Tour the Ultimate Southern Dream House
At Home In Florida
When it comes to Idea Houses, we've given you lots of inspiration for ways to live over the years, from suburban fixer-uppers to mountain farmhouses. For 2019, we went big on a fantasy: a home built from the ground up on a slice of the Florida coast with a rich history, sweeping oak trees, and breathtaking water views. Crane Island, Florida, is a new development that prides itself as much on vernacular building as it does on preserving its wetlands. Named for the bevy of cranes that flock here, it sits 4 miles from the center of Fernandina Beach, a small town with big claims to fame. It was settled in 1562, and the flags of eight countries have waved over it—the most of any city in the U.S. At the turn of the 20th century, the area's boatbuilders showed off their booming industry (and carpentry skills) through their own finely detailed Victorian homes around downtown.
The Right Fit
We complemented the setting with an equally extraordinary team: new-old house masters, Historical Concepts' Jim Strickland and Clay Rokicki; our former Southern Living Style Director turned decorator Heather Chadduck Hillegas (with her assistant, Mackin Thompson); and Riverside Custom Homes, who helmed the construction. Together, they poured their visions and expertise into a house filled with tried-and-true decorating ideas that will stand the test of time.
A Natural Evolution
Several things drove the plans for the house: "The water, incorporating parts of old Fernandina Beach, and being sympathetic to the trees," Jim says. "We didn't lose a single live oak." Landscape architect Don Hooten enhanced the front with a sweep of shrubs and grasses from the Southern Living Plant Collection. Historical Concepts balanced touches of Victorian architecture, like the double-height porches and ornamental millwork, with a quintessentially Southern gable roof. A mix of rot-resistant lap siding, smooth siding, and board-and-batten from the Aspyre Collection by James Hardie creates a built-over-time effect.
Pull Right In
A Warm Welcome
The exterior's white paint, Sherwin-Williams' Drift of Mist (SW 9166), echoes the paths made of crushed oyster shells and the porch's star detailing was "borrowed" from a Fernandina Beach home. Concrete planters from Birch Lane flank the antique front door painted in Sherwin-Williams’ Blustery Sky (SW 9140). A single hanging yoke mount lantern is combined with two wall mount lanterns, all by Carolina Lanterns & Lighting.
Sit A Spell
The front porch is by no means large, but there is room enough for two rocking chairs. It wouldn’t be a true Southern house without somewhere to watch the world go by.
Come On In
Since the back of the house faces the water, "We oriented every room for the view, and a proper foyer would have closed it off," says Clay who devised a "column screen" to separate the front hall from the living room. Heather defined the space with lanterns, which are "appropriate for the Lowcountry," she says. "Mercury glass feels old and a little fancy too." (Lorford Smoke Bell Lantern; circalighting.com)
With the foyer open to the living room, it was important to blend the two spaces. Both pick up on the blue and white palette of the main floor. The foyer wows with blue wallpaper while the living room uses fabrics and accessories for color.
Setting the Tone
The expansive living room feels extra comfortable because of wood ceiling beams (faux painted to look old), a simple decorative molded mantel, and the V-groove wall paneling. "It all makes the house seem playful," says Jim. The walls of the space are painted in Sherwin-Williams' Classic Light Buff (SW 0050) and the ceiling in Pure White (SW 7005), creating a clean backdrop for all the textures and colors in the accessories. Anchored by a 110-inch-long Lee Industries sofa, the room seats 11.
Sense of Place
As an ode to the location, Heather assembled an art wall that she calls "Cranes and Other Odd Birds," suspended on a brass picture-hanging system.
A Time for Modern Concessions
Jim is adamant that kitchens should adapt to today. "The person cooking shouldn't be shut off from the entertaining," he says. Conceding the home's best views to the dining and living rooms, he and Clay configured an adjacent L-shaped kitchen that's windowless but still bright. "People want storage and a place to hide the coffee maker," says Clay, who obliged with cabinet-front appliances and a hidden pantry behind the two cabinet doors to the left of the range.
A grid of eight pendants (Clarkson Lighting's Urban Renewal Mini Pendants), rather than the ubiquitous pair, hangs above the kitchen's pathways.
