Londoners Lay Claim to a Stately Southern Vacation Home
Spanish moss drips from trees gnarled by Atlantic winds. Sandy earth supports native scrub and flora. A grand home rises above the flat barrier island plain of Sea Island, one of the Golden Isles off the Georgia, US coast. The relationship between this home and its island setting was cultivated intentionally. “We wanted something that was quite natural and in sync with the surroundings,” explains London-based designer Louise Jones. Her eponymous firm serves clients in the UK and abroad.
Weeks of research informs Jones’s initial design work on every project. Her UK office library brims with books that describe the history of houses throughout eras and across geographies. “I wanted the house to look like it belonged in that part of the world,” says Jones of this island abode. “Getting the exterior right was probably the most difficult part.” Although new construction, this home adapts the strict symmetry, simple ornamentation, and rectangular shape of the Georgian architectural style, which was popularized under the reigns of Kings George I, II, III, and IV. The style was exported to the American colonies during the late 1700s and experienced a revival in the mid-twentieth century.
Her clients’ primary home is in Chelsea, a district of Southwest London, but the family also enjoys vacationing in the US. The Sea Island setting provided a perfect paradise with a climate suited to enjoying the outdoors. “In London, we live so internally. We rarely step outside,” says Jones. A vacation spot in a rural setting with a mild climate requires a different type of focus. “In a holiday home, you’re outside a lot more. With this type of home design, you set a goal of linking to the outside and maximizing the light.”
This home meets both those goals. Light floods through the many windows and French doors in the home, as do the picturesque views of the adjacent lake. A screened-in porch, outdoor eating area, and second-floor balconies serve as transitions from bedroom and living room spaces to the peaceful green vista. The balconies are meant for private use, while the porches and dining spots serve to entertain the homeowners and their many visitors.
As part of her design process, Jones helps her clients visualize the design master plan. She sketches images that are then hand-colored or watercolored. Those images prompt discussion and Jones gathers feedback from her clients in weekly meetings that occur for several weeks.
In this home, the orderly architectural style helped set the direction for the interior. Each room feels balanced and proportional. This type of symmetry often shows up in more formal designs that can feel stuffy and stiff. Yet in these rooms the evenness evokes peace and balance—the sensations most of us strive for when on vacation.
Also critical to designing the perfect vacation home is acknowledging the different style of living. To encourage a laid-back and relaxed vibe, Jones chose softer, natural materials like linen, cotton, and leather. Those choices give a contemporary feel to the home’s interior that fussier fabrics would not. “They wanted a welcoming family home,” she says. “It couldn’t be too precious or formal. The rooms had to be inviting, places where you wanted to spend a lot of time.”
The homeowners appreciate pattern and color, but requested a serene color palette. Each room boasts soothing hues, allowing accessories and artwork to take center stage. The calming colors paired with each room’s symmetry elevate the sense of serenity.
Although the residence serves as an escape from their primary home, it retains a homey feel by reflecting the owners’ personalities. While the exterior clearly bonds with the barrier island atmosphere, the interior reveals the inhabitants’ ties to another island. From suits of armor to copious pictures of past and present queens, British patriotism is on display. An oversize portrait of Queen Mary casts a regal eye over the living room, while stylized prints of Queens Elizabeth I and II, Queen Victoria, and Mary, Queen of Scots grace the walls of a small family room.
In fact, the home embraces its decided cosmopolitan flair. European, Asian, African, and American art and furnishings create an eclectic mix. Each room feels special, evoking the sense that items were gathered bit by bit and chosen with great care. This mix reveals the travels of the homeowners, but also acknowledges the cultural fusion specific to the American South. Getting that mix right is a challenge. “In every room, you need a focus. As I design, I gradually develop the look, adding in more and more detail as I go,” says Jones. Yet she cautions to use restraint. “It’s so easy to put too much into a room, which makes it look dated. Right now, this house feels fresh and happy and light. Too little is always better than too much. Take away more than you put in. That way, what you do put in is really special.”
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Credit: Home by Design Magazine June/July 2017
WRITTEN BY RONDA SWANEY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREAS VON EINSIEDEL