Before & After: Sweet Transformation

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When life gives you a seriously dated beachfront home, you get to work. 

Story by Barry Kaufman

“Let me say this to you. We bought in 2017 and when I walked in, I went, ‘This is it,’” said Allison Hilton. 

Of course, at that point her opinion was based solely on the stunning ocean view (technically a second-row home that enjoys water views thanks to an easement). While the views were pretty, inside its walls the house was, to quote Brandon Edwards of Element Construction, “interesting.” Or, as Hilton put it more bluntly, “This house looked like the ’80s married the ’90s and decided to have a color scheme.” 

With its kitchen a shade of pink Hilton refers to as “cooked shrimp,” the house presented ample opportunity for improvement beyond just a simple refresh. “It had at least four different architectural styles in it. Mediterranean arches, Southern columns, porches that I guess you would say had a Nantucket railing and whatever the cat brought to the party! It took every kind of house out there and just flopped it together.” 

Hilton and the folks at Element Construction had their work cut out for them, but the rewards have been worth it. “I ended up making lemonade out of all of those lemons,” said Hilton. “We have had a ton of people to tell us how special this place is and how it’s a one-of-a-kind on the island.”

After ©Kim Smith photo

Toning it down

Getting rid of the cooked shrimp paint was just the beginning in the kitchen. “It was an interesting layout in the kitchen,” said Edwards. “There’s a lot of stuff where you wonder, ‘Why would they do that?’” Knocking out one wall made room for an island and crucially opened the entire space up to the living room. Reshuffling counters and cabinets created room for a coffee bar, ice maker and wet bar for entertaining. It also created an alcove through which the ocean views reach the kitchen. “That was the biggest thing for me, being able to hear and smell and see the ocean from that top floor while I’m in the kitchen,” said Hilton.


Inspired by Aiken, SC

Creating a sense of unity with the architecture required a little bit of creativity. First, the half-barrel ceiling on the top floor was flattened out and new railings were installed, swapping out the thick wooden pickets for more subtle metal rails. Closer to the ground, one update required that Palmetto Dunes expand its color palate somewhat. “Iron Ore has been introduced to the Board. That is my color. We own a historic home in Aiken, and I wanted to bring a piece of the equestrian flair of Aiken to Hilton Head,” said Hilton. 

Fortunately, the tasteful contrast of the painted stucco against pale siding earned the blessing of the Board.

After ©Kim Smith Photo

Place with the pines 

The accent wall seen here was a last-minute bit of inspiration on Hilton’s part. Running throughout the home is pine flooring removed from Hilton Head at no charge after Hurricane Matthew and shipped to Aiken on Hilton’s dime. These fallen timbers were then milled into the flooring that runs throughout the house. On the floors the pine planks were stained a deep gray, but on the wall their natural knots and grain are allowed to shine. “I wanted to take the natural essence of that wood and put it on this wall, bringing the Island inside — literally!” said Hilton.

Bobby and Allison Hilton are full-time residents of Aiken and part-time residents of Hilton Head.

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