“The sunset turns this house an incredible shade of pink, then there’s the bright green landscape and blue water,” says designer Kevin Walsh of the backdrop that helped set the tone for a vibrant vacation home in the South Carolina coastal village of Palmetto Bluff. Its colorful interiors were a welcome departure for owners Jason and Cassie LaFrance, who previously collaborated with Walsh on their more formal and restrained main residence in Arkansas. For a family getaway that would encourage long, leisurely summer days, “They wanted something tailored and pretty,” says the designer, “but also casual, comfortable and fun—without distracting from the jaw-dropping views.”
Because the couple and their three young children spend weeks at a time in the Lowcountry, it was important that the house feel like home. In fact, they initially planned to build from scratch and were in the process of closing on a lot just down the street—that is, until Cassie went online in search of local design inspiration. “I came across this house listed for sale and loved it,” she recalls. Once Walsh personally toured the home alongside his clients, a watercolor vision for a family-friendly remodel came into view.
Joining Walsh—and project manager William Lendermon—was architect Erik E. Puljung, who’d designed the original home back in 2009. His concept for the previous owners embraced the vernacular of the region as a window-clad historic river house with a two-story porch. When the LaFrances reached out about its renovation, Puljung was delighted. “As a doctor might describe ‘continuity of care,’ ” he explains, “I was honored to carry the torch and make changes appropriate for new owners.”
The LaFrances “practically live in the kitchen,” Cassie explains, so for the home’s most significant structural change, general contractor Chris VanGeison added a large breakfast room and seating area where a small banquette and dining porch once stood adjacent to the cooking space. Between this new casual dining spot and the kitchen, Puljung opted for a cased opening in lieu of doors to “create connectivity and a nice flow,” he says. Now, the LaFrances prepare meals before views of changing tides, roaming wildlife and pastel light out expansive windows while easily accommodating family and guests.
The heart of the home became a prime playground for Walsh’s deft use of color. “Everything was beautiful, but more beige before—and Cassie tends to prefer crisp and clean,” the designer notes. Walsh’s team started by smoothing out the home’s hand-scraped wood floors and applying fresh paint to its 8-foot-tall, four-panel doors—which previously displayed a stained-wood finish. In the kitchen, this lighter look provided the foundation for unexpected pops of pink on pendants over the island, in turn inspiring the blushing subway tile backsplash and woven pink upholstery on the counter stools. “I didn’t go into the project thinking pink for the kitchen,” Cassie laughs. “But if there’s a time to take a risk, it’s with a vacation house—and I’m so glad we did.”
That sense of adventure also swayed the selection of textiles and original art, which Walsh and Cassie curated together. “Our buying trips were exciting because we sampled fabric lines that were new to me and things I never considered myself brave enough to try,” she says. A bold Kelly Reemtsen painting in the media room triggered the pink and green scheme in the nearby dining room, where dogwood-print draperies converse with symmetrical plantings of crepe myrtles by landscape architect Daniel Keefer in the motor court beyond. Drawing the eye to the adjacent space, a macro photograph of a peony by Paul Lange extends an unabashed Southern welcome in the entryway.
In rooms with the best views, Walsh allowed nature to take the spotlight. The light-filled living room, for example, features an abstract landscape by North Carolina artist Mary Rountree Moore above the fireplace that “could easily be our backyard,” says Cassie, adding that it blends with the soft blue and green textiles to enhance the panorama visible through the windows beyond. Here and elsewhere, accessories such as Murano glass bowls showcase Walsh’s penchant for collections and keep the design grounded in tradition. “Southerners are natural-born collectors,” he enthuses. “Those layers are what make a house interesting and give it personality.”
With the Lowcountry as muse, this lively residence has set the stage for years of LaFrance family memories—from assembling puzzles at the game table off the pink and orange-accented media room to catching sunrises from a pair of cheery green armchairs in the new kitchen seating area. And while the design team notes the home’s finishes are a departure from those of neighboring residences, Cassie says “the magic of Kevin is that he was able to strike a balance of pushing the envelope while staying true to the home’s roots.” Adds Walsh, “It’s a fresh take on a beautiful, classic Southern home.”