A little bit of cattle country plus a dash of Lowcountry equals an intriguing recipe for a redesign

by DANA W. TODD / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

You may be surprised how well modern western and Lowcountry farmhouse design styles sit perfectly in harmony with each other. This truly eclectic mash-up is the genius collaboration of homeowners Marilyn and Bill Deas and the staff of Signature Kitchens & Baths of Charleston.

Retired from careers in cattle ranching, the Deas decided Brays Island, just north of Beaufort, South Carolina, was the perfect retirement community for the next chapter of their lives. The only catch: finding what they considered to be the right-sized house with separate guest quarters in a plantation community that only houses 325 families. They found the perfect house, bordered on the back side by the marsh with the front of the house overlooking the rookery, where egrets, herons, white ibis and many other birds live in abundance. The only caveat was that the home had been partially renovated over the years and lacked the continuity in design and style on which the couple insisted.

“While looking for Charleston designers, I came upon Signature Kitchens & Baths on Houzz,” says Marilyn Deas. “From there, I called and talked with co-owner Linda McLain and surprisingly found out we were distantly related. I knew we were going to gee and haw just fine.”

“We touched about every part of the house during the renovation,” says Jim McLain of Signature Kitchens & Baths of the turnkey project. “The goal was to take a very traditional look and make it a reflection of the Deas’ cattle ranching roots combined with their new South Carolina home.”

Removing five walls, a small bedroom, bathroom and hallway opened up the main living areas, including providing space to enlarge the narrow galley kitchen. “The kitchen needed major work,” Deas says. “I could see how it would be hard for others to visualize what it could be, but we could see the forest for the trees.” She got her requested built-in banquette seating. An eye-catching Azure quartzite backsplash and complementary Roma Imperiale quartzite countertops are the standout features in the kitchen, rivaled only by the floor-to-ceiling custom cabinetry housing the couple’s colorful collection of South African pottery.

Custom cabinetry flows into the nearby sitting room, where Bill Deas’ collection of handmade spurs and bits are corralled behind steel doors with six-shooter revolver cabinet handles from Rocky Mountain Hardware. Ready for lounging with marsh views and a bevy of whiskey-colored leather armchairs, this room is the couple’s favorite.

When asked about the most distinctive feature of this interior redesign, almost everyone on the team points to the custom oyster shell fireplace anchoring the living room. With its quintessential Lowcountry flair, Signature Kitchens & Baths designed and built this masterpiece of shells laid on their edges and modernized it with a recessed polished concrete hearth and simple steel mantel. Deas says the fireplace makes the home feel South Carolinian, along with the addition of new local artwork of Lowcountry nature scenes, which mingle with an existing collection depicting cattle on a large gallery wall layered over shiplap. Replacing traditional heavy moldings with clean-lined trimwork modernized this main room as well as all the other interior spaces.

With all of these special features, designer Cristy Novak of Signature Kitchens & Baths kept the color palette simple. “For this home, we used earth tones,” she says. “The client had plenty of art, fabrics and collectibles to bring out the many other colors throughout the home.” A foray away from conservative, earthy colors are prominent in the powder room, where a bold green and white Gucci heron print wallpaper echoes the rookery and all its birdlife just steps outside the front entrance.

Once outside, the renovations continued; the exterior received a major face-lift, too. “We wanted to simplify the front elevation with less noticeable arches,” says Novak. “On the porch, we kept the overall feel of a Lowcountry home but simplified it with stained, tapered columns while substituting oversize planters for the handrail. A neutral, fresh coat of paint on the metal roof and the addition of new terra-cotta chimney caps finished the exterior revitalization of the main house.

The eclectic melding of Western and Lowcountry designs personalizes this home and showcases the collections of a well-lived life. Custom design and construction throughout every room make this home a place that fits the Deas just perfectly. “Signature Kitchens & Baths has designed beautiful homes all over the area,” Deas says. “We understand each other, and now we are friends forever.”

Dana W. Todd is a professional writer specializing in interior design, real estate, luxury homebuilding, landscape design and architecture.

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