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Carolina by Way of California

Carolina by Way of California
September 2014
After debating between two coasts, Lynne and Steve Hamontree settled on Sullivan’s Island and, with help from area designer Cortney Bishop, revamped a spec home to reflect their particular brand of West-meets-East Coast cool

Visiting Lynne and Steve Hamontree today, it’s easy to get the impression they’ve been happily settled in their Sullivan’s Island abode since forever. In the airy second-floor living room, Lynne tucks into her favorite chair—one of two sculptural egg-shaped numbers by McGuire that ooze Bohemian chic—and talks excitedly about the room’s design, zeroing in on a newly acquired painting that hangs nearby. “It’s by Kim Frohsin, a Bay Area artist and one of my idols,” she gushes. That’s serious praise coming from Lynne, a noted artist herself who recently landed a deal with Serena & Lily—this fall, the posh retailer will carry a run of her ink line paintings of nude figures. Ask husband Steve, a California-raised surfer who loves the laid-back culture and cresting waves of his home state, to point out the house’s best features, and he might direct you to the screened-in porch, where you can catch the ocean breeze, or the entryway, where one of his boards is displayed as art. Either way, the residence, with its cool coastal palette and art-filled rooms, is a thoughtful reflection of its owners, right down to the surf books piled on the coffee table. But it wasn’t always this way. The couple is on the tail end of a two-year interior overhaul—led by area design pro Cortney Bishop—that helped them turn a spec home into the uber-personalized oasis of their dreams.

A Lifetime in the Making
One look at Lynne’s paintings—which often feature things like oyster shells, magnolia flowers, and wisps of cotton—reveals her love for the Southern coastal landscape. The affable Steve, on the other hand, is a Californian at heart. After the two met and wooed in Lynne’s native Greenville, they got hitched and in the early ’80s, headed west. Lynne loved California, reveling in afternoons at Manhattan Beach, family trips to Baja for camping and surfing, and living amongst a thriving West Coast art scene. While Steve surfed, she began painting en plein air and signed up for art classes at UCLA.

Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling that the South was pulling her home. “We would come back to visit, and I’d get off the airplane and smell that sweet South Carolina air and see all the people I’d been missing,” she says. “So after our son Bryan was born, we moved back and raised our family in Greenville and Charleston.”

Once their two boys were grown and preparing to leave the nest—Bryan and wife Carter now reside in Greenwich Village, while Garrett lives in Newport Beach, continuing the family’s love affair with California—the couple knew they wanted a home near the water and briefly considered moving back to the Golden State. “We just decided that come hell or high water, we needed to be by the ocean,” Lynne says. “It’s in our souls. We’ve been water lovers and Bohemian types since before that sort of thing was in style.”

The two eventually settled on Sullivan’s Island—a place offering plenty of surf and a beachy vibe that’s reminiscent of their beloved California—and, in 2005, purchased a newly constructed 5,000-square-foot home just a block from the beach. “On weekends, I find it comforting that even though our kids don’t live here, Bryan is surfing in Montauk or Rockaway and Garrett is surfing in Southern California while Steve is surfing here in Charleston at the same time,” says Lynne.

The location was everything the Hamontrees had hoped for, but as the abode was built on spec, construction was already well underway by the time they came onto the scene. Once building was complete, there were some things they wanted to tweak. For example, they felt the original kitchen was too sterile, and certain rooms, like a tiny nook off the kitchen, were underutilized because they didn’t have a clear purpose. Additionally, Lynne has always been drawn to small houses (“I like a place to feel cozy,” she says), and she felt lost in the home’s large footprint. But that all began to change when she met designer Cortney Bishop, who also happens to live on Sullivan’s.

Bishop and the Hamontrees connected right away. “As soon as we met, we had this great energy between us,” says Lynne. Aside from the fact that they’re neighbors, the designer shares the couple’s free-spirited approach to life. (In 2005, she moved her family from Knoxville to Sullivan’s on a whim, because she fell in love with the house where she now resides.) Lynne immediately recognized Bishop as a kindred spirit, and the perfect person to help her breathe life—and a sense of laid-back, California-style luxury—into the space.

