Escaping the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, a young Evans couple chooses a style of “simple elegance” for Yuletide décor in their River Island home
The back-to-nature ambiance of River Island is the perfect place for a down-to-earth Evans couple to call home. Lynn and Kyle Flanagan moved into their house in October 2014, and they enjoy nothing more than sharing it with others.
“Our goal is to fill up the house with people to love on,” says Lynn, who was born and raised in Appling.
The more the merrier as far as the Flanagans are concerned, especially at Christmastime.
“Half of the people who come here aren’t related to us. They might be away from their families,” says Lynn. “When you’re here, you’re family. So we ask people, ‘Are you sure you still want in?’”
Every day with more people in the house is a gift for the Flanagans, and they received one of the greatest gifts of all when their 15-month-old son, Keagan, was born three weeks before they moved into their home. After all, nothing says “family” quite like a new baby.
The couple met at the University of Georgia, and they moved to the area from Athens, where Kyle owned a fertilizer company, seven years ago.
“We had wanted to build for quite some time,” Lynn says.
“But we wanted to wait until we knew we were going to stay here for awhile,” adds Kyle, the franchise owner of Scotts Miracle-Gro of Augusta. “We knew the look and feel we wanted, but we didn’t have a specific idea in mind.”
Fortunately, however, their builder, Jamie Reynierson of J. Reynierson Homes Inc., shared their philosophy.
“Jamie is very creative. He used to build in Hilton Head. He had that same vision that we did,” Kyle says. “We tried to give our house a Lowcountry feel. We didn’t want to create a beach house, but we wanted to create something that fit in here. We wanted to create a river house.”
Kyle bought the River Island lot four years ago for Lynn as a surprise anniversary gift. (They were married December 15, 2007.) He was attracted to the neighborhood because of its boardwalks and its proximity to the Savannah River.
“I’m a big water guy,” says Kyle, a Florida native who likes the beach and paddle boarding. “We just love the water access and all of the trails and boardwalks everywhere. You’re still right in the middle of everything, but when I come home from work I don’t feel like I’m in Evans any more.”
Home for Christmas
The house features pinewood flooring with a walnut stain, transom windows above doorways, 11-foot ceilings downstairs and nine-foot ceilings upstairs. The Flanagans also wanted a feeling of “simple elegance” in their home, and this style is reflected in their holiday décor.
“We didn’t want to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of stressing over Christmas,” says Lynn. “That’s not what we believe in.”
In the family room, garland featuring greenery, pinecones and twists of burlap covers the mantel. A hurricane candleholder stands guard at each end of the mantel. Lynn surrounded the white candles with red cranberries, illustrating her penchant for simple, natural ingredients to decorate their home.
“We want it to be cozy,” says Lynn. “We’re not ornate people.”
Three stockings hang from the fireplace that features a crushed oyster shell tabby surround and a raised brick hearth made of reclaimed brick from an old street in Savannah. The wood-burning fireplace has a gas starter, and the mantel is made of a piece of reclaimed barn wood from Savannah. The room also features a coffered ceiling and horizontal wood paneling on the walls.
The Christmas tree in the corner of the room is simply, but artistically, decorated with burlap ribbon and large red burlap balls. The tree also features snowflakes made of seat caning material by employees at Augusta Training Shop, a nonprofit organization where mentally and physically challenged individuals repair and refinish furniture.
Kyle began his involvement with Augusta Training Shop four years ago when his company became a sponsor for one of its fundraisers. “I went down there, and it changed my life,” he says. “It changed my entire outlook.”
Garlands, Bows and Christmas Lights
Since they enjoy fellowship and entertaining, the Flanagans wanted an open floor plan in their home.
“I want people to be able to gather here,” says Lynn. “Our vision for the house is to have a place where people can have fellowship and feel welcome.”
One of their favorite ways to share their home is to open the double doors that lead from the family room to the adjoining screened-in porch.
“I love it when we have a 70-degree day, and we can open both doors between the family room and the back porch,” Kyle says. However, he adds, “None of our doors stay shut. We love hanging out in the heart of the house.”
At Christmastime, a green garland with white lights and red bows adorns the porch railing and an oversized wreath lights up a wall. The wreath includes pinecones, red berries and a giant red bow. The Flanagans and their friends can relax on the resin wicker furniture, and the porch also boasts a bead board ceiling, penta-treated hardwood tongue-and-groove flooring and lanterns on the wall. Although the lanterns look like props out of “A Christmas Carol,” they provide year-round enjoyment.
“We let the lanterns run 24/7,” says Kyle. “I love the way the light flickers.”
A brick firepit in the backyard is another favorite gathering spot. The firepit, along with the driveway, is made from reclaimed brick from the old Savannah street, and shards of broken glass are embedded around the flame.
The property attracts uninvited – but still welcome – visitors as well. “Every single night deer are running through the yard,” says Kyle.
They might not be reindeer, but Rudolph’s red nose would have no trouble spotting the Flanagan home on Christmas Eve. The front of the property is aglow with white lights around the house frame, windows and landscaping. That’s not surprising since Kyle also owns Christmas Décor, which does exterior holiday decorating for business and residential customers.
The house features a metal roof over the front porch and a trio of dormer windows. Exposed wood and metal on the front porch add charm to the exterior space.
Greenery with lights and a red bow is nestled in the transom window that tops the double wood front doors. A red burlap wreath with beige burlap poinsettias decorates each door. The doors lead into a two-story foyer, where garland with burlap poinsettias and chevron bows is wrapped along the stair railing and the upstairs hallway railing.
Bringing People Together
The master bedroom boasts a ceiling fan, horizontal paneling on the walls and a fireplace with a raised brick hearth and glass tile surround. A cup of water for their 10-year-old dachshund, Maggie – Kyle’s companion since his college days – also is likely to be perched on the fireplace.
“She’s been through everything with me,” he says. “She prefers to drink water from a cup. She learned to do that by traveling with us.”
The adjoining master bath features a walk-through tile shower, vessel sinks with two separate vanities on opposite sides of the room and a stand-alone, European-style tub. “I wanted a big shower, so the room had to match,” says Kyle.
Opening onto the family room, the kitchen features stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, simple molding and cabinetry, an island with a blue finish that offers a coastal feel, metal lights above the island and a split farmhouse sink.
The kitchen also opens onto the dining room, which features a pine ceiling with exposed beams, a wooden chandelier and recessed lighting. A large, custom-made farmhouse table with a distressed look offers plenty of seating in the center of the room.
“We were trying to fit as many people as we could,” says Kyle. “The table gets oiled once a year, and it’s good to go.”
A Christmas table runner topped with a centerpiece of greenery and a single red taper brightens the table during the holidays. On either side of the centerpiece, a silver napkin ring anchors a red napkin with an artichoke fold.
“We wanted a big table where we could seat our whole family,” says Lynn.
Of course, there’s another reason that Lynn enjoys her time in the kitchen – and that big table – as well.
“I spell love ‘f-o-o-d.’ Food is how I show our family and friends love,” says Lynn. “Food brings people together.”
By Betsy Gilliland