Photos by Jonathan Edwards Media
An oyster shell—where ruggedness and refinement coalesce in one intriguing package—was the perfect inspiration for the 2017 Coastal Virginia Magazine Idea House, the second partnership between Coastal Virginia Magazine and Stephen Alexander Homes and Neighborhoods. From seafood market casual to Oysters Rockefeller classy, The Gloucester, a new floorplan for Stephen Alexander, redefines the relaxed beach lifestyle.
Located in Ashby’s Bridge, just a skipped stone away from Sandbridge beaches, this home is grounded in Coastal Virginia but nods north to Nantucket for a gentle hint of historic nostalgia. Kick-your-shoes-off comfort is tempered by understated elegance; think Jacqueline Onassis on year-round holiday.
Asserts principal, Stephen Quick IV, “This is five-star living at home,” adding that there are two kinds of people: those who already live this way and those who want to. Indeed, you need travel no further than the front foyer to understand that the staycation concept can define your lifestyle 365 days a year when architecture and interior design are thoughtfully married to create what designer Susan Wilson, of Susan Wilson Interiors, describes as “a cottage retreat feel.”
On the exterior, crisp, white trim defines the architectural details and projections of this house with its soft, romantic blue shingles and lap siding, all made of highly durable synthetic materials that mimic wood. The gambrel roofline and pedimented front porch entrance establish this home’s welcoming presence, which is continued around the side to the carriage-style garage doors and faux purple martin house under the eve above.
Tailored curving landscape elements in the front and a paver patio in the back serve as a counterpoint to the home’s tidy geometry, while at the perimeter of the patio, an outdoor fireplace echoes it. Unseen is the highly efficient system of structural panels with built-in protective overlays that function like shrink wrap to protect this natural gas-heated house against air and water filtration.
Though this is a newly constructed custom home with all the contemporary amenities that buyers have come to expect, at every turn, it offers an intentional, but not self-conscious, comfy and broken-in feel. Two materials in particular establish that theme from the ground up: 7-inch wide white oak planks with a driftwood finish and white shiplap popularized by Joanna Gaines on the wildly popular HGTV show, “Fixer-Upper.” Her Magnolia Home furniture line is featured prominently throughout the house where its comfy-classy profiles exude just the right vibe. Stained wood, painted wood, metal and upholstered furniture combine to tone down any too-formal profiles.
Reclaimed wood is pressed into service as rugged countertops in the laundry-mud room and in the culinary space, a gracious serving and display space consisting of a bountiful pantry and adjacent wine bar-flex space. The floors of the family hub are made of durable ceramic tile planks with the look of dark wood. In the downstairs master bath, ceramic tile planks with a driftwood appearance are laid in a herringbone pattern for a fresh take on rugged elegance. Upstairs in the girl’s room, a driftwood wall creates an accent behind the bed while a subtle driftwood-inspired finish even graces some of the closet shelving and racks.
Associated with the construction of buildings like barns, sheds and outbuildings, shiplap—horizontal wooden boards that traditionally overlapped—lends a rustic feel to the design, though a coat of clean, white paint dresses it up enough to bring it indoors where it sets the tone for the relaxed coastal elegance that defines this home.
To achieve the tailored lines appropriate for a more casual, interior ambiance, labor-intensive made-on-site trim details sport more square edges in keeping with the look of the shiplap which lends the family room, the breakfast room and the master bath their unique look. The family room fireplace is fully clad in shiplap, but on the walls, the shiplap extends only to the would-be ceiling height in order to cozy up this soaring vaulted space. White shiplap detailing is repeated elsewhere on furniture, both freestanding and built-in, to help create a sense of continuity: on the family room sofa table, on the wine bar-flex space and on the headboard of the girl’s bed upstairs.
In the dining room, a simplified approach to a traditional coffered ceiling replaces the more formal repetition of small squares with three long rectangular divisions stretching the length of the room. The center section is wider than the sides to create graceful proportions. Board and batten wainscoting extends the relaxed, restrained undertone down the walls of this “formal” dining space. Throughout the home, handsome recessed 5-panel doors recall the 19th century.
Wilson chose a palette of soft oyster shell-inspired custom colors—grays and blues with a little pearlescent or silver shimmer here and there—to gently set off the white shiplap. Where pale blue adorns a ceiling, the room appears to open up to the sky. The generous use of white for trim, doors and kitchen and bathroom cabinets coordinates with the shiplap for a “light and airy” feeling. Even the gray-veined white quartz countertops in the kitchen and baths remind Wilson of crushed shells, with a tumbled marble linear mosaic backsplash and fireplace surround kicking up the natural texture quotient. Wilson notes that another neutral, the wood tones on floors and some countertops and furnishings helps “break up” all the white and gray, interjecting a hint of warmth.
Silver, a natural complement to blue, flows through the design as both a color and a surface texture. From more rugged and industrial galvanized metal trays and such to deluxe stainless steel kitchen appliances and chrome fixtures to more sparkly mercury glass candle holders, vases and picture frames, silver-toned finishes are a unifying motif throughout. Galvanized metal baskets are reminiscent of crab or lobster traps and serve as storage bins in the mudroom, while in the boy’s room upstairs, they are mounted to the wall where they function as shelving. There, the tailored metal bed boasts a more industrial feel with its built-in trunk style storage underneath, accessible from three sides.
