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Our Property Story: The Seahorse Retreat & Palm Breeze Beach House

Published on July 18, 2019 by espaid

Ravaged by Hurricane Ivan

The land where The Seahorse Retreat and Palm Breeze Beach Homes stand today was once ravaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

The hillside, where the graceful Southern Magnolia provides shade and beauty, was eroded, full of brush, debris and uprooted pine trees. Ivan had ripped the roof off of the home that was previously on the property, and the structure had caved in and was damaged beyond repair.

The Spaid family surveys the property as a prospective vacation getaway.


From the beginning, it was our vision to provide our guests with a memorable vacation experience.  Many very talented people were engaged in making the homes and properties what they are today.

The Home Design

The Seahorse Retreat remains the most ambitious project we have ever embarked upon. While on Folly Beach, SC, we saw a home that graced the marsh. The owner was kind enough to walk us through their home. Beside its intrinsic southern charm, the home had ample porches on every level with nearly every room offering a view of the water. A spiraling staircase to a fourth floor ("the cupola") has its own porch with tremendous views across the marsh.

Sullivan Design Company rendering of the home plan selected for property.


After learning the design was originally found in Southern Living magazine, we were able to locate the architect, Scott Sullivan of  Sullivan Design Company. We purchased the blueprints and worked with the architect to make a few modifications to include two additional full baths and an extra ground floor bedroom.


Michael Raab of J.W. Dunnwright Construction, based in Pensacola, FL, built both homes and served as our General Contractor. The firm has more than 25 years of construction experience and an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. Mike operated from a trailer placed on site and later made his office in the ground floor bedroom of the Seahorse Retreat. Mike was masterful in his ability to work and communicate with us as a homeowner and with the contractors and subs at each step in the building process. He helped us to contain cost overruns, which was especially important given the project began with a financial setback. His efforts allowed us to persevere to the finish. We regard Mike as much a friend for his good company, sense of humor, and in making the building process as easy as possible.

The Landscape

We engaged Tim's brother, Ted Spaid. Ted was named a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2018. He has established one of the largest stand-alone landscape architecture firms in the Midwest, whose offices (see SWT Design), with its multiple green roofs and use of solar panels, is its own living laboratory. Ted is a national leader in environmental design, and we were so fortunate to be able to impose on his talents for the site design that included the planting areas, pool, spa and hard-scape areas.

Tim and Ted both spent college summers working at the Missouri Botanical Gardens together where Ted honed his horticultural expertise. But his overall talents shone through when Ted literally whipped out velum paper on our dining room table and began to sketch out an incredible design.

He designed a hard-scape plan that included patios, walkways, pool, spa, and driveway. The "palm court" between the two homes offers a stunning view of the infinity-edge pool and pool deck with waterfall. He worked through issues of beach access, parking, fencing, irrigation, and planting plan. A significant amount of money was invested in the landscape of the property. Ted never accepted a penny for his expertise but knows he always has a place for his family to vacation.

The Location

One of the many attractions of the Seahorse Retreat & Palm Breeze (owned by our partner's John and Diane Shim) location is not only having several hundred feet of shoreline and direct access to the water, but it is also on a gentle rise and high spot along Highway 98, which offers some protection against storm surge during a hurricane.

Looking back at the property from the dock on the Santa Rosa Sound

Since 2008, guests have commented on several benefits about the location. You have the proximity to venture into Destin (18 miles to the Destin Bridge) without having to contend daily with the traffic. The homes are also only five miles from Navarre Beach. As beautiful as Navarre Beach is, it is not uncommon for there to be rough surf, strong rip tides, or even dangerous marine life that forces people out of the water. The Sound offers natural protection. You can wade 200 feet to the end of the dock and the water still chest high. Parents with children feel the protection and exclusivity of the property affords a more relaxing vacation experience.

A beautiful sunrise from the property on the Santa Rosa Sound


Want to see more?  Here's a tour of the Seahorse Retreat.

Meet The Author
We have been hosting guests since 2003 when we bought our first place on Folly Beach, near Charleston, SC. It was something we kind of fell into. One day our friends mentioned a place they bought on Folly and invited us to stay. We headed there during a cold weekend in February and were wowed by the funky island and the amazing view of the river and marsh. The price was low and we decided to buy one as well and rent it out. We have added two more places in the Florida Panhandle and have not looked back.
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