Coastal Chic

At Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles’ latest showhouse concept, designer Melanie Turner’s new take on coastal decor is a veritable breath of fresh air

Atlanta interior designer Melanie Turner is no stranger to decorator showhouses. In fact, she thinks she has participated in no less than 12 over the years. The experience is often a win-win for the participating designers, who get to flex their design chops, as well the visitors who come to be inspired and the local charities that benefit from a portion of the proceeds.

Along with developer Stan Benecki, builder Chase Green and residential designer Lew Oliver, Turner was the design visionary behind Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles’ latest concept—the 30A Showhouse—in Florida’s Panhandle region. As a longtime gathering spot for Atlantans to retreat to second homes along the Gulf Coast, “30A,” of course, is a reference to the storied highway that links a number of coastal communities in the area, including Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, Seaside, Watercolor and Inlet Beach, home to this year’s showhouse.

For Turner, the project presented an opportunity to call upon some familiar decorating ideas, yet give them a twist. As with many homes near the beach, blue-and-white schemes are commonplace—and why not? After all, with the emerald-and-cerulean sea and ebullient sky surrounding you, the colors seem to be a natural fit to bring indoors. Turner, however, wanted to use blue to connect all of the inside spaces, but didn’t want the scheme to be just another expected pairing of the two colors.

“Even though the house started out with blue as the primary color, it became a happy house with the incorporation of the yellow,” says Turner of the dynamic hue she added to the mix. “It has a big impact.” Although the yellow is formidable, it never overpowers or dominates; Turner knows when to dial it up (in more intimate spaces), and when to dial it down (in larger, open spaces where it could overwhelm).

Also important to the designer was bringing in organic forms and natural materials—such as plaster walls—to ground the rooms and give them a contemporary verve. They work in tandem with the exterior facade that subtly incorporates Art Deco influences, similar to the clean-lined structures found in Miami’s South Beach.

“We took a lot of inspiration from Old Florida motifs,” says Turner, “such as lemons, flamingos and palms.” But in her hands, the forms become of-the-moment, such as wallpaper patterns with an exaggerated scale, or colorful fabrics with unexpected applications—no coastal clichés here.

Beyond the home’s design inspiration, practical considerations were at the forefront of Turner’s plan. For decades, homes in the Panhandle area near the Gulf have been popular spots for large family gatherings, particularly at the peak of summer.

“When you have multigenerational families come and stay,” says Turner, “or multiple families come and stay, people all want to gather in one room at some point. Whereas some are just thinking about how many people the beds can sleep, I’m very conscious of how many people you can sit for dinner and how many people can sit in the living room at once.”

Hence, Turner devised flexible seating areas in the living and dining areas—including a serpentine sofa and curvaceous dining banquette—that work well for large groups, yet also retain a scale of intimacy if there’s only one or two people at home.

Indoors or out, the ethos of the showhouse project was to design something that would respect and reflect the special place where the house resides, as well as be representative of the family who might call it home.

“They can come down here and enjoy this vision of beauty,” says Turner. “The water and the sand are like no place else on Earth.”

INTERIOR DESIGN Melanie Turner, Melanie Turner Interiors, (404) 250-0134; DEVELOPER Stan Benecki, Benecki Homes, (850) 630-4482; RESIDENTIAL DESIGNER Lew Oliver, Lew Oliver, Inc., (706) 754-7667; BUILDER Chase Green, Chase Green Construction, LLC, (850) 428-7889; INTERIOR SPECIFICATIONS Source, (404) 390-4055;