Nature Meets Nurture

Sprawled along the picturesque Herb River, this family’s dream home took nine years to complete.  Written by Charlotte Nauert. Photos by Richard Leo Johnson. 

The Mercer Stats

Owners:  Joe and Caroline Mercer

Year built:  1982

Year purchased:  2006

Square footage:  4,600

Accommodations:  4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths

Time to complete renovation/remodel:  9 years

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The stately brick building of Midnight fame isn’t Savannah’s only Mercer House.  Nestled among the stunning lowlands and robust waterways of Dutch Island, Joe and Caroline Mercer’s home is both a secluded retreat and a striking masterpiece of design.

“I wanted a home where I could put my personal stamp,” Caroline says.  “I didn’t want to have a home that looked like someone else’s down the street.  Instead, I wanted to make sure the house was livable for a very active family.”

As she relaxes, surrounded by a carefully crafted space full of personal details, graphic wallpapers, delightful notes of contrast and infusions of color, it’s clear Caroline’s mission was a success.

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Finding Our Place

After relocating to Savannah from D.C. nine years ago—in part so the Mercers’ two daughters could develop accents akin to their Southern parents—the family settled on Dutch Island.

“It was a place our girls could safely play outside and ride their bikes,” Caroline explains.

Since then, the Mercer home has been completely reimagined from the ground up with the help of Rethink Design Studio.

“Since an awful lot of time is spent with your designer, it works out best when there is mutual respect and trust,” Caroline observes.  For the Mercers, that dream team included Joel Snayd, principal designer; Erika Snayd, managing partner; and Sarah Jennings, associate interior designer.

“Through a good bit of laughter, Rethink mixes old and new, listens to what I want and offers fresh options,” Caroline chuckles.

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Material Girl

Built in 1982, the house was a rambling Spanish-Mediterranean stucco just waiting for a breath of new life.

“It was sort of locked in a 1980s time warp,” Joel says—but it wouldn’t be stuck that way for long.

“I always knew what I wanted: color and eclectic textiles,” Caroline explains, “but I wasn’t sure how to use them or how to pull it all together.  I wanted to make sure I had a plan in place and conceptualize it before pulling the trigger.”

That willingness to chart the course ahead made all the difference as the Mercer home underwent three phases of redesign over the years, complete with renderings, planning sessions and long hours of work with the Rethink team.

“Our first remodeling job focused on the kitchen, adding a bedroom and bathroom for [our daughter] Margaret, reworking lighting and replacing doors and windows,” Caroline says. This was a phase that allowed the family’s vision for the house to develop naturally while they settled into their new home.

In the second phase, the team specified all the furnishings for Joe’s office, the dining room, and the “river room”—a shared family space lined with French doors and perched right on the water.

The third and most recent phase completed the home by renovating the master bedroom and bath: Joe and Caroline’s private retreat.

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A Labor of Love

Now, nearly a decade later, the family feels like they finally have the home they envisioned.

“It is imaginative, classic, beautiful and current,” Caroline says.  The minimalism of the decor, coupled with its warmth and inviting nature, strikes just the right tone—and embodies the spirit of its owners.  Even the Mercer’s two pet cats seem perfectly at home here, their coats just the right hue of gray to match the neutral backdrop as they drowse in sunny corners.

“Creating this house was a process of love,” Joel says.  “It was something that required years of nurturing, and the time spent living in the home allowed the Mercers to evolve and understand how they used the space.”  He pauses, then adds:  “It allowed the house to speak to them.”

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The Mercer Referrals

Phase 1:  River room, kitchen, dining room, Joe’s study/bar, Margaret’s bedroom/bath

Contractor/builder:  Summit Construction

Cabinetry:  AWD (Architectural Woodworking and Design)

Kitchen design:  Space planning, Gwyn Duggan; finish selections, Rethink Design Studio

Phase 2:  Master suite, Caroline’s study, Louise’s bedroom

Interior architects/planners:  Joel Snayd, Rethink Design Studio

Principal designer:  Joel Snayd, Rethink Design Studio

Interior designer:  Sarah Jennings, Rethink Design Studio

Contractor/builder:  Capers Martin of Martin + Zittrouer

Tile/flooring:  Garden State Tile; Specialty Tile, installed by Dennis Tile; hardwood, Cowart Floor

Paint/wallpaper:  Paint, Chico’s Painting; wallpaper installation, Terrell and Edwina Scarborough

Windows/doors:  Windows, Toby Tift, Coastal Sash and Door; doors, Guerry Lumber

Bath design:  Rethink Design Studio

Lighting design:  Rethink Design Studio

Landscape design:  Phillip Standifer

Hardscape design:  Savannah Hardscapes

Electrician:  A & V Electric Co.

Audio/visual:  Rodys Audio Warehouse

Cabinetry:  David Turner, Function + Form

Landscape maintenance:  Arnaldo Hernandez

HVAC:  Wesley Witt, Witt Heating and Air

Furniture:  Selected by Rethink Design Studio

Appliances:  Livingood’s

Accessories:  Curated by Rethink Design Studio, homeowners’ collection

Art:  Selected works from Cindy Szczecinski, homeowners’ collection

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