This Home on Kiawah Island Is Decorated with Meaningful Momentos

Blue and white living room with glass coffee table
Photo: Emily Jenkins Followill

As relaxed as the lazy tides at its doorstep, a Carolina home designed by Melanie Turner cocoons a family with memories, mementos, and meaning.

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All About Gathering

White fireplace with blue furniture and large artwork
Emily Jenkins Followill

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.

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Collected Memories

Blue and white living room with glass coffee table
Emily Jenkins Followill

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 primary 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.

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Breezy But Cozy

Corner seating with blue and white chairs
Emily Jenkins Followill

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."

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Crisp Neutral Kitchen

Marble bar seating with white chairs
Emily Jenkins Followill

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.

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Cheerful Colors Aboard

Dining area with black table and white chairs
Emily Jenkins Followill

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.

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Clean and Simple Style

Small table with white cusions and large artwork
Emily Jenkins Followill

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.

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Warm and Traditional Details

Wooden corner bar with glass display
Emily Jenkins Followill

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."

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Enviable Office

Dark green and wood work space
Emily Jenkins Followill

Painted in Benjamin Moore's "Amazon Moss," Leah's kitchen office features a desk by ECR Joinery and a Design Within Reach chair.

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Taking in the View

Wicker and white outdoor couch
Emily Jenkins Followill

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.

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Outdoor Dining Space

White outdoor seating around circular table
Emily Jenkins Followill

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.

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Subtle Beachy Touches

Bathroom with textured marble sink
Emily Jenkins Followill

Patterned marble evokes sand and sea in the brass-accented powder room.

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Inviting Entryway

White stairs with textured runner
Emily Jenkins Followill

A custom hanging lantern illuminates the foyer, where a Designer Carpets stair runner climbs each flight.

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Bedroom Escape

White bedroom with pink accents
Emily Jenkins Followill

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 primary bedroom. The upholstered bed is from Hickory Chair; lamps are from Circa Lighting.

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Bookcase Full of Treasures

White cabinets with decor display
Emily Jenkins Followill

"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.

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His and Hers Primary Bathrooms

Bathroom with marble vanity and sink
Emily Jenkins Followill

The house features two primary bathrooms. Leah's includes a marble-topped vanity and a separate dressing table.

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Mom's Retreat

Bathroom with stainless steel bathtub
Emily Jenkins Followill

A glamorous soaking tub and framed artwork complete the feminine retreat.

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Simple Colors for His

Bathroom with dark blue cabinets and marble sink
Emily Jenkins Followill

The blue-gray cabinetry in Gee's bathroom is crisp and sophisticated.

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Multi-use Bedrooms

Bedroom with gold end table
Emily Jenkins Followill

King-size beds ensure the children's bedrooms can double as guest rooms. The brass trunk-style nightstand is from Bernhardt.

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Blue Bedroom

Bedroom with blue couch and bed
Emily Jenkins Followill

A surfboard above the bed nods to the home's location. A large black-and-white mirror adds a graphic touch.

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Chevron Accents

Black and white cabinet and artwork
Emily Jenkins Followill

A quartet of black-and-white art from Wendover hangs above an eye-catching chevron-pattern chest in the bedroom.

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Black-and-White Bathroom

Bathroom with white cabinets
Emily Jenkins Followill

Black accents dot the adjoining bathroom.

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Soothing Retreat

Bedroom with light blue walls and white end table
Emily Jenkins Followill

Bedroom walls wearing a whisper of blue coordinate with the upholstered headboard.

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A Place to Focus

Corner vanity with white table and light blue walls
Emily Jenkins Followill

Curved legs and scalloped details lend feminine flair to a petite desk nestled into a bedroom nook.

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Calm Blue Bathroom

Bathroom with light blue cabinets
Emily Jenkins Followill

The bedroom's soothing scheme continues in the bathroom. Coral-look sconces add a touch of beachy flair.

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Delicate and Dreamy Details

Bedroom with ottoman and books
Emily Jenkins Followill

You could just melt right into this dreamy gray bedroom. Nailhead trim enhances the curves of the headboard.

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Room to Read

Bedroom with window seating
Emily Jenkins Followill

A cozy window seat provides the perfect perch for watching the waves or snuggling up with a book.

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Pretty in Pink

Bedroom with light pink shower curtain
Emily Jenkins Followill

A flowered sconce and light pink drapery panel give this bathroom a distinctly feminine feel.

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Winding Into the Guesthouse

Person walking down spiral staircase
Emily Jenkins Followill

A separate guesthouse with an elliptical staircase pampers visitors while ensuring privacy for the Aldridge family.

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Cozy Cottage Style

Seating area with blue, white, and wicker
Emily Jenkins Followill

The guest cottage living area is a showcase of textures. Woven chairs cozy up to a Lucite table for dining. A kitchenette completes the retreat.

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Space for Sleepovers

Bedroom with bunk beds and couch
Emily Jenkins Followill

A green-and-gray palette rules the bunk room, which is perfect for slumber parties.

"Being together is what this house is all about for us," Leah says. "It's about spending time and making memories. It's about gathering."

Just like the painting on the dining room wall.

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Island Home Exterior

House on beach with white porch
Emily Jenkins Followill

Gabled, shingled, and trimmed in white, the Aldridge family's Kiawah Island vacation home, designed by architect Christopher Rose, is just steps from the water and features a deck that offers expansive views.

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Meet the Designer

designer Melanie Turner

Melanie Turner was one of Traditional Home's 2012 class of New Trad designers.

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