Some refer to it as Palm Beach design, but in upscale Sea Island, Georgia, residents give it their own twist called Sea Island style. So, just what are the ingredients of this delightfully happy look? It helps to have incredible architecture and a tropical view, but even a small apartment can be infused with this preppy decorating style. The recipe for Sea Island chic includes a bright color palette (think Lilly Pulitzer-style colors), tempered with LOTS of crisp white as a contrast, throw in plenty of bamboo and wicker, some motifs with an Asian flair, and season liberally with pattern and texture.
Sea Island designers Bethany Cassell Vann and Adrian Pressley Johnson merged their talents for the interior design firm (and store) Johnson Vann Interiors, where Sea Island style is the superstar. There’s always the challenge to respect history and architecture and not get caught up in the wow factor, they say. “Achieving the preppy look while keeping things stately is a delicate dance,” says Adrian. “It’s about balance, and the bright colors complementing other elements in the room — not competing.” The key to their fresh look is selecting “clear colors” and then pairing them with white. Similarly, the duo might take a traditional chair and reupholster it with a bold fabric, successfully blending old and new.
Their latest challenge was this stately new Georgian-Mediterranean house on Sea Island built for a St. Louis family. “Architect Paul Fendler drew inspiration from traditional Mediterranean architecture that’s prominent in Sea Island, as well as classic homes elsewhere, and even in the Hamptons,” says Bethany. “One of our goals, then, was to make the house look as though it had been there for decades rather than new construction.” The design team chose a muted shade of white for the stucco exterior, as one example … one that was warm, not cream, and felt “perfectly aged,” adds Bethany.
Inside, Bethany and Adrian incorporated a few family antiques, but otherwise started from scratch with a design goal of crisp and colorful. “We kicked off the design process with a trip to Palm Beach,” says Adrian. “We found a great pair of vintage sconces painted the best shade of yellow … that was a real starting point for our color palette.” And yes, even designers rely on Pinterest. Adds Bethany, “We were able to share images all the time long-distance, since the client was 800 miles away!”
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