Laying the Foundation
The home already had great bones, with plenty of windows and an open, loft-like space on the second floor. “But it did not have the life of the two of them,” Bishop says. “It didn’t have much color, and they are very colorful people.” She kicked off the revamp in the second-floor living room, where the couple spends much of their time relaxing with dogs Jasper, a German shorthaired pointer, and Occy, a wirehair piebald dachshund. Previously, the room felt too formal—impractical, even. “The sofas were half the size of Steve—he couldn’t even lay down!” Bishop exclaims. She drafted a new furniture plan that was both visually refined and highly functional and curated a color palette that was more in line with the couple’s breezy West Coast style. Early on, she selected the McGuire chairs, which Lynne absolutely loved; their mid-century silhouette, cream-colored upholstery, and walnut accents became a reference point for the rest of the home.  

Next came other mid-century-inspired pieces for the living room, such as brass light fixtures and Organic Modernism credenzas composed of walnut and white lacquered wood. Comfort was carefully considered: a large L-shaped sectional by Verellen accommodates even the longest of legs, and a TV was cleverly hidden behind a painting that’s light and easy to move. With the furniture plan in place, Bishop began to layer in color via blue and green textiles. A one-of-a-kind rug by Atlanta-based Moattar makes such a bold, graphic statement that it feels like a work of art, and pillows custom-sewn from vintage textiles recall the shades of the ocean.

Personal touches are also evident throughout. A walnut table once used in Lynne’s art studio was reimagined as a console and given a new home behind the sofa. “If you look closely, you’ll see it’s still flecked with paint,” Lynne notes. And flanking that table are two turquoise chairs—made in the style of a classic Eames design—they’ve owned for years. Most evenings, Lynne and Steve can be found perched at this well-loved table, enjoying dinner and a glass of wine. “We always toast to Thursdays, no matter what day of the week it is,” Lynne says. “Thursdays are our favorite, because they mean Friday’s on the horizon.”  

Refining Their Vision
With a Bohemian, mid-century style clearly established, Bishop turned her attention to the rest of the home. In place of the rarely used zone off the kitchen, she envisioned a cozy reading area populated with meaningful mementos. She enlisted local builder James Meadors to construct floor-to-ceiling shelves and built-in window seats and to paint the room a deep blue. This nook—now filled with Lynne’s beloved books, as well as family photos, artworks, and other keepsakes—has become one of the couple’s favorite spaces. “It’s such a luxury to sit in there surrounded by all of my art books and read or sketch and have my tea,” Lynne says.

The rest of the rooms came together organically. In the adjoining kitchen, woodworker Kris Kotlowski of Eurocraft Inc. replaced rows of wall-mounted cabinetry with open walnut shelving, which imbues the space with warmth. Lynne’s blue-and-white china, green glassware, and various flea-market finds are now displayed here in a functional way. In the dining area, white rattan chairs and curtains made of a fine mesh (think fishermen’s netting) keep the vibe decidedly beachy. And the homeowners’ personalities still come in loud and clear: Bishop encased some of Steve’s favorite albums from his college days—by artists like Jimmy Buffett, Marshall Tucker, and Moody Blues—in walnut frames and hung them as art. “When you frame things in walnut, they soften,” Bishop explains.

Downstairs in the couple’s master suite and adjacent sitting room, a high-backed leather sofa (“I can’t live without black leather,” laughs Bishop), bronze accents, and a set of six Alfred Hutty etchings cultivate a sense of understated glamour. Woven grass cloth wall coverings, various textiles Lynne collected from Costa Rica, and walnut and mahogany furnishings keep the space feeling connected with the rest of the home. Other rooms—including Lynne’s sunlit third-floor art studio, a second-floor guest room, and the screened-in porch—are furnished mostly with the couple’s existing pieces, with a few tweaks from Bishop. “I rehung some art and moved furniture around, but everything else was essentially already in place,” she says—proof their aesthetic was there all along and just needed coaxing.

With their home thus furnished and the beach just a few steps away, the Hamontrees can’t imagine living anywhere else. In fact, Lynne is now so inspired that certain rooms and tableaus have become reoccurring subjects in her still-life paintings. “Finally, we have a home that really looks like Steve and me,” Lynne says. “It’s not a reflection of what’s in or the style of the decade. It’s just really, truly us.”