fbpx vie magazine subscribe button

Architectural Odyssey

The Art and Act of Building as a Passion, Not a Profession

By Lynn Nesmith | Photography by Jack Gardner

If “life is a journey, not a destination,” then some might make the case that when it comes to building a home, it’s the process—not necessarily the final product—that counts.

David and Marsha Dowler certainly enjoy every step along the way. “I like to think of myself as an architectural patron, or maybe I’m just a serial home builder,” laughs David. By any name, it’s obvious that the Dowlers are thoughtful clients who are doing their part to enrich the built environment through creating engaging structures with a sense of place.

A Texas native, David grew up going to Panama City Beach in the summers and admits he always longed for a house right on the Gulf of Mexico. “With this project, I guess I achieved my goal. I had the opportunity to design and build my dream home on a most amazing piece of waterfront property,” he says. “Now I’m content to let it go so someone else can own it and enjoy it.”

Home with trees

This latest residential journey started more than a decade ago in the early days of the WaterSound Beach community on Scenic Highway 30-A in Northwest Florida, when David and Marsha purchased a prime lot overlooking Camp Creek Lake and the Gulf. They were already big fans of the area usually known simply as “30-A,” having built two houses there in the New Urban community of Seaside. The couple was married there twenty years ago, and Marsha is one of the founders of Seaside’s Escape to Create artist-in-residency program.

David was ready for a construction project, and upon seeing the expansive dunes and meandering outflow of the rare coastal dune lake at Camp Creek, he knew this was the place to embark on his next architectural adventure. Living full time in Dallas, the Dowlers had recently moved into a new house designed by Scott Merrill of Merrill, Pastor and Colgan Architects. Scott had served as Seaside’s town architect years ago when David was building his first home in the fledgling town. Now the firm has offices in Atlanta and Vero Beach, Florida.

For his home on the Gulf, David turned to Scott’s partner David Colgan. In keeping with WaterSound’s ordained Shingle style architecture, Colgan looked to timeless East Coast precedents from Nantucket, Cape Cod, and Nags Head for inspiration, yet his design stays clearly focused on the Panhandle’s weather and ways. “David and Marsha had a vision and brought their ideas to the table,” recalls Colgan. “We pushed each other. It was a true collaboration in the best sense of the word.”

The three-story home incorporates customary cedar shingles and familiar forms, yet the more romantic illusions of the genre are clarified and simplified. The home’s silhouette cuts a striking profile against the sky that seems traditional and contemporary at the same time.

David and Marsha had a vision and brought their ideas to the table. We pushed each other. It was a true collaboration in the best sense of the word.

From the street, the house presents a cordial yet reserved face to the outside world and only gradually reveals itself. Rather than try to hide the garage, the architect opted for a pair of symmetrical sheds; each is crowned with a simple gable roof and enlivened with clinging flowering vines. The sheds flank a wooden pathway that steps up to the entry courtyard and the front door. A sense of restraint is the architectural order.

As in many present-day beach houses, the main floor of the home is hoisted upward to capture views and breezes. An open, nautical-inspired stairway ascends to the loftlike second floor where interiors unfold in gracious continuous living spaces bathed in natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows.

Wooden walkway to house

Coming to the beach is about being in touch with nature, and the design of this house encourages an ongoing dialogue between the inside and the great outdoors with a variety of open-air rooms, each boasting a distinctive personality. A deep second-floor porch running the length of the house embraces the big view from sunrise to sunset. A cloistered screened terrace off the downstairs master suite offers welcome shading at midday.

Coming to the beach is about being in touch with nature, and the design of this house encourages an ongoing dialogue between the inside and the great outdoors with a variety of open-air rooms, each boasting a distinctive personality.

The interiors throughout echo the sophisticated, spartan architecture of the house. Marsha worked closely with Georgina O’Hara and Cheryl Troxel to choose furnishings and accessories that are deliberately subtle and have clean lines. The palette of soft blues, greens, and grays and the textured neutrals interact differently throughout the day, sometimes evoking the warm tones of the wood surfaces and other times mirroring shades of the sand and the sea. The understated character of the design is the perfect backdrop for the Dowlers’ collection of fine art photography.

Inside view of stairs and balcony

Upstairs, the theme continues. The master suite occupies the top floor and takes full advantage of the gable roofline to create a real “wow” factor. A pair of swiveling chairs creates an intimate conversation area, while a trio of double-hung windows offers expansive views of the rolling dunes and the Gulf.

From every vantage point, broad stokes of genius and attention to detail come together in a graceful harmony. The stage is set as Marsha and David put their masterpiece on the market; let the next act in the ongoing narrative of this home begin!

