As color schemes go, red, white and blue is as iconic as it gets. “It’s timeless, yet it still feels fresh,” says Atlanta designer Suzanne Kasler, who used the trio so deftly in this Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina, vacation home that it reads as much as a salute to all-American style as it does to comfortable elegance.
The homeowners, Paul and Sonni Springman, specifically requested the patriotic palette, along with nautical touches, when they hired Kasler to decorate their property overlooking a lagoon. In part, they wanted to pay tribute to Paul’s 26 years in the U.S. Navy. “We’re really proud of his service,” says his wife. An added bonus: The hues are the perfect backdrop for her collection of blue-and-white porcelain.
For the newly built house, Kasler — known for her ability to fuse traditional style with modern flair — expertly employed the colors without going overboard. She focused her design energies on creating a retreat for the couple, who spend half of the year here. They entertain a constant stream of guests, including their adult children, two grandchildren, and numerous friends, who are drawn to the area for its spectacular scenery; a day’s diversions might include kayaking past blue herons on the May River or taking a sunset cruise to Hilton Head Island, some 40 minutes away. “When you get here, you drive down a road lined with live oaks and your blood pressure drops,” Paul says.
Still, this isn’t Low Country laissez-faire: Rather, it’s sophistication with a casual twist. “I wanted our home to have a formal side,” Sonni says. “I wanted chandeliers.” Kasler elevated the kitchen’s user-friendly layout with refined touches like Delft tile on the backsplash, pleated skirts on the barstools, and, indeed, a pair of bronze-and-crystal chandeliers over the island. “The kitchen is visible from the living and dining rooms,” she says, “so it was important to keep the design dressed up.” In the foyer, Kasler conjured a traditional space with contemporary flair. “The geometric runner on the stairs lets you know the second you walk in that this is a fun, energetic house,” she says. “We also drew attention to the long table skirt — the only spot where we could use fabric, since there are no upholstered pieces here — by adding Greek key-patterned red banding to the bottom.”
The staircase was built in one piece in Charleston and carefully maneuvered into place. “They wove it like a snake through the front door,” says Paul. The final touch — Sonni’s request — was a black and white-tile floor. “Old Cary Grant movies always had them,” she says, “so I wouldn’t budge on that.”
The house, which was designed for the couple by the South Carolina-based firm Court Atkins Architects, has soaring ceilings and multiple porches ideal for afternoon naps or lemonade breaks. It is also bathed in light, with windows everywhere framing views of the water. Kasler filled the rooms with restraint, choosing furnishings that wouldn’t detract from the sight lines. “My biggest challenge is helping clients to edit what they have and not overdecorate,” she says.
In the master bedroom, the designer granted her client’s wish for a glamorous cocoon, centered around a showstopping four-poster bed hand-painted in Italy with a faux-marble effect. She made striking use of platinum wallpaper that Sonni had purchased years earlier, waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it. Kasler gave the shimmering wallcovering its star turn in the adjoining master bath: “Wallpapering the arch above the dressing table made it much more interesting,” she says.
Still, her clients find that they often gravitate to the screened porch off the kitchen, where cushions in red, white, and blue pop like fireworks in the open air. “It’s bright and happy,” Sonni says. “There is no better place to look out on the water with a cocktail in hand.”