The Southern homes of the east coast of the US are known for their colorful, classic lines and look. But with the influence of more modern trends hitting the market, designers like Erin Glennon are pushing the boundaries and bringing in more unexpected elements to the spaces that they design. This home on Kiawah Island in South Carolina is a great example of how a traditional coastal home, can also include elements that aren’t so obviously “coastal” or “traditional”. Erin shares with us the process and concept behind this project.

Firstly, tell us a bit about the family and the home.

This is a vacation home on Kiawah Island, a resort not far from Charleston, SC. The owners are both full-time professionals in the finance field and they have two children, one in high school and one in college. They all have very busy schedules, so when they are all together at their Kiawah home it gives them an opportunity to reconvene at a slower pace and without the typical diversions or distractions.

How did that play into the design and what were they asking for when they approached you?

Having already worked with this client before, I had a good idea of what their tastes and preferences were. However, because this is a vacation home and also a space to entertain friends and family from out of town, I felt it important to push them a little outside their comfort zone and make some dramatic statements that they would not normally have in their primary residence. A few examples of this would be the use of wallpaper, the abstract art above the buffet in the dining room, and the striking fig leaf pattern used on both the valance and headboard in one of the guest bedrooms.

The home had quite a transformation, what was the space like when you started?

The space was definitely dated and had several structural issues, due to sitting vacant for some time before the house was purchased. In addition to a complete overhaul of all the finishes and fixtures throughout the house, a number of areas were completely gutted. The kitchen originally had counter space that angled around one side of the room, making it visually closed off from the living and dining areas, so we reconfigured it to be more open and better suited for gathering. The third floor was not considered usable space when we first began the project, as it was simply an unfinished attic, and we ended up converting it into two bedrooms and a bathroom, which added significantly to the square footage of the house.

Can you give us a sense of the layout of the home?

The house is 4,652 square feet and the layout is traditional in that all of the main public spaces are on the first floor—living room, dining room, and kitchen. There is a fluidity to the public spaces because they are at least partially open to each other. All of the bedrooms and their adjoining bathrooms – with the exception of the master suite – are on the upper floors.

Before we get into the style and decor that you added in, were there any functional challenges that you had to tackle?

Reworking the stairs from the first to the second floor was a bit of a challenge because we wanted the space to feel open while also adding an elevator. By changing the direction of the stairs from the center of the entry to the left of the entry door, we were able to open the ceiling up so that you can see all the way up to the third-floor landing, adding more light to the space. The elevator is now tucked away around the corner from the entry, which allowed us to keep an airy feel and a better flow to the rest of the house.

The house is located in such an iconically Southern location. How did you bring in the style of Kiawah Island into the space?

This home is not directly on the water, so I wanted the interior to feel coastal but not beachy. Much of the plants outside consist of palm trees, so the chandelier and textured walls in the dining room are a reference to this, as is the pillow fabric on the living room chairs. The king guest bedroom and the master bedroom reflect color palettes inspired by sunsets in the area. The master bedroom was actually designed entirely around the valance fabric on the window treatments, which illustrates a marsh scene, not unlike one you would find on the island. The art in the master bedroom also draws upon some of the birds indigenous to the area.

What we love about this home is its unique take on traditional. What example of how you merged contemporary with traditional could you share with us?

The entry has a traditional setup – a centered hall lantern and a console table flanked by a pair of chairs with a mirror above – but we decided to mix the materials and incorporate some modern furniture and art to make the aesthetic less static. The console table is more of a sculptural piece, comprised of a smoked glass top with a metal mesh base, and it contrasts with the more traditional mahogany, British colonial chairs that give it a West Indies vibe. The lucite base on the lamp adds a bit of modern to an otherwise traditional piece, while the fronds on the lamp tie in with the leaves on the large, brass mirror. The framed color block prints are modern with a simplistic sensibility, so they add color and interest but do not overpower the space. The balance of style and proportion are what make this an updated version of traditional.

There are some magnificently bold choices that you made, like in the powder room, for example. Tell us where that wallpaper is from and the teal sink?

The wallpaper is from Cole & Sons (pattern Florencecourt, color Teal) and the colors from the paper influenced the decision to select a vintage sink—they tend to have such unique green and blue finishes. I came across this particular sink in a small antique shop in Massachusetts.

You used different colors for each room, how did you make the home feel cohesive?

The color in the entry, halls and living room – Benjamin Moore’s Silver Sage – has an airiness about it, and it reads almost as a neutral. The same can be said about the pink walls in the master bedroom: the level of saturation determines the focus. Because it is a more neutral pink we were able to introduce other palettes that don’t compete with it.

What is your favorite moment in the space – anything in particular that turned out better than planned?

Convincing my client not to place a T.V. above the fireplace was a very pleasant surprise. It would have been an eyesore to see a giant, black box centered against the beautiful brick backdrop in the living room, and now the TV is not the focus of the room even though it is still conveniently located for the family to gather and watch movies.