A Tybee couple comes home
Many folks talk about a certain sense of calm that comes over them the moment they cross Lazaretto Creek onto Tybee Island. One thing’s for sure — upon entering the ground-floor breezeway of Amy and Kevin Roberts’ home on the south end of the island, deep exhales are inevitable.
The poured-concrete passage — green, serene and a good ten degrees cooler than the outdoors — is filled with pitcher plants and shade-loving ferns. It’s a perfect introduction to a home where elegance and easy comfort can be found around every corner.
“This is our foyer, even if it’s not a formal one,” explains Amy as she guides guests through the entryway toward the stairs. “I wanted people to feel relaxed the minute they stepped through the gate.”
Slipping off her flip-flops — de rigeur footwear on the island — Amy leads the way through more lovely foliage on the upstairs deck right into the kitchen. Despite the commercial gas range and ultra-modern touches of burnished brass, the open floor plan issues a warm, casual welcome, as if to say one more guest is no trouble at all. Water stains and natural knots peek through the distressed alderwood cabinets, the appliances muted against the ivory paint. “I wanted it to have that feeling that generations had been here, putting their fingerprints on everything,” Amy says with a smile.
The impression of years of family use is fortified by an ancestral collection of flow blue china, some pieces dating back to the 1700s. The cozy venerability continues into the living room, where stuffed leather chairs surround a fireplace built from stone quarried outside Asheville, North Carolina. Hand-carved corbels rescued from Amy’s grandparents’ Ohio home hold up a mantlepiece fashioned from a piece of old barn wood. Old-fashioned sunsuits displayed in frames hearken back to days long before 70 SPF sunscreen and string bikinis.
“The inspiration was the old beach houses of the 1930s and ’40s,” muses Amy as she is trailed at the heel by Cassie, a rescued terrier mix, and Findley, a boisterous Boykin spaniel.
After owning and renting several places on Tybee over the years while living in Savannah, the couple wanted a full-time residence that truly felt like a home — not a vacation.
“We realized we were spending more time here than in town,” says Kevin, who works as East Coast facilities development manager for Ferguson Supply. “When you’re out here 40 weekends a year, that’s telling you something.”
What’s most impressive is that this project is not a remodel: They bought an empty lot on the quiet end of Jones Street and constructed their three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath dream Tybee house from the ground up, with help from builder George Feehley of Feehley/Nyburg Construction.
“I could visualize every room, from the lights to the floors, but it’s George who made it come to life,” says Amy. “He and I have such an excellent working relationship. I can tell him what I’m thinking and he can build it exactly.”
To create a lived-in ambience from scratch, Feehley embedded important details in the construction at Amy’s direction. She points out oak floors and a marble threshold at the doorway to each room. The smaller of the bottom floor guest bedrooms contains built-in dressers with rope-tie drawer pulls and reclaimed shiplap ceiling overhead. The second bedroom is large enough for a whole family, with a queen-sized bed and double built-in bunk beds custom built by Feehley.
Boasting sunset views and overlooking a sitting garden packed with blooms, the upstairs master suite provides even further refuge from the outside world. Dark wood and a copper clawfoot bathtub echo the cozy lodge vibe of the downstairs areas, though a thoroughly modern wet bar — complete with coffee maker and ice on demand — means the couple can enjoy evening and morning refreshment without leaving their room.
Antiques and leather lounges dominate the master bedroom’s sitting area, and wall of sepia portraits presents a bevy of beauties — Amy’s matriarchal line — in wedding dresses. A curio cabinet twinkles with treasures, including an ancient set of darts and a display of fishing lures that haven’t seen water in decades.
“My great-grandmother started house with this china cabinet, but I don’t really do china,” laughs Amy. “So I filled it with family heirlooms.”
The couple “started house” here in June 2018, ushering in an endless summer of peaceful respite. The hubbub of Tybrisa Street is just a few blocks away, but it feels like miles as birds chirp and the scent of spartina grass and cedar wafts through the screened-in deck. The duo enjoys island life to its fullest, tooling around the island on bikes and golf carts and keeping a boat at nearby Chimney Creek.
“Tybee is a very social place, and we’re lucky to have great people nearby who will just come by for a cocktail,” says Kevin.
At a time when many are concerned that Tybee’s quirky vibe could diminish with the decline of full-time residents on the island, Amy and Kevin are happy to be part of the historic local community and look forward to generations of fingerprints to come.
Though they are “empty nesters in every sense of the word” according to Kevin — they have three grown children between them, all of whom live out of state — the house indeed feels like a band of sandy kids could burst through the door at any minute.
All this to say, while there are no grandchildren in the picture just yet, the house is certainly ready for them. “It’s very fulfilling to have our vision come true,” says Amy with a sigh of contentment. “This house is built to be in the family.”
Owners: Kevin & Amy Roberts
Year built: 2018
Square footage: 2,250 air-conditioned
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms: 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms
Time to complete build: 12-14 months
Architects/planners: Kevin and Amy Roberts; Cadman Design; Feehley-Nyberg Construction
Interior designer: Amy Roberts
Contractor/builder: Feehley-Nyberg Construction
Tile/flooring: Tile, David George; wood, Morris Flooring
Paint/wallpaper: Beasley & Son Painting
Windows/doors: Guerry Lumber
Millwork/cabinets: Steven Long, Long Custom Woodworks
Kitchen design: Ferguson Enterprises Inc.; Feehley-Nyberg Construction
Bath design: Ferguson Enterprises Inc.; Feehley-Nyberg Construction
Lighting design: Build.com; Feehley-Nyberg Construction
Landscape design: Amy Roberts
Hardscape design: Amy Roberts
Electrician: A&V Electric
Audio/visual: Jesse Goode, Goode A&V
Carpenter: Feehley-Nyberg Construction; Kevin Williamson
Plumber: Tony Vaughn, Anthony Plumbing
Landscaper: Kevin and Amy Roberts
HVAC: Byrd Heating & Air Conditioning
Furniture: Amy Roberts
Appliances: Ferguson Enterprises Inc.
Accessories: Amy Roberts; Build.com
Art: Amy Roberts
*all resources supplied by homeowners