This Beautiful Family Home on Kiawah Island Is Decorated with Meaningful Momentos
As relaxed as the lazy tides at its doorstep, a Carolina home designed by Melanie Turner cocoons a family with memories, mementos, and meaning.
All About Gathering
Before they built their getaway on South Carolina's Kiawah Island (with the help of Nolan V. Sires Construction), before they gathered for home-cooked dinners in its proper dining room (not the kitchen, ever!), and before their three teenage kids decided the living room banquette is the best place to play card games, Leah and Gee Aldridge bought a painting: massive, vividly colored, and depicting a group of villagers fishing. "The painting is of the sea," Leah says, "but it's really about communing, connecting, and gathering."
Next to the fireplace, a white-painted, open-back chair and an ottoman covered in Schumacher fabric nestle beneath a painting by America Martin.
The same could be said for the house she and Gee eventually built around that painting. "We began collecting for this house eight or nine years before it even existed," Leah says. "By the time we moved in, we had plenty of pieces that represented our family, our travels, and our life." Among them are the living room rug purchased in Turkey, the World War II posters hanging in her Churchill War Rooms museum-loving son's bedroom, and glassware identical to glasses the family sipped from while vacationing in France. They include a framed gallery of oversize photos taken on a Florida beach in 1958, the very beach where Leah's parents met while on spring break in, you guessed it, 1958. Even the master bedroom's custom bookcase is filled with memories, or, more precisely, conch shells. "Ever since our honeymoon, my husband has been skin diving and pulling up conch shells for me," Leah says. "I have 25 years' worth."
The living room's Oly chandelier floats above a glass coffee table. The sofa is from Lee Industries; window treatments are Duralee sheers.
Breezy But Cozy
She also has definite ideas about living on the water. "This may be a beach house, but it's still a home," she says, which is why, though open, airy, and flooded with light, the house is more traditional and cozier than might be expected. "I wanted spaces where my family could commune, not where we'd feel overwhelmed in a loud, cavernous room," Leah says. "I wanted us to linger around a dining table the way you do in a restaurant, not line up for dinner at a breakfast bar where we'd look at a refrigerator instead of each other."
Crisp Neutral Kitchen
That meant separating the kitchen from the living room and creating an actual dining room by building a wall that blocks the beach view. "It was the best design decision we made," Leah says.
Brass-lined custom light fixtures by Avrett are suspended above a waterfall island crafted of Calacatta Gold Extra marble. Custom bar stools wear a combination of green leather from Jerry Pair and white vinyl by Castel.
Cheerful Colors Aboard
It was also a seminal design decision, as the couple's beloved painting, created by muralist Jorge Guy, now hangs on that same wall. The painting's bright blues and greens sail through the house as cheerful counterpoints to mostly white rooms.
A pair of custom dining tables by Bradley USA allows for versatility. One table perfectly accommodates the Aldridges' family of five; together, the tables make entertaining larger groups a breeze.
Clean and Simple Style
Anchored by dark wood floors and enveloped by waves of white walls, interiors are calmed by a lack of pattern save for pillows, artwork, and the occasional carpet. Still, while it feels relaxed, it isn't exactly beachy. "You won't find starfish and anchors here," says interior designer Melanie Turner. "This lives like (and looks like) a full-time house."
Between the kitchen and dining room, a custom concrete console table by Bradley USA rests beneath driftwood from Bali.
Warm and Traditional Details
To wit, beautifully crafted architectural detailing prevails, from the living room's richly embellished ceiling treatment to marble-framed kitchen windows. Draperies and accessories layer rooms with visual warmth. "Most beach houses are more sparse," Turner says, "but Leah leans toward the traditional, so that's the direction we went."
Painted in Benjamin Moore's "Amazon Moss," Leah's kitchen office features a desk by ECR Joinery and a Design Within Reach chair.
Taking in the View
Even so, the house acknowledges its scenic locale, along with its trio of teenage occupants and their big, black, four-legged companion named Daisy. "Yes, there's a lot of white furniture in this house," Turner says, "but much of it is upholstered in indoor-outdoor fabric or leather-look vinyl. Leah wanted the kids to be able to come in wet from the beach and sit down anywhere they want."
A woven sectional on the porch is accommodating for the whole family.
Outdoor Dining Space
She also wanted the house to honor South Carolina's rich heritage of artisan craftsmanship. Thus, hand-forged iron light fixtures were custom-designed for both interior and exterior spaces, and venerable Charleston antiques are juxtaposed with less serious pieces.
Subtle Beachy Vibes
Patterned marble evokes sand and sea in the brass-accented powder room.
A custom hanging lantern illuminates the foyer, where a Designer Carpets stair runner climbs each flight.
Of course, the biggest juxtaposition of all just might be the difference between life in Atlanta, where the Aldridges reside most of the year, and Kiawah Island, their chosen escape. "The rhythm of our life changes dramatically at the beach," Leah says.
Farrow and Ball's "Mole's Breath" cocoons the master bedroom. The upholstered bed is from Hickory Chair; lamps are from Circa Lighting.
Bookcase Full of Treasures
"Things slow down," Leah says. "We're not running around in the car; we're riding our bikes. We hang up our baseball bats and lacrosse cleats so we can read and swim and paddleboard and surf. And I cook. A lot!"
The bedroom's custom bookcase is filled with sentimental treasures.
His and Hers Master Bathrooms
The house features two master bathrooms. Leah's includes a marble-topped vanity and a separate dressing table.
A glamorous soaking tub and framed artwork complete the feminine retreat.
Simple Colors for His
The blue-gray cabinetry in Gee's bathroom is crisp and sophisticated.
King-size beds ensure the children's bedrooms can double as guest rooms. The brass trunk-style nightstand is from Bernhardt.
A surfboard above the bed nods to the home's location. A large black-and-white mirror adds a graphic touch.
A quartet of black-and-white art from Wendover hangs above an eye-catching chevron-pattern chest in the bedroom.
Black accents dot the adjoining bathroom.
Bedroom walls wearing a whisper of blue coordinate with the upholstered headboard.
A Place to Focus
Curved legs and scalloped details lend feminine flair to a petite desk nestled into a bedroom nook.
Calm Blue Bathroom
The bedroom's soothing scheme continues in the bathroom. Coral-look sconces add a touch of beachy flair.
Delicate and Dreamy Details
You could just melt right into this dreamy gray bedroom. Nailhead trim enhances the curves of the headboard.
Room to Read
A cozy window seat provides the perfect perch for watching the waves or snuggling up with a book.
Pretty in Pink
A flowered sconce and light pink drapery panel give this bathroom a distinctly feminine feel.
Winding Into the Guesthouse
A separate guesthouse with an elliptical staircase pampers visitors while ensuring privacy for the Aldridge family.