These Designers Built the Farmhouse of Their Dreams
A clever mix of materials gives a newly built coastal home both instant age and up-to-the-minute style. Though the walls are white, the rooms are bursting with excitement.
Michael and Alison Brewer know and love Southern-style houses and Low Country living. As the design team behind Gray Wade Design, they’ve renovated and built dozens of houses in and around Charleston, South Carolina. But after living in a handful of homes downtown, the Charleston natives jumped at the chance to move across the bridge to a historic village. “It is such an idyllic little neighborhood,” Alison says. “We were drawn to its coastal vernacular, and we loved the idea of finally having some green space.” Rustic meets sleek in the family room as reclaimed pine beams and bookshelves pair with a lime-washed stucco fireplace and clean-line furniture. “We’re not afraid to mix time periods and styles,” says homeowner Michael Brewer. “It makes our home feel more authentic.”
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Because the existing home on the property was an out-of-place 1950s ranch house, the couple had it relocated and started their project from the ground up. It was a dream chance to design every detail, but as lovers of old homes, they didn’t want their house to look brand-new. Mission accomplished—thanks to elements that authentically reflect the traditional coastal architecture and a design that makes the house look as if it grew gradually over the years.
The floor plan features a rambling layout composed of three individual “pods” that appear to have been added to the home at different times. Each has a unique siding material—lap, flat, and cedar shake—and even the window and shutter styles differ. White paint that “has the just right tint of gray and green,” Michael says, and a must-have cedar-shake roof unify the various parts with modern freshness. Details such as exposed rafters and board-and-batten shutters add authentic coastal charm.
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Horizontal fence slats give the cozy front porch modern styling. Sliding barn-style doors layer on country charm while offering privacy for the pool—visible through the home’s center hall. The home’s material mix doesn’t stop at the front door. Floors vary from whitewashed oak to untinted concrete. Walls and ceilings, all painted white for airiness and unity, change from wood clapboard to drywall.
Getting the home’s sense of age just right involved layering on plenty of patina. Some surfaces add instant age, like the family room’s pine beams salvaged from a South Carolina barn. Others, such as the bronze kitchen hardware, are works in progress. “We love to use living finishes so that with every touch, pieces keep getting better with age,” Alison says. Mismatched frames add to the eclectic appeal of a collection of new works and vintage finds in the living area.
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Old French dining chairs bring elegance to the reclaimed elm dining table that measures more than 9 feet long. To make sure their home didn’t feel stuck in the past, Michael and Alison Brewer paired rich textures and warm finishes with clean lines and smooth surfaces for a primitive-meets-modern vibe. Here are their pro tips and tricks to pulling it off.
They insist the eclectic mix of furniture and lighting picks is less about origin and period and more about having the right look and feel. For the master bedroom, Michael combined two existing lighting fixtures into one statement orb pendant. Its white lacquered finish continues the room’s airy palette.
The Brewers’ permanent kitchen guest, an oil painting, came home from a family trip to Maine. “Our daughters think he’s a little creepy, but we love that it brings a little something unexpected to the kitchen,” Michael says.
Nestled between the house’s pods are connecting areas painted a deep blue-gray. “These transition spaces are pauses between the areas, so we wanted to make them special,” Michael says. “The dark color also helps pull your eye into the next big space.”
The one thing you won’t find is fussy window treatments. “These views are simply too fantastic to cover up,” Alison says. “This house keeps us in a constant vacation state of mind.”
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Stocked with the couple’s collection of timeless white dishes, the larder provides plenty of storage, allowing them to swap upper cabinets for windows in the adjoining kitchen. “I love the graphic nature of the white dishes against the dark color,” Alison says.
A dark floating vanity anchors the master bath with the feel of handcrafted furniture. Leftover European oak floorboards found a home as a handsome mirror frame.
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Nestled in the corner of the master bedroom is the Brewer style trifecta: primitive trestle table, dressy Louis XV chair, and sculptural modern lamp. A vintage textile found at a local antiques store lends the serene master bedroom a punch of cheery color. “I loved the frayed edges,” Alison says.
A chance trip to a local antiques shop uncovered the kitchen’s centerpiece—a 4×8-foot old English baker’s table that’s perfectly worn. Above it, small simple pendants deliver a nautical feel with their handmade glass shades and galvanized sleeves.