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Sun-kissed summers at the beach. Splashing in the surf. Hunting for shells. Dining on fresh fish and shrimp. Such seaside memories tugged at Rozanne Jackson, who owns an interior-decorating business and home-furnishings shop, The Iron Gate, in Franklin, Tennessee.

“When I was a child, I had fun going with my family to the coast in Texas,” she says. “Later, I lived in Los Angeles and could go to the beach. Then I moved to Tennessee. I felt landlocked!”

Now, she and her architect husband, Glen Oxford, have combined their design talents to build and decorate a second home in Alys Beach on the Florida Panhandle. They also enjoy this walkable town, a New Urbanism green community planned by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, the firm that pioneered the movement at nearby Seaside, some six miles away. Alys Beach is becoming widely known for its modern, white stucco courtyard homes evocative of architectural traditions in Antigua, Morocco, Greece, and Bermuda.

“We just spent a long weekend at Alys Beach,” says Oxford, sounding mellow upon his return to their primary residence in Nashville. “Got some sun and ate soft-shell crab.” Jackson chimes in, “A little vitamin D makes us feel better. We love the Gulf’s clear waters and the white sugar-sand beach.” He adds, “We had clients with us, but we often invite family and friends.”

Clearly, this beach home rejuvenates the busy two-career couple. “The first time we visited Alys Beach,” Oxford recalls, “with all of that pristine white architecture, we got this totally relaxed feeling.” They bought a Gulf-front lot, only steps from the beach, and began tossing design ideas back and forth. “This was our first from-the-ground-up house we’d done together,” the husband says. Happily, pillow talk did not become pillow fights. “Both of us have a strong vision,” his wife says with a smile, “but we work well together because we respect each other, and it’s very joyful. We’d sit down on Sundays, and he’d draw and I’d visualize the spaces.”

Their shared labor of love resulted in a three-story home that exudes the requisite serenity. “My main design criteria? Capture an image of the Gulf from as many rooms as possible,” Oxford explains. “That’s the money shot when you’re living on the coast. You can see the beach from every room on our second and third floors except for the guest powder room.”

Oxford built drama into his design. “After you come in the front door and start up the stairs, you get only a glimpse of the water.” Jackson jumps in: “When you reach the second floor, it’s a wow moment, because of all the light that pours in and the view of the Gulf. You know the water is there, but it’s still a surprise. Whether you’re standing in the kitchen or the living room or on the porch, nature’s scenery is all around you. You feel like you’re on a perch with the pelicans.”

The couple reserved the top floor for their master suite. Off their bedroom is an open-air porch with a Mexican hammock. “I lie there and read home design magazines,” she says. “At night, I look up at a million stars and hear the surf.”

The soothing palette is tone-on-tone. “I used a pale shade of stone gray and natural textures,” she says. “I bought four hundred yards of whitewashed linen to make all the drapes in the house. Besides unifying the interiors, they create a cabana feeling for the beach.” The hardwood floors match the sand.

The neutral walls showcase Jackson’s subtle approach. “Most are Venetian plaster. I call it ‘Alys Beach white’ because it’s a custom finish, and the local plasterer doesn’t give out the formula,” she says. Complementing those light tones is sinker cypress wood used for the front door and the living room and porch ceilings. “In that climate, it silvers within six months,” Oxford says.

Natural materials extend to the furnishings, most notably a coffee table made from a black walnut tree in their backyard in Nashville. As Oxford explains, “The tree had to come down due to a remodeling project and walnuts hitting the neighbors’ cars. The bark is gone, but at one end of the table, the shape of the tree is still there.” She says sweetly, “It’s a little piece of our home in Tennessee.”

Across from the living room is the kitchen, featuring a large island of Italian silver marble. Both the island and the coffee table incorporate a “waterfall” design, Jackson points out. Striations in the walnut planks are echoed in the marble’s directional pattern. “We appreciate the details.”

Jackson enjoys bringing in old objects to mix with new ones. “In a guest room, I have a pair of small nickel lamps that I found at an antique market in Provence. They add interest.” Many furnishings in this home, as well as her clients’ residences, came from her shop in the historic district of Franklin, a city just south of Nashville. The shop carries furniture, lighting, and antiques, as well as Bella Notte linen bedding. “A little bit of everything.”

Now that the Alys Beach home is finished, Oxford wants to try kayak fishing, and Jackson says, “I can go to shrimp boils and walk on the beach. This keeps my soul very happy.”


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This story appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of MILIEU.