When acclaimed American country music singer Luke Bryan wanted a coastal getaway for his family situated along the shimmering sands of Florida’s beautiful Santa Rosa Beach, he called upon interior designer Chad James, whom he’d already commissioned to transform his rural estate in Nashville, Tennessee. Tasked with both projects, Chad could at once realize a chic beachside retreat and draw upon specific comforts that would give the bolt-hole a home-from-home feel.
While Chad started updating the main residence in 2014, work on the holiday home in Florida started a year later and completed in 2016. ‘Only an hour flight away from Nashville, Santa Rosa Beach is an ideal location for the family to escape to when life is at its craziest,’ says Chad, founder of Chad James Group, an interior design and architectural consulting practice based in Nashville.
The Bryans wanted their holiday home to overlook the ocean and to be large enough for their family of two boys, their adopted teenage nephew and his two older sisters, whose parents passed away tragically in separate incidents. The name of the property, Snowman, is a tribute to Luke’s brother-in-law, referencing an affectionate nickname he gained on the golfing green.
‘The house they bought had a very modern structure, think Miami Vice 1988 to 1990,’ says Chad. ‘It was boxy but it had great bones, and looked out over the beach, so the location was perfect.’
They called upon local architecture firm Geoff Chick & Associates to strip the property back to its shell and transform it into a picture-postcard beachside home. Large windows and wide verandas on each level provide scenic views, a fourth storey was factored in for extra bedroom space, and a new asymmetrical pitched roof added character and shade over the third floor balcony.
‘The roofline completely changed the architecture of the home, creating a Cape-Cod-meets-Florida look,’ says Chad. ‘We kept only the foundations and added new floors, walls, plumbing and electricity. You can hardly imagine how it was before.’
The basement level includes a garage and outdoor showers fitted to decorative surfboards, creating an eye-catching feature wall. The second storey has an open-plan living, dining and kitchen area, furnished in sandy tones and soft linens, plus an en-suite guest bedroom with turquoise accents.
The third level includes the master en-suite bedroom with a beautiful custom-made swing seat on a large wrap-around terrace, and a bedroom for Luke and Caroline’s young sons, designed with a blue and white maritime theme, with heavy beige drapes and studded furniture that add an adult touch.
The top floor features bedrooms cleverly designed with built-in bunk beds affecting the look of a ship’s cabin. It’s far from childlike, though: painted white wooden boards on the ceiling and walls provide a crisp, clean background, custom curtains and bedding in dark blue and beige stripes form a mature palette, and industrial-style lighting are a contemporary accent. Across the corridor, heavy rustic wooden doors on an exposed metal rail slide open to reveal a lounge and kitchenette, decorated with bold stripes, ikat prints and octopus artwork, providing an independent living space with quirky elements.
‘I knew Luke and Caroline wanted something that was quite casual compared to their permanent home which is an estate – there is a degree of formality there,’ explains the interior designer. ‘They wanted somewhere they could come to regularly and totally relax. We furnished and designed all aspects with this in mind, and incorporated entertaining as they love sharing their time with friends and family at home. Being by the beach, it also needed to be indestructible with hardwearing materials, yet comfy and cosy like a beach cottage. The interior décor was very much inspired by bringing the outdoors in, so the colour palette picks up the different shades you can see in the sea and the sky, from the darkest blue on the horizon at night to oceanic turquoise.
‘The original house didn’t have a proper entrance – you entered through the garage, which was very obscure to me. So we created an entryway and foyer with a beaded chandelier and a beautiful landscape painting hanging in front of the window. I love creating a build-up to a sensation – in this case the sensation of arriving, so there’s a wall of glass that you can look through to the ocean, and wherever possible we have tried to capture the beautiful beach views. I also like to bring in instances of the unexpected – such as covering the foyer window with artwork suspended over the drapery. In a home full of windows some of them won’t have a great view, and the artwork hung in this way, like a veil, is more interesting to look at than the neighbour’s pool.’
At first glance, the painting of a rural lane and an overcast sky seems at odds with the sunny, beach locale of the property, however this juxtaposition was entirely intentional. ‘The painting is of a Tennessee landscape, where the Bryans’ estate is, and the cowhide rug on the floor references the farm life there. Many of our clients have multiple properties and when they go to their second or third home I don’t want them to feel like they’re in a stranger’s house; the property needs to include hints of their main residence in some way so they can feel at home and relax.’
Chad drew upon the family’s background wherever possible. The wood flooring that features throughout the house was salvaged from an old factory in Georgia where Luke grew up. By turning the reclaimed wood over, the unused side is like new and shows no wear and tear from factory life.
The interior designer likes to work in his own influences, too. ‘In every project I do I secretly put something of myself in it,’ he says. ‘I am from Alabama and the countertop in the kitchen is made from Alabama white marble.’
A subtle reference from his childhood can be found in the colour of the kitchen units, painted a milky white inspired by a glass fragment he found when playing at the beach as a kid. ‘I have a photograph of that day, building sandcastles with my sister and mother; I don’t know what was so special about it but I still have that piece of glass I found, and the blue-white, milky colour of it inspired this custom paint shade in the kitchen.
‘Life is very much about the things we collect; our lives and homes are about acquiring these curiosities and elements that create our story, which is unique to us.’
Photography by Alyssa Rosenheck