Evoking the Exhale

A design dream team fashions a luxurious, low-key Lowcountry retreat

For their vacation property in Bluffton, South Carolina, a pair of homeowners—permanent residents of Texas—were clear on one thing: Entering this coastal retreat should feel like an exhale. 

“It was a feeling we wanted to evoke when you walked in the house—that everyone’s welcome and comfortable, and you can take a deep breath,” says interior designer Shelley Wilkins, who worked closely alongside longtime colleagues architect Pearce Scott and builder Richard Best to create a luxurious yet laid-back escape. 

While the six-bedroom home needed to lend itself to entertaining the clients’ family—children, grandchildren and two dogs—and friends, creating a relaxing sense of escape was also important. “We wanted the house to accommodate their family but not be too ostentatious,” says Wilkins. “I wanted it to feel like when they’re here, they’re in a totally different place than Texas.”

To achieve this, the design team embraced the home’s Lowcountry setting, namely the Palmetto Bluff neighborhood’s stunning marsh views. “Location was key,” says Best. “The clients selected a beautiful home overlooking the marshes and the river beyond. Part of the design challenge was to capture those views in as many different areas as possible.”  

Indeed, the scenery is “embraced from the moment you enter the home, where you see it framed through the foyer and great room,” says Scott. In lieu of a formal dining room, the team built out a kitchen window niche, where a breakfast table offers front-row views of the surrounding land. 

The crown jewel, though—and one of the clients’ favorite spaces—is the screened-in back porch, where the wife loves to watch the sunrise with her morning coffee. Sprawling the entire back of the house, the outdoor spaces include a dining area and seating area, both featuring performance-lined cane seating that achieves both durability and dimension. “We wanted it to be more clean and fresh, with a Lowcountry aesthetic,” says Wilkins. 

She took a similar approach to the master bedroom, which opens up to the back porch and serves as a peaceful retreat for the homeowners—plus their two dogs. Wilkins outfitted the room in a soft color scheme and comfortable details including custom bedding from Legacy Home and cozy Charles Stewart Company armchairs by the fireplace, where “the clients read or just sit and catch up after a long day,” she says.

 The designer anchored the rest of the home in touches of texture and shades of blue, most notably in the kitchen, where the cabinetry is painted a deep cyan. A blue tile backsplash from Walker Zanger creates a graphic note while a mixed-metal hood adds patina.

The designer also incorporated performance fabrics throughout the home: on the kitchen barstools and dining bench (“so no one would feel bad if they spilled red wine,” says Wilkins) as well as in the grandchildren’s bunk room, a playful space with over-full-size bunk beds that can accommodate plenty of sleepovers.

“Everything in the house has some type of texture to it,” Wilkins says. “It’s warm, it’s inviting and welcoming, and it’s not too precious.”

INTERIOR DESIGN Shelley Wilkins, S. Wilkins Interior Design, (843) 681-7943; swilkinsid.com ARCHITECT Pearce Scott, Pearce Scott Architects, (843) 837-5700; pscottarch.com BUILDER Richard Best, Richard Best Custom Homes, (843) 706-5001; rbch.biz