For years, just as the chilly frost of Old Man Winter made its first appearance on their Baltimore doorstep, Sandy Clarke and her late husband, Bede, would zip up their suitcases and fly south to their cheery second home at Fort Morgan. No sense staying cooped up in the cold when vibrant periwinkle siding, a breezy front porch and mild temperatures awaited at their Gulf Coast getaway. Just outside their Alabama front stoop, the Clarkes would enjoy whiling away perfectly lazy days reading good books on the porch, biking down the road to the beach or sailing on Bede’s home-built catamaran.
These days were a long time coming. The couple first became enamored with our sugary sands during the early days of their marriage in 1969 when Bede was completing his flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The lovebirds vowed to someday return to carve out their own little piece of Southern paradise.
In 2004, the couple hung up their federal government badges and made their daydreams come true. For their new beach nest, Sandy set to work designing a cozy cottage style that was the “total opposite of our Maryland place, which is a two-story Colonial brick home located in Maryland’s Hunt Country.” Her inspiration came from the whimsical, multihued art of noted Pensacola painter Ann Morley, better known as “Frantic.” Brilliant pieces hang in virtually every room, lending continuity and easygoing local charm to the home. Textiles and accessories echo the vivid palette, while crisp white walls and washable slipcovers calm the look and reflect the “glorious light that only the Gulf Coast can provide.” With her creative nurturing, the place metamorphosed into everything the Clarkes had imagined and more – most importantly, a seaside cocoon to capture some of the most beautiful, treasured memories of their love story.
The sunny guest bedroom features twin beds with white upholstered headboards. Soft blue accents, like the leopard-printed duvet covers and a satiny lamp shade, act as neutrals. The pair of fish and alligator art pieces, both works from artist Ann Morley, make a statement on the walls, while bright floral pillows add a complementary punch.
LEFT More of the Clarkes’ collection of Ann Morley’s art, pieces aptly titled “The Kiss” and “Sushi Chef, ” hangs in the office nook. The ivory art deco lamp was an heirloom passed down from Sandy's mother. It blends seamlessly with a ghost chair and lambskin pillow. A house plant potted in a hat box makes a fun tabletop accessory.
RIGHT In the entryway, oyster plates flank an old Italian mirror that once hung in the couple's Maryland home. Sandy simply lacquered it glossy ivory to give it a beachy facelift. “A coat of white paint goes really far to make an otherwise unattractive piece a cottage charmer. Bede always commented to me that if he stood still long enough, he too would be painted white.”
For the master bedroom, Sandy chose pristine linen to keep with the coastal vibe. “The thought was to give you a rest from the bold color choices in other parts of the home.” Marigold yellow pillows are the minimal pop of color. An oyster-clad wreath is another nod to the seaside setting.
Bede, with the help of Sandy's father, built on the sleeping porch himself. The sunny yet relaxing space is ideal for afternoon napping.
text by Lawren Largue • photos by Kathy McCabe and Mac Walter