Designer Lynn Blackwell Transforms Dated Cabin into Hamptons-Style Retreat

Text: Blake Miller
Photos: Dustin Peck

Lynn Blackwell and her husband, Bill, never intended to move to the lake, but on one warm Saturday afternoon, the couple decided to go for a drive around Lake Wylie, South Carolina, just 30 minutes from their home in nearby Fort Mill. In and out of narrow, winding lakeside roads, the couple stopped to look at the outside of various homes for sale, but never planned to schedule any official showings. It wasn’t until the Blackwells took a turn down a short drive and came upon balloons tied to a mailbox that they decided to go in. “We looked at each other and thought we may as well have a peek,” says Blackwell, a designer.

Floating on Water

Blackwell designed the foyer as its own room with a hanging brass outdoor lantern and large, aqua blue antique store counter she found locally at Johnny Wine Antiques.

Floating on Water

Wanting the 180-degree views of the lake to play center stage in the keeping room, she kept the furniture primarily neutral, such as with the slip-covered chairs and the console table.

Floating on Water

Pulling inspiration from the lake views, Blackwell layered accents of royal blue throughout the home.

Floating on Water

In the breakfast room, white wicker dining chairs and a picnic-style table by Lilian August create a casual gathering spot.

Floating on Water

The master en suite was designed to be a relaxing retreat with a soft aqua paint color on the walls as the foundation.



The home was a circa 1950s river cabin with low ceilings, dark dated interior, and nothing redeeming architecturally. Blackwell’s discerning eye, however, could see past the eyesore of a structure. “As soon as you walked in, you had this 180-degree view of the lake that took your breath away,” she says. “It was also grandfathered in, so it sits closer to the water than newer homes and makes you feel as though you’re on top of the water when you’re inside.”

Despite its flaws, it wasn’t long before the couple decided to purchase the home. “We figured it was good for a weekend getaway, despite how ugly it was,” laughs Blackwell. After a year, the couple decided to sell their nearby primary residence and live at the lake house full-time. “We knew we would have to renovate the home,” says Blackwell. “What we didn’t expect was that we’d have to take it down to the studs to get the home we wanted.” To keep the grandfathered setback, Blackwell was required to maintain the same foundation that had a “funky L-shaped floor plan”. Taking cues from architect Robert Stern’s East Hampton Colonial Revival projects, Blackwell, who is also a contractor, worked with a draftsman to draw up plans for the home, featuring the same classic details in Stern’s signature style.

The year-long renovation resulted in sweeping views of the lake from every room in the home, which inspired the color palette of blues and greens. A wide hallway lined with family photos boasts views to the water, while the master bedroom is oriented so that it feels as though you’re on a boat.

Though she originally envisioned a midcentury modern interior design scheme, once the home was built, it became clear to Blackwell that she needed to pivot her plans. “When you’re designing your own house, sometimes you keep ignoring what you really want,” she says. “But I like the exterior to match the interior, and it became obvious as we were building the home that a modern aesthetic just wouldn’t work. I kept pushing it until I got what I thought was my look for the house.”

The Grandmillennial style, which modernizes traditional and formal design elements such as wicker and chintz, developed organically as the renovation continued. Blackwell scoured local estate sales, flea markets, and antiques stores to curate an interior design that feels collected and personal. “I wanted it to look like hand-me-down pieces from a grandparent coupled with found objects, like vintage oars and taxidermy,” she says. “I wanted it to be a little nautical without going overboard.”

Blackwell’s design ultimately feels like a sophisticated camp getaway. “I like to describe it as campy or camp-inspired, mixed with inherited heirlooms,” she says of vignettes, such as in the foyer, where a large heirloom dough bowl is filled with seashells and features an old family Bible, brass and glass display boxes containing small family items, wicker trunks, original art, and vintage books. In her small office space, a wooden table built by her father serves as the designer’s desk. Tongue-and-groove wainscoting coupled with wood beams and Northern European oak 10-inch-wide flooring running throughout give the feel of a modern cabin in the woods.

What once began as an eyesore to the couple has now become one of the designer’s most notable residential projects to date. “I didn’t know at first where we’d go with this renovation or even the interior design, and it’s certainly not what I thought it would be initially,” says Blackwell. “But now? There’s really not a thing we would change. We love this home.”

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