All the Comforts, All the Character in Bay St. Louis

In Bay St. Louis, designer Chad Graci orchestrates a masterful blend of antiques, art, and color to create a Bayside home with an atypical coastal appeal.

Text: Tiffany Adams
Photos: Sara Essex Bradley

Having spent her childhood in Bay St. Louis, Nancy McDonald has a special appreciation for the beauty and charm of the Mississippi coastline.

“I grew up just a block from this property, which has been in my family since 1904, and I had a cottage here later in life,” she says. However, as her family began to grow and be parceled out during holidays, she and her husband, Ralph Ervine, realized they needed more space if their house was going to be the gathering place.

All the Character

The home’s exterior was inspired by the British West Indies with nontraditional beach colors of peach and green paired with a lacquered mahogany front door.

All the Character

The influence carries into the dining room, where a similar palette can be seen alongside antique furnishings.

All the Character

All the Character

The back porch serves as a second living area almost year-round. “All of the adults love to hang out here and watch football,” says McDonald.

All the Character

French bistro-style barstools, woven pendants, and hand-painted backsplash tiles give the kitchen a relaxed appeal.

All the Character

Tucked under the staircase, the powder room is a true jewel box featuring a mix of bright hues alongside a Cole & Son wallpaper.

All the Character

The serene master suite is located on the ground floor. The tongue-and-groove ceiling’s custom lime wash inspired the light lilac and blue-gray palette.

Envisioning a vacation home where grandchildren would play in the pool, adults would convene on the porch, and everyone could stay under one roof come nightfall, McDonald made a decision. “I decided to build a home that I’ll have forever on a property that’s been in our family forever,” she says.

McDonald worked with two of her nephews on the project: Regan Kane and Sanders Kane, who helped her to start the development where the home now sits. Sanders, who owns Kane Construction, also built the home. McDonald had worked in the interior design field herself but felt she needed fresh inspiration for this home’s décor and turned to Chad Graci (@graciinteriors), who studied architecture at Louisiana State University and worked in interior design in both New York and Los Angeles before moving back to the South and opening his New Orleans firm, Graci Interiors.

When McDonald and Graci first began working together, plans for the home were underway, and she had selected a few fixtures as well as having inspiration for other spaces. “I knew she wanted something that wasn’t a cliché beach house look,” says Graci. “Clients come to me for a style that is grounded in tradition but feels fresh, fun, and collected.”

McDonald’s collection of English and American antiques served as a starting point. Graci drew inspiration for the palette from a work by artist Kevin Gillentine that hangs in the entry. “The piece depicts a marsh in Mississippi, and it draws you deeper into the house the more you look into it,” he says. “There’s a mocha-lavender color sprinkled in that is not typical of coastal sunsets but that is reflective of the dynamic ones here.”

Aside from the wood antiques, other elements bring a collected-over-time feel to the new-construction home, including a variety of artwork McDonald has acquired through local vendors and travels, bamboo-inspired pieces in the living room, and straw and raffia additions that are artful details throughout the home.

An especially meaningful piece hangs over the dining room’s sideboard: “This clock hung over the entrance to my grandparents’ jewelry store in Mexico, Missouri, for more than a century. When the store closed, we had it shipped here, and Chad repurposed it by finding it a new home,” says McDonald.

While character was always key, a home on the water where children and family frequently gather meant that practicality was also top of mind. For example, save for the master bedroom, all the floors on the first level are tile. However, they are laid in a stately, traditional basket weave pattern, which Graci drew, and were then executed on-site using wood-look and a slate cabochon tile.

The same principle is true of the furnishings in the living room. “I think you need a little old and a little new in any design,” says McDonald of the end result.

Previous articleDesigner Q&A: Marie Flanigan
Next articleLake House Luxe by Kathryn Greeley