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Laid-back Luxe

Laid-back Luxe
September 2016
A young family trades the bustle of Manhattan for a custom oceanfront oasis on the Isle of Palms

When Suzanne Fine and Christian Salomone moved from the posh Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan to a quiet stretch of beach on the southernmost point of Isle of Palms in 2014, their goal was to slow down and reconnect with nature. Having spent several happy summers vacationing on the barrier island before making the leap, they knew its lush climate would pull them outdoors almost every day of the year. And they weren’t just looking to passively soak up ocean views—though their striking new waterfront abode, designed by Philip Dufford and John Young of Dufford Young Architects, makes it easy to do just that. The former urbanites were itching to engage with the landscape and really get their hands dirty. “I knew I wanted a garden,” Suzanne says. “In New York, our apartment had a rooftop, and I tried planting a few things, mostly lettuces. But here, my aim was to grow as much as possible.”

One look to the driveway and the seven strategically placed elevated garden beds bursting with okra, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and dozens of other edibles, and it’s clear she’s hit her mark. The couple frequently enlist their three children—Veruka, 11; Wilhelmina, nine; and Sante, six—to help tend this green space. “But they don’t like to help as much as they like to eat,” laughs Suzanne. “My youngest will come down before school to pick cukes or carrots and just munch.” Snacking on the job is all part of the fun, and Christian—who still commutes to New York most weeks for his job in finance—has gotten into the homegrown gourmet spirit, too: nearby, he’s drying vats of ocean water to create his own sea salt.

The yield makes for delicious spreads at mealtimes—which is a big deal for this foodie couple who, along with growing much of their own produce, are investors in new downtown eatery Le Farfalle. On this particular evening at home, Suzanne’s serving a panzanella salad of her own garden bounty and some crusty farmers market bread.

After dinner, there are plans to jump into the zero-edge pool that anchors the U-shaped abode’s elevated center courtyard. From this vantage point, when the tide’s up, the beach disappears and water views stretch as far as the eye can see. “It’s tranquil and serene—the complete opposite of New York, where we could see into the neighbors’ windows and watch them watch TV,” she says.

Throughout the house, this connection with nature is a constant—though it was hard-won, as the design process was akin to solving a puzzle. The property is situated on the tip of the island, in an area zoned with one of FEMA’s most stringent hurricane ratings. To meet the agency’s requirements, the home’s lowest structural level had to be at least 21 feet above sea level. On the flip side, Isle of Palms city code caps building height at 40 feet. “Meeting the limitations imposed on the vertical dimension was a challenge,” says architect John Young.

Suzanne and Christian didn’t want a super-mod boxy structure, requesting instead a more traditional beach-house shape with contemporary touches—a difficult task given the height restrictions. Dufford and Young’s creative solution: two gabled cottage forms connected by a glass breezeway. “We put as much of the living space as we could on one floor, then added a half-story second level for a more pleasing, steeper roof pitch,” Young notes. The petite scale of this upper level lends itself well to bedrooms and en suite baths for each of the girls.

With its cedar-shake façade and reference to familiar architectural forms, the structure echoes the local vernacular, giving the house a firm sense of place. But the cottages are flanked by flat-roofed wings and united by that breezeway, all of which were designed to look like more modern additions. Inside, the interior architecture follows this conceit: the cottage forms are outfitted with traditionally proportioned windows and oak floors, while the flat-roofed zones, including the kitchen and living room, feature oversized expanses of glass and more modern details, such as cement-tile flooring and flush cypress ceilings.

Furnishings and décor, selected by Suzanne, help to blend the two aesthetics into one cohesive whole. “I like classic, clean lines with a modern edge, things that blend different materials and time periods,” notes the athletic brunette, who keeps in shape by boxing in an open-air home gym tucked under the elevated first floor. This means that in the open dining room, she mixed and matched upholstered chairs to surround a custom table, all lit by a mid-century-inspired chandelier. In the master suite, a traditional tufted club chair feels at home near pendant lights spun from funky glass orbs.

The art is similarly eclectic: in the den, a glossy Molly B. Right portrait of Salvador Dalí resides alongside a rustic stuffed boar head. The latter reminds the pair of a particularly memorable meal: “a friend of ours likes to hunt; this boar actually produced the best chops we’ve ever eaten,” Christian says.

The tasteful furnishings don’t distract from the breathtaking island landscape. Throughout, stellar views of palmetto fronds and rolling waves beckon. The house makes it easy to step into these vistas: the master suite boasts an outdoor shower, so warmer days often begin with a plein-air rinse. “As soon as it’s 70 degrees, we’re out there,” Suzanne says. And there are even views in unexpected places: in the kitchen, Dufford and Young skipped a traditional backsplash, opting instead for pockets of glass that look out to the treetops—proof that the architects overcame one of their chief design challenges. “The house is still part of the landscape despite the elevation,” Dufford notes.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the pool area and surrounding courtyard. In-ground pools are popular on IOP, but given the home’s soaring elevation, this approach wasn’t ideal. “Suzanne and Christian wanted the pool and deck nested into the house for easy access and privacy,” Young notes. By limiting the depth to four feet, the architects were able to bring the pool up to the living level—and the resulting space serves as the social family’s entertaining headquarters.

“We’ve found that Charleston is very friendly; when you invite people over, they come!” Suzanne says. “We have so many perfect picture-book memories, eating outside with friends with all the kids running around. I always tell my friends back in New York: Charleston really does feel like life on vacation.”