Text: Emily Jackson
Photos: Kelli Boyd
You never know who you’ll meet on Sea Island. It could be a foreign dignitary, a sitting president, or the executive whose home you are secretly renovating. Such was the case for principal Chad Goehring of Harrison Design (@harrisondesign), who was executing a study addition for homeowner Lori Nicholson as a gift to her husband Peter.
The two men, having never met, were coincidentally paired as volunteer caddie and player during a PGA event hosted on the island, and Goehring was careful not to divulge the surprise project as he carried Nicholson’s clubs. When Nicholson recounted, in jest, how his caddie had cost him a shot by miscalculating yardage, Lori couldn’t help but reveal that Goehring was actually their architectural designer. “They continue to laugh about the partnering years later and that it’s a good thing I have my day job,” says Goehring.
The New York-based Nicholsons have continued to work with Goehring to transform their quintessential Sea Island cottage into a perfect vacation home and eventual permanent residence. After years of visiting the coastal destination for Thanksgiving, their seasonal tradition turned into a pursuit of a second home on the island.
“In 2012, we began our search for the perfect property. My son started sending us real estate listings, and my daughter and I took this on as a mission,” says Nicholson. “When we came upon our now home, we were drawn to the unassuming exterior, the courtyard entry, and the serenity of the space.” While the cottage reflected the understated verve that the Nicholsons desired, and its location was mere steps from the beach, the footprint proved to be too tight, and the architecture felt closed off from its lush surroundings.
The cottage’s charm is enhanced with a custom gate by Sea Island Forge and hand-painted tiles by local talent Josie Kennedy surrounding the double front doors. Rows of neat boxwoods and mature planters overflowing with ivy lend a sense of permanence to the home.
Boasting the best views of the pool, the sunroom’s blue palette is inspired by the rippling water. Fuss-free maintenance is ensured with Sunbrella fabrics covering all furniture surfaces.
The pool hall bath celebrates color with a Clarence House wallpaper and painted utility sink.
“For the second part of the renovation, the priority was the master suite. Lori wanted an elegant and comfortable dressing salon and closet combination along with a fully redesigned, appropriate master bathroom,” says Chad Goehring.
Two separate renovations allowed for a more practical living space and established a connection to the outdoors. The first undertaking sought to incorporate additional square footage into the 1970s property by carving out a playroom for the couple’s three grandchildren, extending the living quarters, and building a freestanding study that connects to the main house through a breezeway.
Plans for a master bedroom suite, including a vestibule, dressing closet, and pool hall followed two years later and completed the Nicholsons’ vision for the cottage. “With both additions, we made sure that we were sensitive to the original design; we didn’t double the footprint. The appropriateness of the new landscaping really reflects the surroundings and ties it all in,” says Goehring.
Floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors offer views of swaying palm and oak trees nestled into a well-appointed landscape by David Wentworth that is both manicured and freely blooming. A peaceful cadence of sparkling pool water reflecting into the sunroom makes it the perfect perch for Nicholson—a busy media and entertainment industry executive—to start her day.
Together with her sister, interior designer Cheryl Merrifield, they created a light and airy palette that complements these moments of calm throughout the home. “My wardrobe is mostly white, but I love to throw in a pop of color. I guess that transcends into how I thought about my home.
Colors that draw my eye are either soothing or interesting,” she says. Painted white floors and ceiling beams brighten up the main volume of the home, while punchy wallpapers by Quadrille and Clarence House make a sophisticated splash. Nicholson and Merrifield implemented a more organic approach to decorating, collecting pieces over time and repurposing cherished items from past residences.
The home’s inviting milieu encourages memorable experiences for the family and their guests, whether sharing stories at the dining table or relaxing by the pool. Come fall, the couple will be delighting in their coastal cottage all the more as they move to the island permanently.
“We’re building a new tradition for our grandchildren. Gathering on Sea Island as a family is our greatest joy,” says Nicholson. “Their house is so charming, it just feels really good,” says Goehring. “It makes you want to come home.”