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An artful approach to interior design

Court Atkins Group’s 501 South Studio team creates an inviting backdrop for the Artist Cottage at Palmetto Bluff

The new Artist in Residence program is a collaboration between Palmetto Bluff and Garden & Gun magazine that celebrates the arts, fosters creativity and offers a hands-on education. As part of the program, notable artists are invited to stay in the Artist Cottage in Palmetto Bluff’s newly constructed Moreland Village. Court Atkins Group’s 501 South Studio team was chosen to steer the interior design for the Artist Cottage, a project they considered a privilege.

“Our mission with the Artist Cottage was to create a fresh take on the Lowcountry cottage aesthetic,” said Deborah Van Plew of 501 South Studio, the interior design team at Court Atkins Group. “We introduced unexpected furnishing choices, mixed various textures and layered antique and contemporary elements to keep each room inviting, interesting, inspiring and unpretentious.”

Van Plew and associate Adrienne Warner added curated art to their masterpiece, tapping Hilton Head Island’s Red Piano Gallery and president Ben Whiteside to provide a stunning, diverse collection of art pieces, selected by Van Plew. Her choices include works by leading Lowcountry artists Jonathan Green, Betty Anglin Smith, Mandy Johnson, Addison Palmer and Mark Stewart, plus a hint of Nashville twang provided by artist Anne Blair Brown.

“The cottage flows like a vintage Lowcountry film, capturing the highlights and ambience of coastal Carolina,” Whiteside said. “501 South Studio chose a palette of subtle cottage tones, allowing emphasis on the artwork. For instance, Betty Anglin Smith bursts onto the scene with her intense hues and signature coastal theme. The Jonathan Green selection is 66 inches by 101 inches, truly a brilliant mural depicting native Gullah culture — what I’d call the definitive Gullah-Geechee.”

Van Plew placed the Smith painting in the cottage dining room, where she and Warner also positioned an antique French farm table, companion buffet and leather-fringed benches. “With the addition of contemporary lighting, it’s one of our more dramatic ensembles,” Van Plew said. 

The Artist Cottage study will also earn applause, with the Green painting inspiring its design and an aesthetic vibe Van Plew described as “cool, eclectic and relaxed.” 501 South Studio’s choices for this room include a vintage-inspired high desk, industrial desk lamp, cowhide rug and custom ebonized wood-slatted side tables. “Of course the (Jonathan) Green painting commands the room,” Van Plew said. “It’s the superstar.”

Each area of the residence reflects its own design highlights. The great room beckons guests with leather and natural marble, giving this gathering spot a sense of luxury while the mix of fabric textures keeps the atmosphere relaxed and friendly. A library of Southern authors is located here, paying tribute to the literary arts.

Culinary arts are represented in the cottage kitchen, which is simple and understated, featuring natural blonde wood and white slab cabinetry alongside stainless steel appliances and concrete-looking countertops.

While the 501 South Studio team was committed to a contemporary feel throughout the cottage, integrating signature architectural elements such as natural blonde oak floors, nickel-joint wood walls, brick and open trusses, they occasionally strayed from their script, adding unexpected touches like the personalized penny-tile floor in the mudroom.

“Because art isn’t always serious business,” Van Plew said with a smile.

As for his art business, Whiteside said his collaboration with Van Plew at the Artist Cottage has restored his connection with one of the Lowcountry’s most vibrant communities. “Years ago, we operated a thriving gallery there, adjacent to the post office. When the economy tumbled, we closed,” Whiteside said. “Seeing the renewed interest in Palmetto Bluff is a good sign and a gift. We hope it allows us the opportunity to introduce authentic Lowcountry art to other cottages and homes in the area.”