consultant Linda Woodrum. To createwhat the architects call a "living porch concept," UV-filteringglass doors and windows wrap three walls of the soaring 25-footspace. Sliding doors open to covered porches and further blur theline between inside and out.

The large room encompasses the living, dining, and kitchenareas, but Linda made the space feel more intimate by clearlydefining each section. In the seating area, matching linen sofasflank a brown leather ottoman that serves dual purposes as afootrest and coffee table. Two pairs of floor lamps tower like palmtrunks behind the sofas.

In the dining space, Linda chose an extendable pine table andoval-backed chairs. For contrast, armchairs, with a darker finishand subtle plaid upholstery, anchor each end of the table.

To avoid overpowering the room's graphic architectural detailswith excessive pattern and color, Linda chose neutral tonespunctuated with blue accents: the palette of sand, sea, and sky.Vases, plush pillows, and a striped throw coordinate with theCaribbean blue-painted rafters above.

To define the kitchen as its own space within the great room,the designers separated it with architectural detailing.Caribbean-inspired decoration such as the turned pine posts andscrollwork over the stove adds interest. "The posts on the islandare just like ones I saw on a four-poster British Colonial bed,"says architect Thad Truett.

In addition to hiring craftspeople to create these elements, thearchitects worked with a cabinet company to further customize thespace. Maple wood, finished in a linen hue, forms side cabinets.Reaching almost ceiling height, the wall units feature shelvingwith glass doors, a buffet counter, and open display storagebelow.

Surrounded by a stainless steel backsplash, an aluminumporthole-style window over the stove looks out onto the stairwell.A dual convection oven with gas cooktop provides various cookingoptions. Six burner grates offer plenty of room for using thekitchen's stock of dishwasher-safe, hard-anodized, nonstickcookware.

While the oven takes center stage here, the architects designeda butler's pantry for other functional items. The cabinets extendto this galley-like room, and there's also space for a built-inwine rack, an ice maker, a stainless steel prep sink, a microwave,and a counter-depth refrigerator.

A queen-size platform bed dominates the master bedroom.Crafted from split-and-woven rattan and accented with braidedleather, this West Indies-influenced piece stays in keeping withthe breezy architectural spirit of the house.

Above the bed, a collage of oil paintings by local artist JanetPowers reflects her view of this island's marshy landscape. "Thereare incessant changes in the light, the tides, the atmosphericconditions, and seasons," says Janet. "It's truly a delight tomerely sit on our back porch and experience these changes." Othersculptural pieces by Janet hang over a green-and-whitecabana-striped chair.

Linda custom-designed tie-top draperies to give privacy to thedressing alcove and to frame the windows. "Drapes add a cozyfeeling to the room," she says. Choosing from a large variety ofsolid and patterned fabrics, Linda notes that this sturdyweather-resistant material, traditionally used outside, works justas well indoors.

Because there are only two bedrooms in this version of thefloor plan, Linda decided to outfit the guest room with twin beds.Shutter-style headboards underscore the home's tropical flair.Monogrammed scalloped sheets and a thermal cotton blanket providejust enough cover for the warm climate. In case of a cool spell, aquilted crimson toile spread waits at the foot of each bed.

Juxtaposing these cottage comforts with island style, Lindaaccented the room with bold floral art and bamboo lamps. Unlike thesoothing colors in the rest of the house, this one boasts vibrantred. "It's always fun to have one room in the house that's a littledifferent," Linda says.

The architects looked toward examples of regional architecturefrom the early 20th century when designing the bedrooms. Beforeair-conditioning, people used vaulted or tray ceilings to let heatrise. A powerful energy-efficient ceiling fan keeps the air moving,even when the windows are closed. "Exposing the ceiling structurealso gives the rooms much more volume," says Thad.

The house plan includes three full baths?one in each downstairsbedroom and a third in the loft. Matching vanities, built likepieces of furniture, are topped with granite countertops, chosenfor their textured good looks. In the shower, guests can change thespray configurations with a simple twist. Nickel-finished fixturesoffer clean, classic style.

A mezzanine wraps the second floor of the great room, leavingit open to the vaulted ceiling and room below. Much likevacationers on the promenade of a cruise liner, homeowners andguests will flock to this level to take in casual conversation andcoastal views. Three walls of crank windows impart the feel ofboundless space. French doors open onto a deck that points duesouth. Here, Linda arranged two upholstered wooden armchairs and anottoman as a gathering area. "It's a great cocktail spot for theend of the day," she says.

