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By Stephanie Smith | Photo: Sarah Dorio | October 22, 2015
For a busy Atlanta family of five, a Kiawah Island vacation residence designed by Lee Kleinhelter has proved to be a rejuvenating respite off South Carolina’s coast.
Cross the venerable threshold of tall grasses, palm trees and marshland outside and inside you’ll find a tranquil house with clean, modern lines a stone’s throw from Charleston, S.C. Nothing about this beach house is prototypical—there is no enormous fish hanging above the mantle, and all nautical references are sophisticated and well-edited.
For Atlanta interior designer Lee Kleinhelter, who owns upscale furnishings boutique Pieces in Buckhead and is a sought-after stylist, it’s all part of riding creativity’s wave and ensuring the client’s needs aren’t merely met but exceeded. Working from floor plans and images, she actually designed and furnished the interiors without ever stepping foot on the property. “The client truly trusted my vision and let me design a space that was creative yet functional for their lifestyle,” she says.
Fortunately, Kleinhelter had a stunning shell from which to work. The four-bedroom, 4,285-square-foot abode was designed by Christopher Rose Architects and nestled in The Preserve neighborhood on posh-meets-placid Kiawah Island. His use of 30-foot-high glass windows throughout the common areas brings the saltwater pool on the deck—and the pond just beyond that—practically inside. Stained steel beams and a majestic blue stone fireplace in the living room rounded out the ideal backdrop for Kleinhelter’s contemporary aesthetic to take full form.
The homeowners have three active teenagers and enjoy attending nearby horse shows, playing golf and hitting the beach. So, while the escape spot needed to be a retreat, it also required a fun and casual vibe that matched the family’s personality and lifestyle. Kleinhelter chose to liven up the neutral-toned interior with touches of bright chartreuse and aqua in the main living space and certain bedrooms. “I believe there is an art to balancing textures, materials and finishes so it’s not a formula,” she shares. The designer subscribes to what works in the space—forcing nothing—and keeps the eye interested with unique and unusual finds.
Hence the punches of color on the orange bean bags upstairs, vintage pieces mixed in with new purchases and the custom nautical bunk beds in the boys’ room that match the bright-red life rafts scattered along the wall. Because Pieces is a retail store, Kleinhelter’s team sourced all of the furniture for this project through the boutique’s variety of vendors. “We hunted all over the country for cool vintage finds to add the Pieces touch to this project,” she says. The client enjoyed the process of outfitting the home with unusual finds as much as Kleinhelter and her team, and this quickly grew into one of the designer’s favorite projects.
“Making people happy in their home is the ultimate goal,” she says, but adds that it’s her role to push the envelope. This is demonstrated in the unexpected Lucite bar stools in the kitchen and Saarinen white tulip chairs paired with two chartreuse high-back chairs in the dining room. With these touches, guests sense the whimsy and playfulness that is meant to match their time spent on the island. “I loved that this wasn’t your typical beach house,” says Kleinhelter. “It fits into the surrounding landscape as if nature meant for it to be there.”
Kiawah Island, S.C.
Lee Kleinhelter, Pieces Inc.
Christopher Rose Architects P.A.
Living room sofa fabric
Bean bag chairs
Furnishings, accessories and vintage pieces
Playroom sofa fabric
Living room sofa pillows
Playroom sofa pillows