A Traditional Home With a Twist

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One family finds balance between then and now with a newly built waterfront dream home on Modena Island


IT CAN BE EASY TO FORGET the countless hours, emails and phone calls that go into crafting and designing a home to feel like a home, but for the owners of this family-centric waterfront abode, it was a long time in the making. The couple, who were relocating from Hilton Head to Savannah with their two small children, wanted to create a home that would serve as a springboard for new memories and pay homage to cherished ones of days gone by. 

Drawing upon their childhood memories of summers spent along the water, the couple found and purchased a waterfront lot with views of the marsh and tidal creek access. “[My husband’s] childhood was filled with fishing off the dock and throwing a cast net, so we wanted that for our kids,” the homeowner shares.

Living room with peaked ceiling and exposed natural wood beams and wood floor

With the location secured, the homeowners sought the help of builder Tracey Tollison with Tollison & Co. Construction and residential designer Fred Wasson of Fred Wasson Residential Design to bring their vision to life. The homeowners tasked Tollison with a hard deadline of only 10 months, which she met — with time to spare. “We said, ‘Listen, we have to be able to move into this house for the start of the school year,’” the homeowner explains. “That was a must. And she did it. We were on time.”

After walking through countless homes and scouring the internet for a home plan that felt right, the homeowner put pen to paper and drew the concept herself. “She showed them to me,” Wasson says, “and I instantly knew what she was trying to do and what she was trying to convey with her sketches.”

Kitchen with white shiplap ceiling, white herringbone subway tile backsplash, huge marble island and dinner table with seating for eight
Blue kitchen cabinets and patterned wallpaper
Dining set upholstered bench

As the design process gained momentum, Wasson referred the homeowners to Lily Brown of Lily Brown Interiors, and it was an easy fit. While the homeowner typically favored more classic design elements with blues and white, she was open to new ideas from Brown, and what emerged is a testament to the collaborative partnership. “There was a lot of mix between something traditional and then something fresh,” Brown says. “The whole house is built on that.”

This is evident in the great room, where Brown selected family-friendly fabrics with simple, thoughtful details. At the kitchen table, Brown upholstered the bench seat in faux ostrich leather, while on the loveseat and sofa, she added stitched frog closures and an interwoven embroidered trim to the skirt. Brown was mindful of the careful balance between detailed and fussy, and when to take a step back and let the home’s architecture and waterfront view take center stage.

Reclaimed natural wood doors with frosted glass
Powder room with ice blue wallpaper with white starburst pattern and marble sink
Screened in patio with rattan seating and an in-ground pool

“There aren’t a ton of window treatments,” Brown says, and true to her word, the back wall of the home is almost entirely glass with unobstructed views of the marsh and water beyond. In the dining room, Brown chose only sheer, unlined drapes to soften the space and add a touch of formality. It’s a slight but distinct change in tone and is underscored by the punchy and playful fabric of Ottoman-era figures by Travers on the dining room chairs. “It was a lot of push-pull with some really traditional elements and some really fresh things,” Brown says. 

This layered and thoughtful approach to the interior included the paint colors, which weren’t as simple as selecting from a swatch. “The paint colors were really important in this house because of how it gets so much natural light,” Brown explains. “Even though this house is very light-filled, its directional sunlight can be very tricky in the way it makes colors look.”

Window seat in a child's room with built-in book case
Twin beds with blue and white comforters and covered with navy blue and white striped half canopies

Brown selected Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace for the walls, Silver Mist for the kitchen ceiling and Boothbay Gray at 50% for the interior doors. In the butler’s pantry, though, Brown eschewed paint in favor of a whimsical Thibaut Daintree wallpaper. “I love rooms that have drama, and I just think this is beautiful and feels like a special hidden space,” Brown says. “We had a lot of fun with wallpaper.”

Brown carried the drama into the downstairs powder rooms and selected Thibaut wallpapers in unique applications. In one, she wallpapered the ceiling and framed it with bold paint, while in the entry powder room, she covered the walls in a printed grasscloth. “She wasn’t afraid to take really thoughtful risks on things or do something unexpected, and I love that,” Brown says of the homeowner. 

Walk-in shower with marble walls and basket weave tile
Soaking tub under a window with shutters and flanked by built-in shelves
Primary bedroom suite

Outside the entry powder room, the designer selected antique rugs for the foyer and great room and found two sets of reclaimed doors that have quickly become the most complimented pieces in the home. 

Upstairs, an open homework space with built-in desks and a window seat reading area is another thoughtful use of space by the homeowners, who considered not just how their children would use the home now but what that might look like in five or 10 years. “A lot of thought was put into the kids growing up there,” Tollison attests. “Not just needs for today but transitioning.” 

Two story home with white siding and light green shutters

In the children’s bedrooms, Brown gave family heirloom pieces a fresh twist, draping a striped fabric in a half canopy over two twin beds the homeowner had as a child. In the other bedroom, she furnished the space with a bunk bed custom-designed with Tollison, feminine draperies and a draped shower curtain for an additional special touch. “It’s so fabulous,” Brown says with a smile. “Her draperies are still my favorite.” 

Outside, a spacious screened porch with a large wood-burning fireplace and covered outdoor kitchen opens seamlessly to the pool, dock and tidal creek beyond. This space, the homeowner shares, is perfect in the fall for fish fries with a football game on in the back and a fire in the fireplace. Still, the homeowner can’t pick just one favorite room in the home. “I think wherever we gather is my favorite space,” she says.

Screened in porch and in-ground pool


  • Year built: 2020
  • Timeline of project: 10 months
  • Bedrooms/bathrooms: 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and 2 half-baths
  • Square footage: 5,668 heated; 7,125 under roof
  • Residential designer: Fred Wasson Residential Design
  • Interior designer: Lily Brown Interiors
  • Builder: Tollison & Co. Construction
  • Custom kitchen cabinets: Williamson Millworks Inc.
  • Lighting: Visual Comfort; sourced by Lily Brown Interiors
  • Furniture: sourced by Lily Brown Interiors
  • Tile: Garden State Tile
  • Flooring: Morris Wood Flooring
  • Wallpaper: Thibaut
  • Art: homeowners’ collection

All details provided by the interior designer

Cover of spring issue of Savannah Homes magazine

This story and much more in the Spring issue of Savannah HOMES magazine. Get your copy today!