Unique light fixtures combining wood and metal in the dining room as well as in the foyer, culinary space, kitchen and master bath feature interlocking ovals in the former, evocative of a sextant or compass rose, and rectangles in the latter reminiscent of seafaring lanterns. Edison LED bulbs in the lantern-style kitchen fixtures—with a row of four suspended from chains over the massive, extra-thick-topped 11-foot island—lend a vintage charm, as do the bin pull hardware on the kitchen’s lower cabinets.
But there is no shortage of natural light courtesy of this home’s 55 windows of various shapes and configurations and generous inclusion of transoms, allowing light to flow from one space to another. Wilson’s approach to window treatments is understated: a little bit nautical and a lot relaxed. In the breakfast room, she incorporated boat cleats and white nautical ropes. Overall, she used a light hand in regard to dressing the windows, employing fabric to soften all the white trim but keeping the treatments “simple and up high” so as not to interfere with the light nor the view out to this very green 15,000-square-foot lot. In the family room, she used the vertical lines of longer white drapery to subtlety counterbalance the horizontality of the shiplap.
Decorative objects and fabrics—especially relaxed linens and crisp cottons—infuse the home with the natural elements Wilson favors while weaving nautical threads throughout. Reflecting the coastal setting are matte, white starfish and shells, driftwood relief sculptures; lanterns filled with sand, shells and candles; and diminutive succulents in white, ceramic vessels that suggest underwater plants and scrubby dune grasses.
The heavily textured sisal rug in the family room suggests nautical ropes, as does the white linear pattern on the gray upholstered rattan chairs cozied up to the fireplace. Nodding in a maritime direction without going overboard are gray and white striped throw pillows on the washable white slip-covered sofa and loveseat, which complete the breezy but welcoming conversational grouping. Stripes appear on the master bed coverlet and the porch rug to extend the subtle reference.
An “X” suggestive of a nautical flag is another motif that lends unity to the home’s design. Appearing in unexpected places, it is built into the wine bar in the culinary space where it provides storage for wine bottles, while in the porch furniture and loft railing, the “X” serves as a structural design element.
Among this home’s noteworthy features is generous and varied storage. Built-ins flanking the family room fireplace hold rows of upholstered gray, lidded bins, while cubbies in the mudroom provide everyone with space to stash his or her own stuff. The kitchen features all manner of bins, lazy Susans and pull-outs matched only by those in the nearby pantry, accessible through French doors.
In this handy and handsome space, open horizontal shelving, vertical compartments, drawers, pull-out bins, baskets, swanky refrigeration and more make food storage, prep and staging a breeze. The master closet is a marvel of drawers, cubbies, bars for hanging clothes and slanted shelves for shoes. Located off the upstairs guest suite are walk-in conditioned attic storage spaces that open up one into the next almost Alice in Wonderland style.
Though The Gloucester is built around entertaining, private spaces were no afterthoughts. The expansive master suite is accessible both to the family room and, by pocket door, to the mudroom and laundry room with its full-size stackable washer and dryer. Beyond is a two-and-a-half car garage with a gray, epoxy floor.
For the master bedroom, Wilson chose an upholstered headboard to “cozy it up.” Crisp and clean white linens signal that “you’ve stepped into a retreat.” The adjacent master bath with its double sink vanity, private water closet, double rain head shower and white freestanding tub remove any remaining doubt. White, subway tile in the shower suffuses the space with vintage charm.
Upstairs—located off the loft with its comfy reading chairs and shared round ottoman—is everything guests could want for a relaxed stay. To the left are their own laundry facilities tucked away in a closet, a guest suite whose bath is accessible from the hallway and a vast, multiuse space. To the right, Jack-and-Jill boy’s and girl’s rooms flank a shared bath with a double sink vanity and dressing area separate from the toilet and tiled shower.
Wilson introduced a bit more whimsy in some of these spaces with, in the girl’s room, a “California Dreaming” vibe complete with a grass-skirted surf shack reference. Murals painted by Brushstrokes by Cathy Cox depict a lighthouse and sandy beachscape in the boy’s room and a tall pirate ship in the multiuse space which visually lowers the height of that ceiling.
Wilson further humanized the scale of the sunken multiuse space, located over the garage, by breaking it up into areas with different functions, including a media area with an enormous sectional sofa and 35-inch TV, and a game/craft area set off against a handsome box bay window. This space is outfitted with a long, wooden table featuring a nifty hideaway trough down the center.
Believing that a house should “tell a story,” Wilson chose to intersperse custom hand-painted signs with artwork—some of it Stephen Quick V’s beach and surfing photographs printed on stretched canvas—to evoke memories. The signs are examples of the nostalgic references this designer loves, as they read like souvenirs of family vacations.
Overall, the nearly 4,000-square-foot home seems to exhale a satisfied sigh with 9 to 11-foot ceilings, pleasing proportions and ample spaces like the breathable gathering area between the kitchen island and family room, the breakfast room large enough for a full-size dining table, and the upper loft—in lieu of a living room—at the top of the stairs. As Quick notes, the home is designed with less rooms, “but we exaggerated how you come and go with taller doorways and wider stairs.”
However, from the look and feel of things, you won’t want to “go” far for very long.
The 2017 Coastal Virginia Magazine Idea House is located at 2740 Ashby’s Bridge Court, Virginia Beach.