Geneva-based interior designer Alexandra de Garidel-Thoron has decorated numerous residences for the same clients: a Czech banker and his wife. One of the first was a country house in their native land with a futuristic tunnel that wouldn’t be out of place in a James Bond film. Others have included a chalet in Verbier named Black Bear, after the Xavier Veilhan sculpture that stands near the main entrance. There’s also a villa on Lake Geneva and a historic winery near Cape Town, South Africa.

The Hilton Head Island residence in the US state of South Carolina boasts a magical setting, with astonishing nature and direct ocean access
The perfect holiday spot for a couple and their four young children

The couple’s favourite home, however, is the one located on Hilton Head Island in the US state of South Carolina, where they vacation with their four young children. "It’s quite a magical place – a little strange and unique," says Alexandra. "The vegetation is like something out of a Lewis Carroll tale, with astonishing fauna." Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to find nature quite so lush; on the one-hour drive from the Savannah airport, the highways are lined with forests.

The living and dining areas are stunning retreats; the coffee table was designed by Pilar Proffitt and the bench beyond by Robert Bristow; 
Above a cream carpet from Tai Ping is a 10-seater walnut dining table and chairs created by Chris Lehrecke, and a custom credenza made from walnut and Corian

The 10-bedroom house has the added advantage of being situated directly on the ocean. Measuring almost 11,000sqft, it was designed by local architect C Matthew Taylor, whose initial scheme for the interiors was to focus on just two materials: teak wood and white Corian. "I completely turned the project upside down," recalls Alexandra. "In jest, the construction crew would ask if I was going to arrive in cowboy boots. But, there were lots of really strange things." In the sitting room, for instance, stood a traditional black marble fireplace with a huge TV screen above it. There were also windows between the ground-floor corridor and children’s bathrooms.

A custom fireplace made from black marble sets the scene, and the triptych above it is 1000 Platitudes (1973) by Rafael Lozano-Hermmer; the hammock was designed by Jim Zivic

The clients asked Alexandra specifically for decor that was more welcoming and relaxed. She explains, "It’s a seaside house – so you’re supposed to be able to hang out in your swimming costume." One of the main complexities she had to deal with was the sheer volume of many of the spaces – the master suite alone measures some 1,000sqft. "We completely reproportioned things, so you now have the impression that everything is on a human scale," she says. Much of the furniture was ordered in custom sizes. The Robert Bristow bar stools in the kitchen, for instance, are twice their normal dimensions.

Characterful wall accents

Many of the artworks are also rather sizable. The focus of the sitting room is a four-metre-wide triptych called 1,000 Platitudes by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The Daniel Buren wall sculpture at the top of the dramatic staircase is another eye-catcher. "As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for the house," says Alexandra. Meanwhile, she discovered the three masks on the credenza in the dining area on the French Riviera. Serendipitously, it turned out that they were created by South Carolina native Robert Courtright, who had a house nearby and ended up delivering them himself.

The kitchen is from Valcucine and the barstools were designed by Robert Bristol
A staircase made from resin leads to the master suite on the top level, and guest bedrooms and the children's playroom on the lower level

For the furniture, Alexandra was keen to work with American designers, too. "For me, the interiors of every house should always have a link to the actual place," she explains. She incorporated ceiling lights by David Weeks, introduced a dining table and chairs by Chris Lehrecke, and hung comic strip images of Batman and Robin on the walls of the bedroom of the couple’s two boys.

In the master suite, the artwork Nuptial Sleep (2010) by Andrea Mastrovito; the wall is made from a composite material that imitates concrete
In the master dressing room, the closet unit is decorated with a custom design by Alexandra, inspired by the ocean

Elsewhere, she added even more colour and whimsy. Much of the palette consists of different blues, inspired by the hues of the ocean at different times of the day. "They range from a deeper Persian blue to the oily tone the sea can have when the sun sets on it," she says. Alexandra decorated the bathrooms with playful mosaics and hung three grinning masks made from ceramic and horse teeth in the outdoor sitting area. In the garden, meanwhile, she created a circuit of wooden paths wide enough for the children to drive their electric karts.

The kids' areas are colourful fantasies: in the playroom, the plush sofa is from Roche Bobois covered by Missoni Home fabric, while the curtain fabric is from Lelievre
The bedroom is every superhero's dream, decorated with big comic artwork from Warner Pictures

Other considerations were a little more serious in order to adapt the structure to the local environment. All the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, for instance, had to be hurricane-proofed. "They are the greatest technical prowess of the house," says Alexandra. "I can’t even begin to tell you how much each one cost." The exterior blinds, meanwhile, couldn’t be too white or reflective. The reason? The area’s indigenous turtles. "There are really strict regulations in place," she explains. "Otherwise, there’s a risk they can be dazzled and completely lose their bearings."

See also: A European Affair In This Sydney Family Home

Related Articles

The Latest

Alberta Ferretti’s Home is Straight Out of a Fairy Tale
This Compact 450sqft Soho Apartment is a Travelogue of Far-flung Adventures
Au Naturel: Turn Your Interiors Into Your Own Personal Greenhouse
A Young Couple’s Apartment In One Of India’s Buzziest Cities
5 Tips on Creating a Safe and Comfortable Home for Children and Pets
A Stately Marble House in Bangkok