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Every year, Southern Living pulls together a talented team of designers to build a home from the ground up that exemplifies southern style. The stage was set with the location of the 2014 Idea House: Palmetto Bluff, smack dab in the middle of Carolina Lowcountry. This year’s dream team, Interior Designer Suzanne Kasler and Architect Ken Pursley, was up to the task. Together, they created a lighter, fresher approach to living. The storybook vacation home, surrounded by pine trees and nestled beside a lake, is complete with a back porch that offers unrivaled views of the sunrise. We got together with Suzanne to talk about the design and what inspired her.

Ballard Designs: The Idea House is a different kind of project for you.

Suzanne Kasler: I wanted to be on this project because I was really excited about working with the architect, Ken, and Palmetto Bluff is certainly a beautiful place. The great thing about designing a whole house, as opposed to a single room in a showhome, is that we can really make it ours. We were able to create this cohesive look and feel that flows throughout the home.

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BD: How would you describe that look and feel?

SK: This house has a very unique open floor plan. The challenge it presents is everything in the house relates to one another. Everything is open, including the upstairs. The question becomes: how do you make it interesting without feeling disjointed? So I started with a very neutral foundation: all white. I wanted to show how you can use sisal, white upholstery, white paint and layer from there — and still have so much interest. It’s our version of the Belgian influence on design today.

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BD: Beyond the open floor plan, were there any other driving influences?

SK: The architect first described the home to me as a fishing cottage. It has all of these windows, and the whole view is looking out over the lake that’s right outside. I didn’t want to take away from the architecture and the spectacular views. I also thought of it as a second home, so it has a certain casual aesthetic to it.

BD: What struck us is this beautiful mix of old and new in the decor. And, of course, you’ve got some wonderful Ballard pieces in there as well.

SK: Yes, we have some great antiques and found pieces. When we went to the Paris flea market, we knew we were going to be doing this house, so I specifically looked for a few pieces that would work here. We also found some artwork from Belgium. Then we mixed in some high-end pieces with some great Ballard pieces. You want to create a house that looks more collected — that’s what makes style.

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BD: One of the first things we noticed is that fabulous entry/dining table — and it’s paired with your Ballard Campaign Chairs, which are really outdoor chairs.

SK: They are my new favorite thing! These directors chairs are so comfortable, and they’re folding. We used them both indoors and out — and you can bring them in or out as your seating needs change. They fit the aesthetic of the home, since so much of the focus is on outdoor living. What’s happening a lot in second homes is that large entry tables are also used as a dining table. The two areas are blended, but it doesn’t feel like you’re walking into a dining room. We put these great accessories on top. I found these glass lanterns at Scott Antique Market here in Atlanta and hung them completely randomly.

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BD: It really sets the tone of the whole space. Moving into the living room, you have several seating areas in one big space.

SK: Typically, you do different rugs to define groupings, but we wanted to treat the room as a whole space. We did one sisal rug the entire length of the room, so the furniture could move back and forth and groupings could feel more connected. We did Sunbrella fabric in white everywhere — on all the upholstery and the sheers on the windows.

BD: We love the minimalist styling. We couldn’t help but notice the Larkin Swivel Gliders and Durham Nesting Tables.

SK: I love to show people how to mix Ballard pieces into a home, and this is a great example. The custom cut sisal rug and main sofa are high-end, and the sofas in the window are custom made. The pair of Scandinavian-style chairs are vintage Kaare Klint chairs signed by the designer. Yet the Larkin Swivel Gliders are such a natural fit here. They’re just so comfortable! I also used them in the sitting area on the stair landing, which has the best view in the whole house.

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BD: The living room is adjacent to the kitchen. Can you tell us about the color contrast?

SK: We usually do white kitchens, but the whole house is white. And since we had to choose a stock cabinet color, we thought the gray would look more custom than white, and it would create this really interesting contrast at the same time. We painted the ceiling the same gray blue color, but added in custom shelves in white to bring that color to the kitchen.

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BD: The space off the kitchen is called a “clutter room.” How do you imagine this room being used?