Because of the exposed interior structure, the design team hadto get creative in hiding the air system. "We didn't have a lot ofroom for the air-handler system," Thad says. "So we usedhigh-velocity heating and cooling and hid the vents behind the boxbeams." Small circles, nodding to porthole design, give the quiet,energy-efficient system entrance to the vaulted room.

An all-inclusive electronic system provides the most up-to-datetechnology. "It's intuitive homes wiring," says Mike Galyean, thebranch manager of AVI. Homeowners customize features to operatelighting, music, security, and more. "You can set the system toautomatically turn lights on and off when you walk in and out of aroom," Mike says. "You can program different settings for a dinnerparty or pool party, depending on your mood."

In the loft bath, a whirlpool tub transforms the room into amini-spa. The tub fits a small area but still gives maximum comfortwith its added depth, headrest, and contoured lumbar support.

"The house is a marriage of several styles," Thad says. "Wepushed them all together and made a kind of Brunswick stew."

Nowhere is this mix more evident than on the porches. Shutterssuggest West Indies style, the heart-pine posts areCracker-inspired, and deep overhangs nod to the post-Reconstructionperiod. Decks on the upper levels and a cabana room below all pointseaward. Durable composite boards run long, like planks on aboat.

Hardy natural and synthetic wicker seating in traditional stylesensures everyone has a place to rest. Linda put together severalcollections in different finishes to give the lounging areas thesense of being assembled over time. On one side porch, rockingchairs line up like seagulls on a pier. A rope hammock, still madein accordance with its century-old design, swings gently in theconstant breeze. Ceiling fans, crafted out of weather- andtarnish-resistant materials, whir overhead with the reliability ofthe tide.

Wood screened doors carved with decorative fish open onto thearea beneath the deck where some might store surfboards or canoes.But the space became a private retreat instead. "Everyone wanted toreclaim this spot as an outdoor room," says Linda. "It has anamazing breeze. You're on the beach but also have a lot ofprivacy."

The design team installed a therapeutic spa, with power jetsthat soothe necks, backs, and feet with the touch of a button.Remote-controlled, retractable screens fit the structural openingsframing the spa. Made from ultra-sheer fiberglass mesh, they letthe breeze in but keep pests away.

For this outdoor space, Linda chose weather-resistant fabricsand furnishings. If the house came with frozen-drink service,loungers would never leave the cabana room's chaises or built-inbed.

When the design team first met with Coast Cottages developerDenval Hamby, they decided the home should be oceanfront. Thedramatic site begged for a Caribbean-style house, agreed architectsKeith Summerour and Thad Truett of Summerour and Associates. "Afterwe surveyed the perimeters," says Thad, "we took it and ran withit."

Along coastal Georgia, trees on the dune line reaching at least20 feet determine the building setback. On this lot, three treesreached this height, forming a triangle. "I believe you can workwith the environment," Denval says. To allow the home to blend withthe island's architecture and landscape, they kept it just under2,700 square feet.

Though it appears to be an established beach cottage, this houseoffers the most modern amenities available today. Constructed withstylish, long-lasting, environmentally friendly materials, thestructure can withstand winds up to 120 mph. "The house is sosolid," says builder Dick Pipe, "that you could pick it up and turnit upside down and it would still stay together."

Landscape architect Bryce Vann worked with the lot's shape andthe house's design to create the garden layout. "I wanted it tofeel like it has always been here," she says. Bryce enhancedexisting foliage by adding plants indigenous to the area. "Afterthese plants get established, the homeowners won't have to do muchat all."

The triangular lot line guided the shape of the floor plan."It's bigger on the street side and narrows on the oceanfront,"says architect Keith Summerour. "It comes to a point?almost likethe bow of a ship." Humble compared to most resort homes, thecottage is only 2,688 square feet. But multiple covered porches, adeck, and a downstairs cabana make it feel a little larger. "Thiswould be a great lake or mountain house, too," says Keith,referring to its openness to the outdoors.

Glass wraps three sides of the great room that centers the plan.Two bedrooms and baths extend like wings on either side. Atower-like staircase leads to a loft on the top floor. While the Coastal Living Idea House opens to the great room below, theplan also includes two alternate second-floor versions withbedrooms.