The convenient pantry features slate floors, open shelves, and pull-out wire drawers for lots of useable storage.
Make It Pretty
Embrace the space and treat it as its own room. Heather covered the pantry walls in Magnolia Home ticking stripe wallpaper(#ME1562) available at Sherwin-Williams stores and included a few framed prints and baskets to make the pantry feel more complete.
Revive an Old Finish
Heather created a focal point with a tropical-themed, sepia-toned Gracie wallpaper over the range. A thin layer of plexiglass covers the wallpaper for protection and easy care. A Venetian plaster treatment over the hood coordinates with the wallpaper and cabinets painted with Sherwin-Williams' Tinsmith (SW 7657). The two cabinets flanking the range are fitted with glass panes, but Heather added a bit of cotton fabric to mask any unsightly products. You get the airy effect of glass cabinets without losing any storage space for display-only china.
Heather continued the pattern over the range in the alcove between the built-in refrigerator and freezer. She used the additional countertop space as a bar here, but it can also serve as a buffet during family dinner parties.
"It would have been easy to have done giant picture windows with no grids, but we wanted to keep the old Fernandina Beach vernacular, so we stuck with giant operable, double-hung windows," says Clay (Ultimate Double Hung G2; marvin.com). Heather kept the room simple but furnished to scale with a 42-inch vintage, frond-topped lantern; a 72-inch round table; and chairs skirted in her own Petite Frond in China-Blue. "The leafy print echoes the light fixture," she says.
"Floors are often missed opportunities for decorating," says Heather, who saw a checkerboard motif used at design icon Bunny Mellon's Antigua home and had a decorative painter create a similar look in the dining room. Heather used the three colors of the room on the floor: Sherwin-Williams' Zurich White (SW 7626) on the walls and trim, Misty (SW 6232) on the ceiling, and Naturel (SW 7542) on the window flange.
Bask in the Scenery
Nearly 1,400 square feet of outdoor living space encircles the home from top to bottom. The largest stretch of porch was carved into three distinct sections: an open-air lounging zone off the living room, a spot for eating, and—tucked behind that—a screened area. Wrought iron furnishings (Provence Patio Sofas and Club Chairs; birchlane.com) dress up the main seating area of the porch. A retractable awning from SunSetter will block any unwanted glare.
Made for Each Other
Birch Lane's teak dining table and Oriana Dining Chairs are the exact same scale as the indoor dining setup. The natural tones of the furniture mimic those you find in the view from the porch. To ensure that the home's outdoor spaces are enjoyed as much as possible, the team put Zuri Premium Decking (which feels like a hardwood floor) underfoot and lit the space with Carolina Lanterns.
Jim and Clay decided to place the screen porch on the side of the house so as not to block any of the primary views of the water. With the addition of a fireplace, this space becomes an outdoor living room that can be enjoyed almost year-round. Heather included comfortable seating from Salt Cottage Home, making this a great spot for reading a book.
A fully stocked bar station adjacent to the fireplace means you can stay outside longer. A larger mirror above the bar reflects light and the view.
Jim and Clay designed the house with many "knuckles" to help separate different rooms and areas. One of those spaces includes this nook between the front hall and the master bedroom. Heather added a small wicker chest and a few accessories to make the space cozy as well as practical.
Like a True Sleeping Porch
Exposed bracing on the walls reinforces the idea that this room was once a porch but has been enclosed. The entire space is painted in Sherwin-Williams' Westhighland White (SW 7566), reinforcing the cozy feel of this space. A handmade mahogany Reid Classics bed "carries the tradition of the architecture into the room," notes Heather, who topped it with a mosquito netting-like canopy made of her own Grande Frond in Olive.
A Federal-style mirror hangs above the bed which is topped with a neutral quilt from Dillard’s and a white duvet with green trim by Peacock Alley. Clarkson Lighting's Westminster 3 Light Pendant makes the bed's canopy glow in the evening.
At the other end of the master, the room is drenched in light thanks to plenty of windows facing the water view. This was the perfect spot for a seating area. Heather continued the neutral tones of the bedroom by repeating the Grande Frond fabric from the bed canopy for the curtains. The floral chairs balance well with the clean lines of the tuxedo-style sofa. The space was feeling overly symmetrical so Heather threw it off a bit with a round side table and a lower drink table on each side of the sofa.
