“Get out of the mountains and get to the beach.”
This was the mantra that led Chris and Julie Sywassink from the fly fishing lodge they ran in Montana all the way to the Lowcountry. The long-time residents of Twin Bridges—population 400 in the summer, 80 in the winter—were looking for something warmer, closer to their East Coast roots and more ideal for raising a family.
When the Sywassinks landed in Savannah in 2007 with their then three-year-old son Crosby in tow, it was by way of careful calculation: here they’d be the perfect distance from their extended family in Charlotte and Hilton Head Island, and also close to big cities where their favorite band, Widespread Panic, frequently played. For entrepreneurs with a beach habit, Savannah was the best of all possible worlds.
Settling into a house on Dutch Island, Chris began working remotely for his family’s North Carolina-based logistics company and Julie dedicated her time to raising their family, which in late 2008 grew to include daughter Harper. All the while they were searching for the perfect fixer-upper on the water where they could add a personal touch. In 2013, the opportunity arrived: a 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath marshview modern farmhouse in Emerald Pointe.
“The location was perfect,” says Chris. “Halfway to the beach, halfway to downtown.”
The exterior, with a wide front porch featuring a rustic wooden swing and rocking chairs, is a welcome first impression. But beyond the front door lies the real delight—a family retreat radiating easy elegance and unfettered access to the marsh. With an open floor plan and large windows providing an expansive view, the Sywassink home is exactly what any coastal abode ought to be: relaxed, welcoming and blissfully serene, leaning toward collected cool with wellplaced dashes of vibrant color.
Just past the foyer, the living room spills out into a converted porch where floor-to-ceiling windows look out on a lush waterway. The couple also opened up doorways, painted wood floors and glassed in the former screened-in porch to create a climate-controlled area they can enjoy all year round. Part dining room, part family room, it’s where the Sywassinks love to spend mornings and evenings, often with their Bernese mountain dog, Hank.
“Seven in the morning is my time,” says Julie. “I come in here with a cup of coffee to watch the birds—egrets and herons fly by just outside the window.”
If the family room views are the eye candy, the kitchen is the heart of this home. By knocking out part of the wall, what was once was a small, cramped galley kitchen is now a bright and open chef’s kitchen, furnished with Circa Lighting glass pendants, custom cabinetry and a six-seater island. It’s ideal for weeknight homework as well as welcoming friends for a crab boil, one of the couple’s favorite things to cook. Just an arm’s reach away, a secretary-turned-bar houses Julie and Chris’s collection of glassware and spirits. “This is hands-down the community area,” says Chris. “It’s where all the great ideas get hashed out.”
Those kitchen think-tank sessions directed the Sywassinks back toward the path of entrepreneurship, and in 2017 they launched Ghost Coast Distillery with co owner Rob Ingersoll. Their spirits are infused with the flavors of Georgia’s first city, from tart orange vodka recalling one of the Trustees Garden original crops, to whiskeys accented by Savannah Bee Company honey and Verdant Kitchen ginger. It’s not unlike the ethos of the Sywassinks’ home, where their warm and inviting style heralds the uniqueness of place.
For help creating the desired vibe, they turned to their former neighbor Brooke Rahn Thomas, co-owner of Clutter Furnishings and Interiors. What emerged from their collaboration is a refreshing mix of vintage, heirloom and contemporary furniture that is equal parts luxurious and comforting. Natural textures, from cowhide rugs to leather sofas, meet a neutral palette inspired by the coastal environment—an intention most evident in the first-floor master bedroom, where cool blue walls and warm hardwoods make for a calm respite. Beyond the hard and soft furnishings, the home’s personality emerges in unique finishing touches like Chris’s bronze fisherman sculptures, signed Widespread Panic posters illustrated by Charles Schwartz and family portraits by local photographer Christina Hall.
Self-described “serial entrepreneurs,” Chris and Julie are always on the lookout for the next adventure, but for now, they’re content to stay exactly where they are—a place that nurtures their love for the water and for their family.
“I like to say this neighborhood is like a movie set,” says Julie. “It’s full of beautiful trees and charm.” Chris agrees. “It’s one of those rare places where you can still let your kids run outside all day,” he says. “It’s a hidden gem.”
Homeowners: Chris and Julie Sywassink
Year purchased: 2014
Year built: 2008
Square footage: 3,900
Accommodations: 4 bedroom, 4.5 bathrooms
Time to complete: 5 months
Architect: Scott Weeks
Renovations: Tollison & Company/the Strong Group
Interior designer: Brooke Rahn Thomas and Lynn Rahn, of Clutter Furnishings & Interiors
Builder: Sauers Construction
Flooring: Savannah Hardwood
Kitchen design: Custom Cabinets
Landscape design: Maloney’s Landscape Management, Everbloom
Plumber: Frank Conneff
Furniture: Clutter Furnishings & Interiors, Nadeau, Ethan Allen, Hodges Antiques, Target
Appliances: Sub Zero, Ferguson, Thermador, Wolf, Circa Lighting
Home accessories: Number Four Eleven, Clutter Furnishings & Interiors, Sherry’s Honey Pot Fabric & More, World Market, Anthropologie
Art: Catherine Lovett, Christine Hall