A painter recreates the insouciant Carolina Low Country in a tucked-away section of the South Bay.
Photographed by Anthony Moore
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Spanish moss envelops century-old river oaks and drips from massive branches, while briny salt water from the marshes hangs heavy in the air. Huge sand dunes protected by a barrier of tall sea oats block the ocean from the land, while long stretches of empty beach hold sand dollars and starfish that wash up with the gentle waves. Houses have long, deep porches; tabby construction; hand-hewn, wide-plank, heart pine floors; and opposing windows and doors that permit maximum light and ocean breezes. Such are the distinctive elements that define the sultry, languid coast of the South Carolina Low Country.
When Tricia Strickfaden of Manhattan Beach opened an issue of Coastal Living magazine in 2004, she was immediately smitten with a house newly constructed on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Both the architecture and the sense of light captivated her enough to recreate the house in Manhattan Beach, where she lives with her husband, Chris, and their children, Shelby and Camden. When the Strickfadens decided to tear down their existing house and build a home that would accommodate many design elements found in the Low Country, they plunged head-first into the project by flying to Hilton Head to see the environment and the home that had inspired her.
Armed with a background in interior design and fine art, Tricia was well-prepared to create a home that would allow wonderful, light-filled spaces in a casual living style reminiscent of the Low Country. After several years of researching the Low Country style, the Strickfadens began the project in 2008—with architect Douglas Leach, builder Jay Patrick and Suzanne Ascher of Waterleaf Interiors—to design a home that combines elements of both the Low Country and the Caribbean. From the Dutch door entrance to the dark walnut floors to the tabby fireplaces, many key architectural elements of the house echo design elements of 19th-century homes on the Atlantic coast.
For the last 13 years, Tricia has been actively pursuing a career in painting oils of abstract landscapes in a fresco technique, using both a palate knife and brush. As a resident of the South Bay for two decades, Tricia is most familiar with the clear light and huge crashing waves of the Pacific coast. However, once she visited Hilton Head, she experienced the mesmerizing light of the Low Country. Unlike the brilliant sunsets of the Pacific coast, the Low Country has a suffused light that blankets the area in layers of dusty colors. Tricia now paints landscapes of both the pronounced, dramatic Southern California coast as well as the more subtle Carolina Low Country, where the marshes, abundant wildlife and transfused colors define the area.