Upon A Golden Isle

Florida Design Volume 20 #3

Florida Design

Kim Sargent

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Sidney Lanier, a poet of the 19th century, focused his most famous poem, “The Marshes of Glynn,” on the beautiful coastal area surrounding the natural landscape of Sea Island, Ga. And it was for these same naturally inspiring reasons that owners Helen and William Benton chose this ever-changing land of grass for their second residence.

With views that expand for hundreds of acres and meandering rivers lacing through the marsh, the so-called Golden Isles off Georgia’s Atlantic coast has served as the second home for many a vacationer who simply fell in love with the scenic vistas. Such was the case with the Bentons, who have spent holidays at Sea Island since their children were small. “We’ve created so many memories here,” Helen says. “So, when Bill and I were planning our second home, I told him, ‘this is the only place we’ve been that I never want to leave.’” And while the couple maintains a primary residence in Arkansas, they are now on their second Sea Island home.

For the interiors, the couple once again called on the design team of Florida and New York-based designers William R. Eubanks and D. Mitchell Brown, who, by now, had become family friends. “After having done more than five homes for us and our family, Bill and Mitch simply intuit what we want,” Helen says.

And what Helen, a contemporary painter in her own right, wanted was to make the home “seem as if we were living in the marsh,” she says, requesting a neutral palette so that the greens and browns of the outside would seem to grow more vibrant within. But she knew such a scaled-down look was a departure for the designers. “I realize we’re known for our highly decorated interiors,” Eubanks says. “But in this case, the sweep of clean lines was just right for the setting. So, we used the Frank Lloyd Wright concepts of allowing the inside and the outside to resonate together, using textures and shapes to tie it all together.”

Starting in the foyer of this 3,850-square-foot townhouse, the designers introduced the geometric shapes of squares and circles in the entrance doors, light fixture and stairway railings. Seemingly to flow directly from the foyer towards the marsh is the living room, adorned in hues of celadon and parsnip. Here, Eubanks and Brown kept the lines simple on a pair of custom-designed sofas dressed in soft linen-velvet. A shag area rug imitates the seagrass beyond.

In the nearby dining room, the designers used the most organic of textures on their personally designed, stretched and laminated goatskin-parchment table. Beyond, a console, and its duplicate on another wall, can be nestled against the main table to make seating for up to 14 guests. Helen’s modernistic acrylic painting, as with all the artwork in the house, was specifically done for the spot where it hangs. Recessed doors separate the kitchen, a space where their whole family can congregate, which is beautifully fashioned with Delicatus granite countertops.

Just off the kitchen in a loggia/study-turned-children’s hideaway, Eubanks and Brown created three oversized daybeds for the Benton’s grandchildren, ages 8 to 22. Faux-bamboo wall covering, a bamboo-print woven area rug and exotic accent pillows hint at the Serengeti while still remaining elegant.

For Helen, her own getaway rests in the dramatic sleekness of what Brown calls the “Marlene Dietrich-inspired” master bedroom. With a reflecting vinyl wall covering and reptilian patterns of celadon silk, textures and the play of light are everywhere. “I love the one-armed chaise – it’s just so glamorous as you gaze across the moving waters,” she says. And like Lanier, the artist in Helen is also moved by what she sees – and by the house she now loves to call home.