A real estate maven bets the ranch
Two summers ago, super-broker Elaine Seabolt drove out to Port Wentworth to see a ranch she was listing for a client … and bought it for herself instead. “I planned to use it for the occasional weekend,” she says. “Now I pretty much live there.” She still keeps a house downtown — the oldest house in Savannah, actually, built in 1760 — and a dreamy cottage on Bluff Drive in Isle of Hope, but the ranch has proved to be a welcome respite from her nonstop workdays. “Busy people either travel to get away or they want a home they can retreat to,” she says. “I take calls in the car, and I’m working once I’m out here, but at least I’m in a space where I can breathe.”
“Space” is a bit of an understatement. What Seabolt has is 12 acres, a breezy main house, four barns, a riding ring, countless fruit trees (apple, nectarine, kumquat, pomegranate) and a menagerie of animals that at last count included a French bulldog, three rescue dogs and two Nigerian dwarf goats. At 11 weeks old, the goats are the newest addition, and they require bottle-feeding four times a day. Seabolt delivers the particulars of the house, grounds and animals the way she delivers everything: as a matter of fact.
After three decades in real estate, the lady of the house is driven, as ever, by the art of the deal. “I like when someone calls, tells me what they’re looking for and makes it my job to put the pieces together. I’m a bit like a pit bull when it comes to negotiating — it’s natural to me.” That said, she’s admittedly not a negotiator when it comes to buying her own homes. “If I walk into a place I want, I don’t negotiate. I don’t even blink,” she says. And that’s how it was with the ranch.
Shortly after she closed on the property, a few fortuitous things happened. First, some clients at the Ford Plantation asked her if she knew any local auctioneers who might take on the contents of their house. Upon reading through their inventory list, she realized their refined country-house aesthetic might suit a certain ranch she’d just bought, so she showed up with two moving trucks and left with every single piece they had on offer. “The house needed a specific look,” she says, “and I was able to achieve it in one day.” Even better, since the contents of the Ford Plantation house had been assembled over time, her done-in-a-day ranch appears richly layered and collected — a covetable vibe if ever there was one.
The second stroke of luck came at the suggestion of interior designer and Clutter Furnishings & Interiors owner Lynn Rahn, who thought the front and back of the house ought to be flipped. The former entrance, which looks out at the barns and idyllic acreage landscaped by the previous owner, became the more private outlook, while the façade near the pool and carport received front-door treatment, complete with antique shutters and a pair of glazed porcelain urns.
Seabolt painted the whole place white and settled in without a hitch amid English roll-arm sofas, horn-leg tables, a striking mix of estate and modern art and her prodigious library of coffee table books … and then she had one more lucky business encounter. After she sold another house at the Ford Plantation, her client, Will Price, asked her to meet for a drink, and a year later they’re still going strong. In fact, it’s Price’s affinity for the ranch that keeps her there. “He likes being out here, and I like him being with me,” she says. “I haven’t shared my life with anyone in a really long time. I wasn’t looking for it, and it’s been an adjustment but such a positive one.” Their recently acquired goats are a fitting metaphor for compromise: one is named Yankee (Price is from New York), the other is Dandy, and when they get a third, her name will be — what else? — Doodle.
While she’s quick to point out what still needs doing — window treatments, and she wants to commission a sepia-toned mural in the foyer and dining room from decorative painter Sam Ward — the ranch feels elegant, eclectic and utterly comfortable. When she arrives home after a long day of deal-making, Seabolt likes to have a drink on the porch swing at the barn, which sounds bucolic until you know that the drink is a martini, and the barn is filled with fine furniture arranged beneath no less than three chandeliers, one of them an 18th century Russian antique. Beneath her pragmatic exterior, Seabolt is a true romantic and a lover of beautiful things, and the outbuildings at the ranch presented an opportunity for her to empty the three storage units she’d filled with years’ worth of auction and estate sale finds. “It might get ruined out here,” she says, “but at least I’ll be able to enjoy it before it goes.”
Owner: Elaine Seabolt
Year built: (1950s)
Year purchased: 2017
Square footage: 2,400 square feet, plus two barns totaling 4,400 square feet
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths
Landscape design: Kyla Bennett
Hardscape design: Kyla Bennett
Furniture: bought from a house she sold at the Ford Plantation
Art: Owner’s private collection including Chia Chong, Sam Ward, and many estate pieces