The story behind the Today Show house

Step inside the elegant home on Beach Lagoon that had the cast and crew falling in love with Hilton Head Island.

Story by Barry Kaufman | Home photos by Ashley Evans | Behind-the-scenes photos by Cassidy Lackos

When The Today Show descended on Hilton Head Island, they cast a big spotlight on our little slice of the South. Over the course of the show’s third hour, cameras lovingly captured the majesty of a sunset over the Quarterdeck, the simple miracle of a sea turtle nest on our shores and the natural treasures that surround us.

But perhaps nothing on Hilton Head Island took center stage quite like the jaw-dropping vacation home at 23 South Beach Lagoon, which served as the cast’s headquarters during their stay. From the wide balcony on the second floor, Al Roker, Craig Melvin, Dylan Dreyer and Sheinelle Jones introduced the world to the dramatic scenery and impeccable design that have come to define the island’s rental homes.

Having worked to polish this gem of a home, Beverly Serral, the CEO of BESTNEST by Beverly Serral Vacation Rentals, saw this as the ultimate payoff. 

“It’s such a great house,” she said. “It’s not a new house, but it’s classic Hilton Head. And we do love updating a classic.”

Getting camera ready

With an emphasis on interior design, Serral takes a different approach to vacation rentals. Her objective is to find properties that need her particular brand of TLC and transform them into something amazing. 

“If you look at the before pictures, we knew we had lots of potential for transformation. Red leather sofas don’t really say, ‘Welcome to the beach!’” she said with a laugh. “We completely emptied the house – beds, mattresses, tables; even the knives and forks all wound up on consignment or being donated.”

From there she and her team, including Courtney May and Lydia Swank, went to work to take what worked in the house and make it work even better. The lofty, sun-kissed great room Serral calls “the Ocean Room” is a perfect example of this. “We knew we wanted a soft white backdrop on walls and ceilings where the ocean was really the star and then fill it in with comfortable fabrics and soft neutral color tones that feel restful and calming,” she said. 

Within just 90 days the team was able to completely reinvent the home by making smart decisions and working within the framework of the home. “We didn’t want to make it something it was not,” she said. “An often made mistake in design and decorating is taking a 40-year-old house and trying to make it look like (it had been built) today.”

Fortunately, the house already focused its design on the water, meaning updating it just took some new materials and furnishings. “Something we went back and forth about was the floors,” she said. “There is a lot of wood flooring in the house, and while it’s not the color we would have chosen if we were doing them new, we kept to the original finish and allocated those dollars to elements such as statement lighting and great art. As it turns out, the floor finish melds beautifully.”

Knowing what works, what doesn’t and what can be made to work well were keys to transforming the space. “The master bedroom had a wall of mirrors that felt less classic and more dated,” she said. “But in the master bath, the mirrors make more sense. We took out the mirrors in the bedroom and it softened the whole room.”

Serral and her team, including builder John Moleski, had created something spectacular on South Beach Lagoon. And it wasn’t long before the Today Show caught wind of what they had built.

And we’re live

“I opened my email one day to find a message from VRBO’s PR team in Austin letting me know they were considering the house for a segment on a national morning show,” said Serral. “They were very vague about what it was and when it would happen.”

As the island has always been a strong market for VRBO, and co-host Craig Melvin spends a lot of time here, Hilton Head was an attractive spot for the “Kickoff to Summer” that the site had planned. VRBO sent 10 Hilton Head Island properties to the Today Show producers, who whittled the list to three (two of those were BESTNEST/Luxe properties). A dozen Today Show producers, along with the head of public relations for Expedia, came to the island to meet with Serral. From the list of three they chose the house at 23 South Beach Lagoon.

“I only thought I knew what I was getting into,” said Serral.

If there’s any testament to a vacation home’s ability to handle a crowd, it’s knowing that a full crew of tech people, camera crew and on-air talent can comfortably put on an hour of national programming without leaving the house. 

The grand formal dining room served as a production office with a bank of iMacs replacing the table settings. The grand master bathroom became a makeup studio for the hosts, easily accommodating talent and makeup artists alike. It’s a production that generally takes up a massive studio in Rockefeller Center, but this stunning home served ably as a substitute.

“What was amazing was what they assembled in the garage, laundry room and driveway,” said Serral, referring to the banks of servers and rows of technical equipment set up in the home’s utility spaces. “I thought I knew what it took to put on something like this, but I had no idea. In addition to the technical equipment covering nearly every inch of the property, we had a crew of 50-plus onsite at all hours of the day and night for three days.”

Most rental guests will never need to feed an entire television crew while they’re on vacation. But if they do, they can rest easy knowing the home proved more than capable. “We fed the crew, cast and special guests multiple times per day,” said Serral. “This illustrates the flow of the house and how easy it makes entertaining.”

Capping off the excitement of the broadcast was the news that came through live on the air: the BESTNEST/Luxe at 23 South Beach Lagoon had been named one of VRBO’s top 10 homes of the year. “That was just such an honor for us, and the homeowners were honored as well,” she said. “They’re great people to work with.”

After the cameras leave

Even before the cameras rolled, this property was one of the most highly sought-after rentals on the island. The appearance on the Today Show, not to mention the live announcement that the home was one of the best in the world, did nothing to slow that down. And this rising tide will lift up rentals across the island. 

“The numbers are just off the charts of people clicking through and searching for Hilton Head Island,” said Serral. “Website traffic increased dramatically, and I believe we will reap the benefits of this experience for a long time.”

And it’s put a little bit of the spotlight on Serral as well. “I was in Grayco the week after, and someone came up and said, ‘I heard Al Roker say your name on the Today Show.’ So now we joke that I need to add ‘as mentioned on the Today Show’ to my name,” she said. “I can’t tell you how gracious and professional and wonderful the Today Show people were to work with, and I could have never pulled it off without my amazing team.”

Watch the Today Show’s segment on Hilton Head Island. Al Roker, Sheinelle Jones, Craig Melvin and Dylan Dreyer filmed the 3rd Hour of Today live on May 20 at this oceanfront home in Sea Pines.

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