Atlanta interior designer Kristin Drohan knows all about compromises (and creativity) when it comes to a vacation home at the beach. Her dream house was going to be a custom-built cottage right on the ocean, designed to her specifications at every point. Reality set in when she saw the cost and timetable involved, particularly in the areas where she was looking along 30A in Florida. Sometimes a girl needs to take some shortcuts, it turns out, so busy families can get to the fun part quicker. “We discovered that the process of building from scratch is quite lengthy to do in this area, so we started looking at new construction and found this house mid-build,” says Kristin. “The ability to have something in a couple months — and be able to customize it somewhat — was just pretty enticing.”
The Drohans were attracted to the location of Gulf Place, which is about halfway between Seaside and Destin, and a quick walk to the beach. The house itself was spacious but needed some custom touches, so Kristin set to work convincing the builder to let her make some changes. First off: add some charm to the kitchen.
“Our ‘builder-basic’ hall and kitchen needed some architectural interest and shiplap was the perfect nautical answer,” she says. “But I had a budget to consider, so I needed to be creative.” To achieve the shiplap look for less, Kristin had her contractor use plywood sub-flooring instead of pine boards. She also added open shelves along the backsplash and a white quartz countertop to the island as easy upgrades. Her challenge was picking materials that could be obtained right away, since the builder was on a tight schedule.
When it came time to furnish the vacation home, Kristin could pull out a big advantage most of us don’t have: she manufacturers her own furniture line, so she could access samples and other insider tricks. “I was able to use every imaginable leftover pillow, lamp, accessory and piece of furniture from showroom vignettes and design-project rejects that I could,” says Kristin. In the living room, for instance, she paired two cobalt side chairs from the KDC line with a sofa and side chair also from her warehouse.
A curvy headboard upholstered in faux leather was a leftover from High Point Market and a great starting point in the guest bedroom. She paired it with teal accessories and a piece of local art painted on wood to add a beachy feeling.
This process propelled Kristin to add a new division to her furniture line, in fact, aptly named the Beach House Collection. Most of her furniture is already available in finishes that seem at home on the coast — such as “driftwood,” “weathered oak” and “gray wash” for the wood, but she’s now also developing fabrics that are both hard-wearing and pretty. “A vacation home at the beach needs to be durable,” says Kristin. “The amount of sand that finds its way inside is crazy.” The faux leather she used on the beach house bar stools and dining chairs can be wiped down with spray cleaner, Kristin points out, and the Sunbrella fabrics on large upholstered pieces can be put in the washing machine.
With the house complete, Kristin and her family can get right to enjoying life on 30A: shrimp tacos at La Playa, live music at Growler Garage and checking out the surf. Family life at the beach is everything she thought it would be. “We do feel like we hit the jackpot,” she says.
Thanks to Colleen Duffley Productions for today’s beautiful photographs.
See more stylish homes from around the South in our “Homes” section.