Personal Space

A cheery, relaxed aesthetic prevails in an airy beach retreat by Atlanta designer Kay Douglass.

Never met a blank canvas she didn’t like. A crisp, white backdrop, in fact, seems to provide this interior designer with all the inspiration she needs to bring a house to life—with her signature blend of texture, color and character. Perhaps that’s why Douglass couldn’t resist making her mark on the spaces between the whitewashed walls of a West Indies-inspired Alys Beach cottage designed by architectural greats Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.

“We vacation in the Florida Panhandle quite a bit, and it became clear from the moment we first saw Alys Beach that our aesthetics lined up well,” says Douglass of the New Urbanist enclave’s striking architectural design.

Also setting the stage for the designer’s singular style was the beach home’s floor plan, oriented around—and opening to—outdoor spaces that include a plunge pool, courtyard and shaded terrace. “It’s really just one big open-air home,” she says.

An airy, island feeling is apparent from the moment guests step through the main entrance, where they are greeted by a long, narrow loggia Douglass designed to resemble a hotel lobby, a “great place to kick back with a cocktail.” Here, she created cozy back-to-back conversation areas with cushioned wicker chairs and eye-popping orange spheres mounted on custom-made wood pedestals.

“Second homes present the perfect opportunity to do something fun that you wouldn’t typically do in your primary home,” Douglass says. “We wanted to create the unexpected, so that as you walk through the house all these little surprises start happening.”

Although the designer is typically frugal with color in her projects, it’s the strategically placed bursts of cheery orange that make a less-is-more statement against this home’s monochromatic palette.

“Orange has a sense of strength and whimsy,” Douglass says, “which is perfect for a beach house full of life!” As stylish as it is fresh, the unexpected mandarin hue plays the part of the perfect accessory. It is a warm complement to bamboo-paneled walls in the kitchen, has a dramatic presence in the courtyard in the form of parachute draperies and adds a visually stimulating accent in an all-white guest suite.

In each space, a disciplined palette allows the designer’s penchant for creating character-rich objets d’art to shine. In the living room, for instance, Douglass pieced together petite swatches of hand-printed French fabric, mounted them on taupe-colored linen, and framed them in large, tan panels for a fresh spin on original artwork. She also transformed box-like wood fragments into decorative objects, mounting one with an iron barrel strap and another with a simple white sphere.

Douglass’ keep-it-simple philosophy, though, doesn’t keep the designer from accessorizing smartly. In the kitchen, she softened a mix of materials, including slate floors and bamboo cabinetry, by adding feminine skirts to the island’s metal barstools. And to keep the light-filled living room from feeling white-hot, she opted for illumination by candlelight in the fireplace in lieu of heavier, warm-looking wood.

Even show-stopping pieces—such as the Galbraith & Paul fabric-covered basket light in the living room, the gnarled root table in the sitting room and the orange lanterns holding court over chaise lounges in the shaded terrace—are a testament to Douglass’ understated grandeur: subtle but sensual, elegant without being pretentious.


INTERIOR DESIGN South of Market, 345 Peachtree Hills Ave. NE, Atlanta, 30305. (404) 995-9399; Living Room: BASKET FABRIC LIGHT South of Market PAIR OF JULIEN SOFAS South of Market FRAMED FABRIC PANELS South of Market Loggia: WICKER CHAIRS South of Market FABRIC Sunbrella SPHERES South of Market ALL BASKET LIGHTS IN HOUSE South of Market Pool Area: OUTDOOR LOUNGE CHAIRS West Elm