— V —

Read Responsibly

VIE Magazine - The Art & Design Issue November 2021
VIE Magazine January 2021 Special Commemorative Edition
VIE Magazine September 2020 Wanderlust Issue, Fancy Camps, The Idea Boutique
VIE Magazine August 2020 Art & Culture Issue, Nathan Alan Yoakum Art
VIE Magazine - Architecture & Design Issue - July 2020
VIE Magazine - Decor and Home Issue - June 2020
VIE Magazine May 2020 Entertainment Issue, Leslie Odom Jr
VIE Magazine - April 2020 Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine March 2020 The Fashion Edit, VONDOM, Alys Beach Fl, Digital Graffiti, Tres Chic, isidro dunbar Modern Interiors, Digital Graffiti Festival
VIE Magazine February 2020 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Travel Issue - January 2020 - Tanzania Safari Cover
VIE Magazine - Women's Issue - December 2019 - Tina Brown Cover
VIE NOV19 Goodness Issue
VIE Magazine, September 2019 Art & Culture Issue, Paul Hanninen
VIE Magazine - August 2019 - The Architecture and Design Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2019 - The Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - June 2019 - Fashion Edit
VIE Magazine - May 2019 - Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine - April 2019 - The Health & Wellness Issue
VIE Magazine - Special Entertainment Edition - March 2019
VIE Magazine February 2019 Luxury Homes & Technology Issue with Robbie Antonio of Revolution Precrafted
VIE Magazine - January 2019 - Southern Sophisticate Issue Cover
VIE Magazine - Special Anniversary Travel Edition - December 2018
VIE Magazine - The Goodness Issue - November 2018
VIE Magazine - The Art & Culture Issue - October 2018
VIE Magazine - Home & Garden Issue - September 2018
VIE Magazine - August 2018 Animal Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2018 Architecture & Design Issue - Subscribe to the magazine!
VIE Magazine - June 2018 Travel & Tech Issue
VIE Magazine - May 2018 Couture Issue
VIE Magazine - The Culinary Issue - April 2018 Cover - Chef James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst
VIE Magazine - The Entertainers Issue - March 2018
VIE Magazine - February 2018 Destination Travel Issue
VIE Magazine - January 2018 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine, The Sophisticate Issue, December 2017
VIE Magazine - November 2017 Art & Culture Issue
VIE Magazine - October 2017 Home & Garden Issue
VIE Magazine | September 2017 | The Stories and Storytellers Issue
VIE Magazine - The Adventure Issue - August 2017
VIE Magazine - July 2017 - Art & Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - The Voyager Issue - June 2017
VIE magazine 2017 March-April Cover South Walton Fashion Week
VIE Magazine - January/February 2017 - The Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Nov/Dec 2016 The Sophisticate Issue
christian siriano vie magazine september october 2016 vie magazine
the modern minimalist issue
the culinary and couture issue march april 2016 vie magazine
the voyager issue alys beach vie magazine january february 2016
cultural issue vie magazine november december 2015
home and garden issue vie magazine september october 2015
the art and style issue vie magazine july august 2015
the wedding issue 2015 May June vie magazine
the food and fashion issue vie magazine march april 2015
the travel issue vie magazine january february 2015
the music issue vie magazine 2014 november december
The Animal Issue vie magazine september october 2014
the home and garden issue vie magazine july august 2014
the wedding issue vie magazine may june 2014
emeril lagasse food and fashion vie magazine
the men's issue january february 2014
the music issue november december 2013 vie magazine
the home and garden issue 2013 october september
the wedding issue vie magazine july august 2013
the artist issue may june 2013 vie magazine
the food and fashion issue march april 2013
the men's issue january february 2013 vie magazine
The Holiday Issue
the love issue july august 2012
the all american summer may june 2012
the entertainment issue march april 2012
the fashion issue vie magazine winter 2011
the home and garden issue vie magazine fall 2011
the anniversary edition vie magazine summer 2011
the wedding issue vie magazine spring 2011
vie magazine the holiday issue 2010 Dec
vintage swimsuits vie magazine 2010 Fall
judith march designer vie magazine summer 2010
wedding giveaway vie magazine spring 2010
holiday gift guide vie magazine winter 2009
emarketing explosion vie magazine fall 2009
tribute to mother's day vie magazine summer 2009
james and robert redford vie magazine spring 2009
zz top vie magazine fall winter 2008
project dreams vie magazine new york fashion week
Sign-up for VIEmail

Sign up for VIEmail