Text by Jeanne Delathouder
Timing was everything for a couple from Atlanta, Georgia, searching for the perfect island getaway. They were on the verge of purchasing a cottage they were sure was the one when a new listing suddenly popped up on the market that stopped them in their tracks. “They were almost ready to sign the papers when this new property became available,” says Elizabeth Smith Pipe, interior designer and owner of Elizabeth M. Smith Interiors on St. Simons Island, Georgia. “When they contacted the homeowner and knocked on the door, it was love at first sight,” she says with a laugh.
The little gem that stole their hearts was a 1930s cottage that was small on space but big on charm, just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean. With limited square footage, low ceilings, and a few closed-off interior rooms, the place undoubtedly required some modern renovations to accommodate the new homeowners, their three college-age children, and all of their friends. Having researched numerous renovated properties in the St. Simons area, the couple knew instantly the team they wanted to work with. They immediately met with Elizabeth and her husband, Richard, of Pipe Construction, and, within an hour, hired them on the spot. “After our initial meeting, I felt as though I’d known them forever,” Elizabeth recalls. “They are the perfect clients—they give you the basics and then trust you to run with it,” she adds.
With their work cut out for them, the design team began devising a plan to open up the spaces and make the cottage appear larger than it really was. The homeowners’ wish list included an all-white palette dappled with bright orange and turquoise accents, plenty of seating, and lots of private little nooks and crannies where they could sleep as many guests as a small house could.
Working as contractor for the project, Richard first took down walls to open the living room and dining spaces to the kitchen, creating an airy open floor plan. To counteract the tight spaces and low ceilings, Elizabeth opted for a clean look that would make the rooms appear more spacious. She used what she calls a “truly pure white” paint to achieve this effect and give the home a relaxed, beachy vibe. “I used a high-gloss lacquer to reflect the light—almost like a mirror,” says the designer. “The high sheen bounces beautiful light everywhere, making all the rooms seem much larger than they really are,” she notes.
The large expanse of luminous white, ceilings included, provides a breathtaking backdrop for bold accent colors—especially the homeowners’ favorite summer hues of popsicle orange and cool turquoise—shades that also blend spectacularly, as it turns out, with the surrounding ocean and natural beach-side scenery. Even their kitchen stove and a pair of custom barn doors enclosing the den are awash in a tranquil turquoise shade.
But aside from the striking visual aspects employed within, Elizabeth also incorporated practical design solutions that would intentionally create a no-fuss atmosphere for these carefree beach dwellers. To accommodate their constant flow of family and summer guests trekking back and forth from the surf and sand, she used water-resistant Sunbrella fabrics in the main house so that all the seating would be swimsuit-friendly. “This is a magical cottage—full of joyful color that truly reflects the personalities of the homeowners,” says Elizabeth. “It’s the perfect happy place for this fun-loving family.”