A Space for Each
The master bath features a freestanding tub between two vanities. "Giving a couple their own separate sinks with storage beneath is a game changer," says Heather. She color matched this Cheviot Balmoral tub to Sherwin-Williams' Rookwood Dark Green (SW 2816) and the vanities are painted in Herbal Wash (SW 7739).
A large shower sits opposite the vanities and tub. Heather liked the idea of bringing French doors inside and used bronze frame-work to mimic that feeling. “The weightiness of the bronze is counterbalanced by the dark tub in the room,” says Heather.
A Treat for Dogs
The collection of photographs by Theron Humphrey on along the shelves hint to the room's intended purpose. "Pets live well in my house," says Heather proudly. In the mudroom, she plumbed in a pot filler for easy water-bowl refills and topped the storage bench with a soft cushion. Hooks hold leashes, sun hats, and beach towels.
At the other end of the mudroom, chalkboard paint on the built-in hutch creates a great place for weather updates and notes to guests. The walls and trim are painted in Sherwin-Williams’ Classic Light Buff (SW 0050), while the rest of the hutch is in Grecian Ivory (SW 7541). The painted floor detail picks up these two colors for an extra custom touch.
When you're in a home that has nine beds and is near the ocean, sheets and towels pile up. The design team chose a stackable washer and dryer, set off with a handsome integrated farmhouse sink and slate counter that match the floor. Heather says, "There's such a softness to the look, and it hides dirt well." The cabinets and trim are painted in Sherwin-Williams' Grecian Ivory (SW 7541) which ballances well with the Sister Parish wallpaper and matching fabric (Desmond in Espresso).
Jewel Box Powder Room
"It's okay to be a bit louder in here as long as it relates to the rest of the house," advises Heather, who went for cerulean (Sherwin-Williams' Refuge, SW 6228) on the wainscot and bold wallpaper (Meg Braff Designs' Little Egypt in Iznik) above it. "The wainscot reduces the amount of wallpaper needed." The brass-legged vanity is Birch Lane's Templeton.
Boring to Wow
A hall near the stairs can often be an unremarkable space. Heather used the opportunity to create an oversized gallery wall with a collection of pieces by artist Catherine Jones. Circa Lighting’s Cosmopolitan Picture Light is another show-stopping piece that makes this throw-away space another interesting spot in the house.
In order to give the main rooms the best views, the stairs had to be placed at the front of the house. Jim and Clay decided to create interest and add a modern touch by covering the stairwell in Marvin windows. The design is reminiscent of walking up a lighthouse.
With the shiplap walls painted in Sherwin-Williams’ Westhighland White (SW 7566), Heather decided to add color by painting the ceiling in a soft blue (Lullaby, SW 9136). that accents the window treatment. Unable to find a runner the right size Heather ended up having 6 Dash & Albert 3x5 rugs sewn together to create the necessary length. The wicker consoles by Mainly Baskets are very narrow so they don’t take up space in the six-foot wide hallway.
A chair is a great perfect piece to place at the top of the stairs because it can hold a purse or a stack of laundry in a pinch. This one is vintage and adds a little bit of quirk and charm to the top of the stairs.
A Playroom for Everyone
Homes with constant activity need a made-for-all-ages lounge. Heather pulled together this fun space with L-shaped banquettes from Lee Industries. "They don't need as much fluffing or maintenance as sofas," she notes. The Oomph Home game tables come with acrylic tops, so they can work for playing or dining. The warm rattan-and-bamboo Sanibel Arm Chairs from the Coastal Living Universal Furniture collection are light and comfy.
Heather included Long Key Etageres from Universal Furniture in the alcoves behind the banquets. This makes for easy access to board games and books for kids and adults.
Sleeping in the Trees
This relaxing porch opens off the game room making it the perfect spot for afternoon naps after a long day at the beach. A deep, twin-mattress sized, Original Charleston Bedswing is topped with comfortable blue pillows to ensure a deep sleep.
