When old friends asked Memphis interior designer Rhea Crenshaw to design their new beach house — in the Watersound community on Florida’s picturesque 30A — she knew the collaboration would be amazing.
“It’s a true friendship, and we’ve worked together for years,” Rhea says. It also didn’t hurt that the site itself was stunning. “The dunes at Watersound, they’re amazing,” Rhea adds. “It has all these boardwalks that are enormous and go hundreds of yards to get you to the beach, and they’re just really beautiful and unusual. To be on that property is very fortuitous.”
Rhea had already worked with the family to design one beach home in Watersound, which they bought in 2007 and sold after finishing their new home last year. In the first house, the palette was mostly blue and white, and the styling was intentionally sparse. For the new house, the homeowners wanted an infusion of color and individuality.
“The second house we wanted to feel more eclectic and throw a bit more personality into it — make it feel sort of old,” Rhea says. “Sort of like Harbour Island in the Bahamas or Old Palm Beach style.” For the first house, Rhea had taken her clients on a buying trip to France, where they’d picked up antiques and accessories Rhea used throughout the former home. “And so for the second house, we wanted to incorporate all of those things that we loved so much,” Rhea adds. “Even though the houses were technically the same amount of square footage, the new house had more space just because of the way it was laid out. So we knew we would be able to use all of those things and then some.”
Rhea blended the family’s French treasures throughout the new home’s spaces, combining them in new ways and with fresh color palettes to give the pieces new life. Because the homeowners both have strong lifelong memories of the coast — the wife grew up on the beaches of South Carolina, and the husband traveled with his family to Destin throughout his childhood — they wanted the house to reflect their love of the Southern coast. “The look is more collected and found and generational,” Rhea says. “It’s really a lot more eclectic than the first house. We wanted to incorporate that old, Southern beach style with the new, cool look of this house.”
The home’s wide, whitewashed entryway features shiplap walls, wide-plank floors and natural wood door surrounds with a custom keyhole design that bookends the space. The living room opens to the kitchen and features a cozy, comfortable seating area with a coastal-casual slip-covered sofa and a pair of coral armchairs — a color that’s repeated in accent pillows. Warm wood ceiling beams form a chic contrast to the taupe high-gloss ceiling, a feature Rhea used in several spaces throughout the house.
The dining room, also open to the kitchen and living area, features freestanding clock hands that came from the earlier France buying trip and stand twelve feet tall. A new white-painted sideboard and plump white cushions on the dining room chairs continue the coastal vibe.
In the kitchen, a custom backsplash is made of South African tile with a clay-like texture and matte finish. A large-scale chandelier hangs above the island. “It’s rope over a steel frame, and we found it in a store in Atlanta,” Rhea says. “It’s just a perfect find.”
A cozy den with high-gloss paint on both the walls and ceiling has a Palm Beach vibe, with its eclectic mix of furnishings and black and white accents.
The master bedroom, by contrast, features matte walls in a soft shell pink. A pale pink chaise lounge offers a great spot for reading by the natural light from a row of windows. In the master bath, a freestanding soaker tub takes center stage in a clean space characterized by white paneled walls and shell pink accents.
Speaking of bathrooms, Rhea used a small powder room to add drama to the mostly white-walled home, painting the walls a deep slate blue and turning a giant antique clamshell – which is real – into a sink basin. “We just dreamed it up,” Rhea said. “My client found the shell in an antique store, and I had an iron artisan down there make the base for me.” The clamshell theme carries through to the pool area and also makes an appearance on the dining room sideboard. “They’re all true shells,” Rhea points out. “They’re not poured.”
All together, she was able to use “every single thing” the homeowners already owned, adding new rugs, a few new furniture pieces and all new draperies and fabrics to give the home a fresh, new color palette. All the brick used on the home’s exterior – including the fireplace on a homey outdoor covered porch – was shipped in. “It’s antique, and it was from an old tobacco warehouse or factory in South Carolina,” Rhea says. “It’s on the exterior chimney and on the courtyard and driveway.”
It’s a house the family plans to enjoy for years – and generations – to come. “They have two college-age children, and they constantly have friends in and they entertain family a lot,” Rhea says. “It was a very easy transition from house one to house two. We both felt the same – we’d had enough of the all white and the total clean lines, and it was time to do something that just felt a lot more original and authentic to them.”
Beautiful photos by the talented Julie Wage Ross.
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