A lifelong quest to find a place on the water leads a Georgia native to a place called Hope. Photos by Richard Leo Johnson.
The Murphy Stats »
Owner: Bellamy Murphy
Year built: 1946
Year purchased: 2013
Square footage: 2,800
Accommodations: 4 bedrooms, 4 baths
Time to complete renovation: 6 months
“The last thing my grandfather told me,” artist Bellamy Murphy confides as we stand in her airy Isle of Hope living room, “was ‘Go find you a place on the water.’”
Bellamy was just 19 when he passed away, yet weekends and summers spent shrimping, crabbing and fishing with him on South Carolina’s Beaufort River forever shaped her worldview and gave her a vision for the salt life she sought to capture with her paintbrushes. The river is also the source of her name.
Near the spot where her grandparents put down roots, Bellamy Curve forms at the meeting of Carteret and Boundary streets, opening up a breathtaking and picture-perfect scene of sun-kissed marsh and silver waters. That image made an impression on her mom. Now, the same name adorns walls throughout Savannah, Tybee Island and the Lowountry via whimsical still life paintings of oyster shells and vibrant liquid landscapes—all adorned with Bellamy’s inimitable signature.
The artist has made a name for herself—and now she’s heeding her grandfather’s advice.
Places in the Heart
For years, Bellamy thrived in a cottage not far from the water’s edge—but not in view of it, either. It was almost paid off and her youngest son, a gifted artist in his own right, was about to graduate from the Savannah College of Art and Design when she happened upon a garage sale at a nearby home. She’d had her eye on the place for years because of its expansive marsh views, but the home next door was for sale, and the neighbor invited her in to take a look.
“It was overwhelming … and a little depressing,” recalls Bellamy, pointing out where walls once stood, creating a warren of rooms that choked out natural light. Still, by the next morning, she knew that her years-long search was over—and this midcentury ranch was “the one.”
A Sunny Disposition
Working with her “angels” James and “T” from JBH Construction, she opened up the first floor so that the Skidaway River and marsh were in full panorama, creating a living, breathing work of art. They enlarged the entrance and surrounded the front door with clear glass lights so that morning and afternoon sun could flood into the previously dark corners.
Richly aged and honeyed wood reclaimed from a Tennessee distillery replaced tile throughout most of the first and second floors. Worn and tattered walls were clad with thin-planed wood planks, which now are painted bright white to reflect light and to showcase Bellamy’s collection of modern art and personal paintings. Throughout the sunny interiors, the artist displays the prizes she has hunted and gathered throughout her life—sterling trays and serving pieces, painted band boxes, cut and etched glass, and horned silverware.
“I’ve had people come back and ask if this is the same house,” she says with a deep-bellied laugh.
Bellamy lets her spirit lead. Throughout her home, small statues of saints and crosses draped with prayer beads and silver milagros are on display. “When you’re following your soul’s desire,” Bellamy says, paraphrasing American mythologist Joseph Campbell, “doors will open for you that will open for no one else, and you will see things that no one else will see.”
A classic newel post and railings—inspired by a scene in a vintage Gary Cooper film and handcrafted from wood collected on nearby Green Island—takes the place of dated wrought-iron scrollwork on the staircase.
Settled on the upstairs balcony, Bellamy breathes in the scenery.
“It’s not only different every day—it’s different every hour.”
When she describes the way the sun cast a golden shimmer over the tall marsh grass after a big storm the night before, you just know it will show up in one of her paintings.
“It was illuminated, the brightest I have ever seen it. Even though it is just marsh, river and sky, I totally get my inspiration from nature.”
The Murphy Referrals »
Architects/planners: Griffin Brawner with Bellamy Murphy
Interior designer: Bellamy Murphy
Contractor/builder: James Hearon and Thomas Bush at JBH Construction
Tile/flooring: Malson Millworks, carpentry; Scott Lewis, wood staircase
Windows/doors: Guerry Lumber
Lighting design: Circa Lighting and homeowner’s collection
Landscape design: Bellamy Murphy
Plumber: Chris Beatty
Landscaper: Greens Keeper Landscape Management and Brooks Robinson
HVAC: Budget Heating and Air
Furniture: Cents and Sensibility, One Fish Two Fish, Clutter, Sherry’s Honey Pot and homeowner’s collection
Appliances: Lowe’s Home Improvement
Accessories: Cents and Sensibility, One Fish Two Fish and homeowner’s collection
Art: Homeowner’s collection
To read more about Bellamy Murphy and her home, pick up a copy of the July/August 2015 issue of Savannah magazine, on newsstands now.