Two colors of Zuri Premium Decking (Weathered Gray and Chestnut) make a maintenance-free striped floor.
Old Southern Classics
"I love a room with painted trim. It reminds me of Colonial Williamsburg houses," says Virginia-born Heather. She covered this bedroom's windows and baseboards in a deep bottle blue green, Sherwin- Williams' Jasper Stone (SW 9133). A subtle painted ceiling (Sea Salt, SW 6204) offers a slight contrast to the white crown molding and walls painted in Alabaster (SW 7008). Heather's own Lillieberrie fabric (in Aloe) is used as a valance hanging over the antique bed as well as on the bed skirt.
Keep it Consistent
The doors throughout the house are painted in Sherwin-Williams’ Classic Light Buff (SW 0050) which blends well with the neutral paints and pops of color in every room.
Two small side tables flank the queen bed. A Circa Lighting table lamp in Ice Blue Porcelain compliments the light blue tones of the canopy fabric as well as the soft blue of the ceiling. A vase filled with fresh cut flowers is the perfect way to welcome guests for their stay and one of Heather's no-fail hosting tips.
"Express your wild side in smaller spaces," suggests Heather, who papered the guest bedroom's adjoining bath with a splashy blue-and-white pattern (Soane Britain's Dianthus Chintz in Lapis) and lined the inside of the window shade with a coordinating fabric that shows through. The trim color from the adjoing bedroom, Sherwin-Williams' Jasper Stone (SW 9133), is used on the double vanity.
Neutral doesn’t mean cold. The warm tones of the Lee Industries upholstered chairs and the brass accents continue the cozy, sunset feeling Heather was going for.
Heather used this 18th century walnut hutch in this room to really contrast the high ceilings. The short stature allowed her to add artwork by her photographer husband, David Hillegas which draws the eye up towards the pink ceiling. Natural accessories like the shell covered bottles and woven trays reflect on the environment surrounding the house.
The majority of the fabric used in this room was dedicated to the window treatments. With such high ceilings, there was a lot of space to cover. Heather opted for a simple brown and white ticking for the valance and curtains, but added a playful beaded trim.
Open-Ended Slumber Party
A closet-size space (about 8 feet by 10 feet) sleeps four guests comfortably with two sets of built-in bunk beds. Each boasts two crucial amenities: an individual night-light and a luggage compartment (not shown) at the foot of every bed with "room for a pair of tote bags," says Heather. Curtains made from Schumacher's Santa Barbara Ikat provide privacy, and she used the matching wallpaper on the ceiling. The walls, trim, and bunks are painted in Sherwin-Williams' High Reflective White (SW 7757) for a clean look. Heather topped the beds with throws, beaded accent pillows, and inserts from Southern Living for Dillard's.
Heather started from the ground up in the hall bath. Heather stood by design maven Dorothy Draper’s belief that “stripes are the common denominator in decorating” and created a custom floor pattern using penny tiles. The entire space is painted in Sherwin-Williams' Pure White (SW 7005) to help the floor really pop. A skirted farm sink sets a casual tone for kids without taking up a lot of space. A rope mirror is the finishing touch on this seaside bathroom.
Outside in the hall bath, four hooks accommodate a towel for each bunkmate. You can even give each guest their own quirky bird identity.
For Extended Stays
Above the garage is a mother-in-law suite for guests who like to avoid the fray. Its serene design was inspired by David Hillegas' fine art beach photograph hanging over the bed. Keeping the walls simple with Sherwin-Williams’ Lullaby (SW 9136) allowed Heather to add an unexpected patterned wallpaper on the ceiling (Meg Braff Designs’ Southwind print in White on Powder). Birch Lane's Berkey Canopy Bed, with slipcovered headboard and footboard, layered with quilts, and one of Heather's signature bolster pillows completes the cozy bedroom.
This cozy Apartment Sofa by Lee Industries allows guests to have their own space to relax and get away. Surrounded by windows, it is a great spot for reading a book.
Go All Out
The bathroom for the mother-in-law suite didn’t have much wall space, so Heather went ahead and tiled all the walls in an aqua tile. A small antique mirror is hung in front of the window from a chain.<