The Livin’ is Easy

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Interior designer and preservationist Jane Coslick seasons a new Tybee cottage with ageless summer style.  Allison Hersh kicks off her flip-flops and steps inside. Photography by Richard Leo Johnson.

Aquamarine shutters.  Lilac window boxes.  Striped hammocks strung across a wide, screened porch.

The imprint of interior designer and restoration expert Jane Coslick is evident in dozens of restored cottages on Tybee Island.

“I’m an old soul,” Jane tells me with a smile.  “And I love old houses.”

So when a family from Chicago approached her to infuse a brand new home on the island’s South Beach with the atmosphere of a historic beach cottage from the 1920s, Jane knew just what to do.

“They wanted a new house that feels like an old house,” she explains.  “They wanted wood walls, deep porches and all the vintage Tybee architectural elements in a new house.”

In other words, they wanted Jane.

Painting a Seascape

The native Savannahian and Tybee preservationist, who signs her correspondence with the phrase “Happy colors!” began with a backdrop of clean, coastal hues.  Ocean-inspired aqua blues flow throughout the interiors, while white-sand walls and ceilings provide a blank canvas for creative touches.

“The family wanted it to feel like a beach house, but with a soft color palette,” she explains.  “It’s a calm, serene environment with minimal furnishings.  The home has an open floor plan, but it all ties together with the colors.”

The five-bedroom house, nestled on Chatham Avenue between the Atlantic Ocean and the Back River, offers stunning water vistas—particularly from the top floor, which includes the living room and master suite.

“The views from this house just take your breath away,” Jane enthuses.  “The living spaces are open.  It’s really a comfortable house.”

To make the most of the scenery, Jane furnished the living room with swiveling, pale blue armchairs surrounding a custom-made, round striped ottoman.

“The focus of the room can move,” she says of the flexible seating configuration.  “You can have a view of the Back River or a view of the ocean or you can watch TV, depending upon your mood.”

Driftwood and Sea Fans

Tybee Island’s historic beach cottages share a strong sense of style.  These architectural treasures typically feature a clapboard exterior, wood walls and floors, pocket windows, spacious porches and an orientation toward ocean breezes.

In a nod to the original raised cottages, this 3,400-square-foot new build boasts wooden walls, ceilings and trim—both inside and out.  Jane accented these walls with plenty of local art, rustic lighting fixtures and home accents inspired by the beach.  Mismatched dining room chairs—painted a unifying shade of white—offer an inviting place to relax and enjoy a family meal, while a comfy daybed swing on the porch serves as an ideal place to curl up for a late afternoon nap, lulled by the sound of the surf.

“I like everything to be fresh,” says Jane, who has restored dozens of cottages, including a few that are now included on the National Register of Historic Places.  “I like the views, nature and the ocean breezes to be the focus.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, this coastal cottage has been designed to incorporate as much natural light as possible, giving the interiors a sun-drenched atmosphere that provides a refreshing counterpoint to the family’s more traditional home in Chicago.  Dried sea fans and patterned starfish accent pillows underscore the coastal style that runs through this home’s DNA, emphasizing that this beach refuge is worlds away from Illinois.

A Family Retreat

Creating indoor and outdoor environments that would appeal to the family’s three young children served as an important priority.  So Jane got especially creative with kid-friendly accents, incorporating an oversized chalkboard for the children to write on and a double outdoor shower adorned with colorful sea turtle and butterfly art.  In the children’s bathroom, galvanized pipes double as towel bars, while nautical cleats provide the perfect place to hang little bathrobes.

In the kitchen, a blue-and-green glass-tile backsplash adds a dose of shimmer and shine.  A vintage-inspired turquoise refrigerator and matching stove serve as focal points in the room, while an island outfitted with three barstools provides a relaxed counterpoint to the white glass-front cabinets adorned with cool chrome hardware.  Overhead, a trio of vintage lighting fixtures offers a knowing nod to period accents and a loving tribute to Tybee’s history.

Although this beach cottage is technically considered new construction, it houses an old spirit, thanks to furnishings and accents that celebrate Tybee’s unique style.

“This house is new, but it has so much character,” Jane says.  “It’s an amazing home.  The family is so happy with it, and I’m so happy with it.”

The Stats »

Year built:  2008

Square footage:  3,400

Accommodations:  5 bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths

Time to complete:  14 months