How one family’s summer retreat keeps the natural surroundings front and center
A VIEW WITH A HOME: For one busy young family in search of a serene escape from downtown, the view from Cassique near Kiawah Island was the main attraction. With a lot overlooking a tidal creek as well as the private community’s Tom Watson-designed golf course, the couple wanted the focus to be on the outdoors. “It’s such a beautiful setting,” says the mother. “We watch folks fly-fishing, wildlife in the marsh, and golfers on the greens. It’s all so very relaxing.”
Summertime retreats are a Charleston tradition. For centuries locals have abandoned the bustle of the city for cooler, more tranquil settings on nearby barrier islands—be it for a day, a weekend, or the entire sweltering summer.
For one downtown family—a young mom and dad (who prefer to keep their anonymity), plus a toddler, a three-year-old, and two golden retrievers in tow—summer is not complete without an escape to Cassique. Here, in this private community tucked between Kiawah and Seabrook islands, they have built a base for bonding—a four bed, four and a half bath, 3,200-square-foot house with style and grandeur that simultaneously embraces muddy paw prints and spilled juice boxes. It’s their home-away-from-home, where the beach beckons, the cares of city life are left 30 minutes down the road, and the alligators are proof positive you’re not on the peninsula anymore.
While the choice of Kiawah Island was a natural one for the family (the husband is an executive at Kiawah Partners, the master developer of the island), the Cassique neighborhood seemed as custom-designed for them as the home itself. With the marsh out one door, the golf course out another, and the beach a short bike ride away, fun awaits beyond every doorway.
“My daughter is three, and my father is 70, and we all go kayaking together right from the neighborhood,” says the homeowner. “My husband and father enjoy golf. There really is something for every age here, whether you’re one or 100.” Add in bingo, swim lessons, kids’ camps, and parties in Ocean Park, and the island’s extracurriculars are everything this active family could ask for.
Since building their Cassique getaway three years ago, they head out to Kiawah at every opportunity, including holidays and plenty of time in the summer. “When the weather is nice, you can find us there,” she says, “even during the winter. We always go for Christmas, and there’s a great Thanksgiving party at Ocean Park.”
The biggest challenge was designing a home that wouldn’t detract from Cassique’s natural setting. “We really wanted to make the home neutral, so that the focus was the outdoors,” she says.
While the homeowners carefully considered every detail of the interior, their aim was for the eye not to be drawn to colorful furnishings or features, but to go through the expansive windows and doors and straight to the outside. “We love sitting in the breakfast room or on the upstairs porch, looking for birds or alligators,” she says. “It’s been great for us and our kids to enjoy the wildlife.”
The family tasked Charlotte, North Carolina-based interior designer Charlotte Lucas to bring this vision to life—with one surprising directive: no color. “I love using color so that was a bit daunting,” says Lucas. “But I love a challenge, and I think this was one of my best projects because it’s so different.”
SUBTLE CUES: Upstairs, colors progress throughout the bedrooms. The soft monochromatic nursery (above left) features a Donghia wallpaper dotted with taupe stars. Brass in the bath (bottom right) pops against soft gray walls painted in Farrow & Ball’s “Slipper Satin.” The guest bedroom’s steely grey-blue grasscloth-covered walls allude to the creek at night. A headboard covered in a Christopher Farr indigo-striped linen, duvet by Leontine Linens, and 19th-century nightstand from Parc Monceau Antiques in Atlanta complete the space. In the third bedroom (top right), an antique chair, bought at an auction and upholstered in a Schumacher fabric, sits on a rug from Stark Carpet.
Lucas visited the site before the home was built to find her inspiration. “We went there at various times of the day and evening to see how the view and the colors changed.” From marigold yellows in the morning to taupes and sand midday, to the steel grey of water at twilight, the Lowcountry landscape painted the palette for her. “In the end, once everything was in, I finally got it,” says Lucas. “I understood why the homeowners didn’t want any striking colors. It is so peaceful looking out onto the marsh, you don’t want anything inside distracting from that serenity.”
With the goal for her clients “to feel just as at peace indoors as they do when they step outside,” the designer incorporated subtle hues throughout the house, seamlessly transitioning the inside to the outside. In the breakfast room, touches of golden yellow in fabrics and the rattan chairs hint at the sunrise. The living room features layers of sand, taupe, and browns. And the bedrooms offer soothing swaths of grey and dark blue from the water reflecting the night sky.
Indeed, Mother Nature offers up many splendid color choices, but much of what makes a marsh view so unique is its textures. In the living room, Lucas created depth through materials. “I used linen fabrics, a variety of metals, some bamboo, and warm-colored woods,” she explains, juxtaposing materials and finishes to develop dimension and character. “We covered the walls with grasscloth rather than paint to soften the room,” she says. “It doesn’t catch your eye or pop out, but it creates this beautiful texture in a way that paint can’t.”
In the kitchen, they dispensed with classic stark white, opting for a sage green found in the marsh. Quartzite countertops extend up to the backsplash offering texture and a warm touch of taupe. A walnut-topped island provides a focal point, and brass fixtures tie everything together.
Off the kitchen is a small breakfast room originally slated to be a porch. “We wanted another interior space with the view,” says the homeowner, so the couple tweaked the plans to suit their needs. “We use that room more than any other really.”
Comfort was key throughout the project, with every space designed to welcome visitors and family to sit down and take the proverbial load off. “This is their escape from downtown, a place to enjoy time with family and friends,” says Lucas. Copious pillows, plenty of overstuffed chairs, fireplaces (three of them), all complete the task admirably, creating a space that’s comfortable and inviting. “They’re not living a formal life out there. It’s a very casual atmosphere,” says Lucas.
A couple years in, and the family couldn’t be happier with their island retreat. “We use the house hard. We play in it, we live in it—it’s not a house that is just for show,” says the homeowner. “The best part is that it’s only a 30-minute drive, but it seems like a world away. The hustle and bustle of everyday life takes a back seat, and we can really enjoy our time together.”