Home & Garden

The Secret to This Lowcountry Artist’s Abode? Abundant Natural Light

A painter’s bright beach home is a creative and relaxing getaway

Inside a room with a painting on an easel, a paint palette on a stand, and a sink area with open windows
Inside Debby Alphin's studio on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina.

In bold primary colors the canvas reads CLEAR SKIES AHEAD. The painting is just one in a series of playful text pieces, acrylic aphorisms, and funny sayings by Debby Alphin, an artist based in Atlanta and Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. But its message makes sense when you see the view from her studio in the Sulllivan’s vacation home she shares with Steele, her husband of fifty years. Thanks to the generous incorporation of Marvin windows and doors throughout the residence, clear skies are forever in sight.

“I keep my easel turned toward the window so I can use that bright and sunny natural light,” Alphin says. The result is a workspace that’s at once a creative oasis and an extension of her joyful sensibility. Beneath the windows sits a strategically placed sink for rinsing brushes; nearby is a white Parsons table and stools for sitting and sketching. “When the grandkids were small, they could come and draw and color,” she says.

Outfitting the home for her large family was as important to Alphin as building an artist’s sanctuary. “I have two daughters and four grandchildren, who are 13, 12, 10, and 9—three girls and a boy—and we all love the beach,” she says. The home, designed by Atlanta architect Amanda Orr and built by 79 West Builders Group, is ultimately a play space meets coastal retreat, one that incorporates breathtaking views at every turn.

Casement windows in the airy open kitchen, where Alphin’s large painting of a Lowcountry boil hangs, set the tone. “Marvin casement windows allow more glass, more light to come in, and really give great architectural proportions,” Orr says. “They also allow for a better view of the surrounding greenery versus the double-hung windows.”

Angela Means, co-owner of Means Carney Interiors, which helped style the home, says the push-out design—an alternative to the traditional crank apparatus—of Marvin casement windows adds an old-wold charm to the space. “With the windows open and the breeze coming through, it just feels a little magical to me.”

The enchanting effect continues throughout the home, including the living room, where the mirrored Marvin Ultimate Swinging French doors—custom crafted to echo the house’s storied aesthetic—bookend a lush view from two expansive windows. Overlooking the pool is a screened porch where Orr introduced Marvin Bi-Fold, effectively expanding the room and adding a seamless transition from indoors to out. “This creates a space large enough to hold thirty people if they wanted to,” Orr says. 

While a party of that size hasn’t yet been tested, Alphin appreciated the guest-friendly atmosphere when her sister, who also lives on Sullivan’s Island, brought her family over for Thanksgiving. Thanks to Orr’s design and Means and Carney’s subtle touches of natural textures and fibers, the home is both a sophisticated and a relaxed setting in which to gather. With its roomy living spaces, grandkid-friendly second story, main-floor owners’ suite, and of course, sunny artist’s studio, everyone has ample room to socialize or steal away. Or just sit and stare out the windows, admiring the endless Atlantic Ocean in the distance.