A beloved family gathering place is rebuilt from scratch
LAURA PIERCE spent her childhood summers at the beach house on Hilton Head Island. The summer between second and fourth grade (she skipped third), Pierce sat on the shore while her mother quizzed her relentlessly on multiplication tables — the stuff of lasting memory. Her grandparents would fly over from England and spend a month there each year. When she was older, friends from boarding school would pile into the back of her parents’ car to make the 14-hour drive south from Pomfret, Connecticut, for spring break. Much of her youth was spent wading in the surf and searching for sand dollars. “Out of all the houses we’ve lived in,” Pierce says, “it’s the one that feels like I’m coming home when I go there.”
Pierce and her parents, Helen and Colin Keeler, moved around a lot while she was grow- ing up: Atlanta, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Connecticut. Everywhere they moved, the Keelers either completely renovated or rebuilt a house. Pierce witnessed the entire process, from initial construction to her mother’s use of print and pattern in the finishing touches. She even got to decorate her own room, something she did “with great gusto and not always the best taste.” With all that experience, it’s no wonder she went on to receive her certificate in interior design and later founded her interior design company, Keeler & Co. “I always had an interest and a knack for it,” she says. In 2012, the Keelers decided their beloved home needed a dramatic makeover. After the beach house was completely torn down and rebuilt, Pierce was able to put her skills to use somewhere close to her heart.
“It’s really fun to work with your parents on a space,” Pierce says. “Because you know them so well, you’re able to push them in a direction that maybe you wouldn’t with your regular clients.”
Inside the redesigned home, nuanced coastal references abound: flashes of raspberry pink in the pillow patterns are reminiscent of Hilton Head Island’s fiery sunsets. Turquoise-blue books are an interpretation of the calm ocean just beyond the trees, and the weathered wood of the coffee table invokes memories of a pier smoothed by the thousands of footsteps that have walked it, while a pair of woven chairs perches nearby like sun hats. In unexpected ways, the home brings its immediate surroundings indoors.
In the years since Pierce designed the space, her parents have moved to the Hilton Head Island residence full time. “Being a part of this process of creating a space that my parents are going to thrive in during their retirement is such a gift,” she says. “It’s truly come full circle.”
For Pierce, knowing that the house has always been a constant in her life is reassuring. “When I was getting married, it was the only place on the list. I knew that I wanted to get married on the beach in front of the house.” Friends from boarding school still tell stories from those spring break trips. A portrait of her grandparents hangs in the entryway. “It’s amazing how many people this house has touched,” she says — and new memories continue to be made at her parents’ famous dinner parties, where conversation lingers over candlelight well into the night. With Pierce’s heartfelt design apparent in every inch of the home, one can’t help but feel the love.
Owners: Helen and Colin Keeler Year built: Lot developed ca. 1980;
Year purchased: 1995
Square footage: 4,900
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms:
6 bedrooms, 7.5 bathrooms
Architects/planners: Neil Gordon, Neil Gordon Architect
Interior designer: Laura Keeler Pierce, Keeler & Co. Contractor/builder: Tom Peeples Builder
Tile/flooring: Sterling Hight, Floors by Sterling Hight
Paint/wallpaper: Jeb Lesch, Paintin’ Place Inc.; David G. Mathews, Mathews for Walls
Kitchen design: Nancy Lavely, Cabinet Wishes; Vetrostone
Hardscape design: Neil Gordon; Year Round Pool Furniture: Keeler & Co.; outdoor cushions,
Appliances: Billy Wood Appliance Accessories: Keeler & Co.
Art: Helen and Colin Keeler