I can’t peruse the internet or browse a magazine and enjoy the work of an interior designer. It’s quite another thing to step into a designer’s house and see how their aesthetics work in real life.
We had the opportunity to visit the Sea Island home of interior designer Elizabeth Carmichael, which she shares with her husband, Bill. Carmichael is the owner of Elizabeth Carmichael Interiors. Strolling the rooms and corridors of the designer’s home, filled with beautiful furnishings, accessories, and meaningful family treasures, gives you a sense of what makes them truly unique. Who wouldn’t want to know the colors, textures, timelines, and accessories that make a designer feel right at home?
The house, a ranch-style house built in the late 1960s, is U-shaped with a pool and patio taking up the patio space. The interior has touches of traditional, modern and mid-century Indian aesthetics, and while the genres vary, the overall look is coordinated, cohesive, and relaxed. It’s a welcoming home that combines rich colors and natural textures, along with family heirlooms and whimsical art.
Carmichael said her design aesthetic is the juxtaposition of antiques and traditional interiors with bold colors and modern art.
“I gravitate towards the high/low mix,” she said. “I like to take a traditional chair and put a funky and unexpected fabric on it.”
The living room features a high ceiling with wooden beams and comfortable seating areas. Natural hues, combined with rich green and blue, provide a refreshing yet relaxing atmosphere in the space.
The design of the living room began by adding white slipcovers to the sofas and chairs, which she referred to as the basis of her “blank canvas.”
“From there, I started adding greens (and) blues and layers from books and treasures I found in antiques stores,” she said. “(I) then added a built-in cypress bookcase to add warmth and texture to the room.”
Also interesting pieces in the living room include two paintings drawn by family members, including Colin Beck, and Sarah, Carmichael’s aunt, who lived on Sea Island in the 1970s.
Many of the lighting fixtures throughout the house feature geometric features reminiscent of globes or gyros, and the majority have a mid-century vibe without being comical.
“I chose all the lighting in the house,” Carmichael said. “Most of them are from Circa; they always bring magic with their stunning and reflective designs. I think lighting is the jewelry for your home.”
There’s a stunning mix of styles in the house, including unexpected touches, like the Lucite table in the entry hall, and a bit of Asian influence, mostly reflected through the geometric patterns on the fabrics throughout. There is nothing “identical” in the idea, yet it all comes together seamlessly.
“I love the mix,” she said. “I used Lucite in the entry hall to add a bit of modern lines next to a very traditional sofa, covered in a fun, bright blue fabric by Lily Pulitzer.”
Carmichael made it clear that she loves Indian block prints, whose influence is prevalent throughout the home—in both the furnishings and the textiles. And she really doesn’t have a lot of enthusiasm for a completely identical space.
“I rarely design an identical room, unless the client requests that aesthetic,” she explained.
The kitchen is designed for gathering. A spacious table occupies a dining nook, and neutral-colored cabinets line the walls, but it’s the bright blue island that dominates the scene and beckons people to pull up a chair, pour a drink and chat while preparing meals. Another feature is a built-in shelving unit/cabinet along one wall that saves space to display favorite items, but is also functional. Carmichael said that this room had not been remodeled as extensively as some of the others.
“The kitchen was already complete when we bought the house,” she said. “We painted the bottom of the island with cobalt blue lacquer to add a touch of color and shine.
“The cabinet was built-in, so I filled it with old cookbooks and wine guides and put the bottom shelf up as a rod.”
The house has four bedrooms – one for girls, one for boys, a guest bedroom that mirrors the master bedroom, and finally the master bedroom. All four bedrooms have en suite bathrooms. The two largest bedrooms open directly onto the pool area and surrounding deck.
Carmichael said she has tried to prepare the bedrooms to house her family when they are in town.
“I wanted it to be casual, but comfortable,” she said. In the girls’ room, custom headboards in bright beachy colors added height to the long bare wall.
In the boys’ room, I used neutral plaids with antique tennis rackets (with mirrors where the interiors of heads were once) and an old map of St. Simons Island—all I found in Brunswick antiques stores. “
In a guest room overlooking the pool, Carmichael chose a calming color palette with a vintage Indian block pattern.
Across the house, in the master bedroom, Carmichael used a soft palette of blues, grays, and taupes. The lamps above each nightstand are eye-catching.
“The lamps I bought from Scott in Atlanta,” she said. “There’s a dealer over there who makes very unique lamps out of wood that he carves and paints.”
The patterns found throughout the house are laid back in the master bedroom. She added a secretary, painted an icy blue, to conceal the TV and add more storage to the room.
The patio, occupied by a veranda furnished with a wooden dining table and weatherproof seating areas, a pool deck with the same sturdy patio furniture and fabrics, a pièce de résistance, a refreshing pool and spa.
The area’s South Florida feel is only amplified by the concrete floors, separated by “grass” and the bright blue and white decor.
“We wanted to deconstruct the pool floors with ‘grass’ to add a pattern that reflects the Chippendale pattern chosen for the exterior fence,” she said.
Cobalt and turquoise double-layered Santa Barbara patio furniture and awnings were chosen to give the outdoor area a classic touch, she said.
“I’m really happy with how that turned out,” Carmichael said. “It definitely feels like Palm Beach.”