Call this Kiawah's color code: Designer Charlotte Lucas draws up an organic palette based in the Lowcountry island's mellow marshscape.
1 of 9Photo by Peter Frank Edwards; Styling by Elly Poston
"The rooms here invite you to relax and breathe deeply, like you do when you first step out for a walk on the beach," says designer Charlotte Lucas of the Kiawah Island home she designed as a vacation house for a young family. This is, of course, by design: Her clients asked that only colors visible from the house be used inside, a request that initially gave Lucas pause. But after spending several days on the island, taking walks through the peaceful marshscape, the Charlotte, North Carolina–based designer says she "totally got it. I knew it would be a shame to distract from these beautiful, soothing surroundings."
With nature as her inspiration, she created a palette informed by site visits at dawn, in the middle of the day, and again at night. "The goal was to feel just as at peace indoors as you do when you step outside," Lucas says. Burled finishes and natural weaves and textures further enliven and add depth to the earthy palette, but nothing shouts "look at me"—except, perhaps, the alligators loitering in the adjacent lagoon. Here, how Lucas built a beach house firmly rooted in the outdoors.
2 of 9Photo by Peter Frank Edwards; Styling by Elly Poston
Contrast the view.
"I like the way a darker window trim throughout creates a bit of modern juxtaposition, adding contrast and definition to the light and airy rooms," says Lucas. When weather allows, the three-tilt transom windows in the sunroom are wide open, serving up a salty breeze across the travertine pedestal table—a Palm Beach antiquing find—and vintage Brighton rattan armchairs.
3 of 9Photo by Peter Frank Edwards; Styling by Elly Poston
Go big on texture.
The living room gets loads of natural light by way of large windows and doors that open to the porch. This creates an ideal canvas for hushed tones and interesting textures, like toothy taupe upholstery and grasscloth-covered walls. "Going strong on texture gives dimension to neutrals," says Lucas.
4 of 9Peter Frank Edwards
Bring color to life.
Lucas doubled down on the greens in the marsh-scape by turning live foliage into an integral element of her design. "We didn't use many true greens in fabrics because we wanted those to come in organically," says Lucas, who based the palette on favorite hues seen in the marsh year-round, as it changes drastically season to season.
5 of 9Photo by Peter Frank Edwards; Styling by Elly Poston
Designate your own neutrals.
Sage green cabinetry connects the kitchen to nature in a light, soft way; a walnut island amplifies the room's connection to the earthy landscape. The quartzite stone countertops and backsplash are "bombproof," adds Lucas, who had them honed to a leathered finish. Blown-glass pendants in woven brass cages and a custom stovetop hood trimmed in unlacquered brass add handsome polish and "help age the house a bit," the designer says.
6 of 9Photo by Peter Frank Edwards; Styling by Elly Poston
Give neutrals a chance in kids' rooms.
The couple's first child was barely a year old when they moved in, so the nursery needed to grow with her and also be adaptable for future siblings. (Baby No. 2 is on the way.) The wallpaper, "a really lovely ivory with taupey stars," says Lucas, subtly mimics the carpet's raised diamond-and-dot pattern, and the French daybed works as both a sweet focal point and a big-girl bed. The handcrafted scalloped light fixture provides good bedtime-story light and natural rattan texture, Lucas adds.
7 of 9Photo by Peter Frank Edwards; Styling by Elly Poston
Find your earthy whites.
"The owners didn't want any crisp whites because you don't see them as readily in this landscape," says Lucas, who instead painted the walls in the nursery bath a soft gray (Slipper Satin by Farrow & Ball) and chose creamy off-white marble. The softened-up "white" palette shifts the spotlight to a rich mix of metals—unlacquered brass faucets and hardware, and a beveled gold mirror.
8 of 9Photo by Peter Frank Edwards; Styling by Elly Poston
Make peace with the dark.
Grasscloth walls in a steely gray-blue echo the hues of midnight on the marsh. "I was inspired by the murkiness of the water at night, the dark grays of the sky," Lucas says. The indigo stripe headboard linen is by Christopher Farr, paired with a duvet by Leontine Linens. A 19th-century continental nightstand adds a bit of age to the room.
9 of 9Photo by Peter Frank Edwards; Styling by Elly Poston
Embrace the beauty of wood.
"It was important to the owners to have porch furniture they could stretch out on," says Lucas, who outfitted this screened-in master bedroom porch with a vintage bamboo sofa and love seat, a faux bois side table that resembles the branches of a tree, and a bamboo wheeled cart that doubles as a bar when the homeowners entertain. The decking is hardy îpe, and the beadboard ceiling is painted the same shade as the exterior trim. "I like the consistency, and the way it harmonizes with the natural surroundings," the designer says.