SK: It really becomes a great multipurpose space for storage and serving as a second kitchen. In a second home you tend to do a lot of entertaining. You can clear the kitchen after dinner and put the dishes in here, since people are always hanging out in the main kitchen. It’s great for additional food storage. I stacked dishes, baskets and my Glazed Pots from Ballard on the shelves — you can never have too many!

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BD: Another thing you can never have too many of: bulletin boards. You used our Burlap Message Boards here and in the mudroom over that great oversized table.

SK: We share that philosophy! You can do so much with those message boards. We love that layered look for added interest. You can hang a little or a lot on them and layer accessories in front of them as we did. That table in the mudroom is one of the first things we bought for the house. It’s an antique and really overscaled, and everyone said it was too big. It barely fits in that space, but it’s fabulous. People don’t think about scale and end up with things that are too small. A change in scale can really change the look of the space. It makes you think about the architecture of a space.

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BD: Let’s talk about the bedrooms. The Louisa Metal Canopy Bed in the master is a great fit.

SK: We saw it at a Ballard photo shoot and loved it so much that we wanted to use it in the master. You’ve got the four poster, but it’s open and the iron gives it this casual feel. You don’t even need a dust skirt. We used my Linen Blanc Fabric everywhere — on the throw pillows, Thurston Wing Chair and the drapery. It’s very soothing.

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BD: We love the boy’s room and girl’s room. How do you make them fun, yet sophisticated, so they appeal to any age?

SK: We did the boy’s room in navy and the girl’s room in a fresh raspberry. You end up having so many guests in a second home, with friends and relatives visiting, and many are kids. We don’t use a lot of pattern, but we went all in with this fun, colorful duvet. It’s so chic. You have to pick a pattern that’s going to be timeless.

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BD: We noticed you used the Squire Headboard in both rooms.

SK: People have asked me, why did you do so many square headboards? To me they appeal to the more tailored feel of the whole house, but you can use a different color fabric to change the look from room to room. The navy headboard in the boy’s room really anchors the whole room. And that weathered finish of the Campaign Chest goes so well with the navy.

BD: In both rooms you used your Signature Linen Fabric by the Yard to make custom window shades, closet panels and shower curtains — and added further embellishment with ribbon.

SK: I added the ribbon banding for accent color to balance the bedding. It also shows another way of customizing your look. The boy’s bathroom shower curtain is three different colors of linen — Blanc, Indigo and Flax.

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BD: We haven’t actually talked about the outdoor space, which is funny, because this house was designed for outdoor living.

SK: The outdoor space is almost as large as the indoor space, so there is this real interaction between inside and out. The outside of the house is white, and the window trim and shutters are in this fabulous blue. It was a custom color from the window manufacturer.

BD: You must have read our minds, because we were going to ask about that blue. It almost looks like an exact match to your Wide Striped Indoor/Outdoor Rug in blue.

SK: Blue has always been one of my favorite colors, so imagine my excitement when we were working with the architect on picking the outdoor window and found this gorgeous blue that’s so chic and unique. It looks incredible. Then we were able to bring in the blue accent color through accessorizing, indoors and out.

BD: So let’s talk about that great outdoor porch. You had a lot of space to play with.

SK: What’s interesting about the architecture of the house is that the porch is actually dropped two feet lower than the main level, so from inside your view is not interrupted by porch furniture. It’s a great concept. But because that window wall is high on the outside, I wanted to fill that void with furniture, and in the process create tons of seating for entertaining. I created two mirror image seating areas with the Directoire Sectionals and Chairs and a pair of Sutton Coffee Tables. And it’s all anchored by the striped rug.

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BD: The porch wraps around to the kitchen on one side and the master on the other end. How did you handle these spaces?

SK: Off the kitchen I pushed together two Orleans Tables to make one big dining table and surrounded them with the directors chairs. On the opposite end, I used the smaller Teak Octagonal Table with the same chairs to double as a game table. In general, the whole goal was to create lots of dining and conversation areas while enjoying the view.

We say: mission accomplished, Suzanne! It’s a truly spectacular home. Find more information here about the 2014 Palmetto Bluff Idea House in Bluffton, South Carolina.

Learn more about the 2014 Southern Living Idea House in Palmetto Bluff. Find sources for all paint colors, fabrics, and furniture items or find more information here.