Bringing ?Style? to 30A

Photo by Kansas B. Pitts
Lynn Nesmith brings ‘Style’ to 30AThis beautiful book explores the homes and hamlets that make 30A a distinctive place
By Zandra Wolfgram

Lynn Nesmith has written the book on style — literally. Her third book, “30A Style: Florida Cottages and Family Homes Along the Gulf” (written under her given name of Eleanor Lynn Nesmith) peeks into the doors of 22 homes along scenic highway 30A in Walton County and explores several New Urbanist towns such as Seaside, WaterColor and Alys Beach — which are the very reasons this area is affectionately referred to as “the design coast.”

Though she grew up on the shores of North Carolina, Nesmith, who fits the model of a quintessential beach-girl with her golden hair, tanned skin and laid-back attitude, has enjoyed a longtime love affair with the Emerald Coast. In 1988 things “turned serious” when Architect magazine assigned her to write a story on Seaside. Once she saw 30A, it was love at first sight. “I thought the Carolina coast was special until I came here,” she says.

Lynn Nesmith at the Bermudan-inspired Deco Moderne Alys Beach home of Maureen and John Fiacco designed by architect Gary Justiss. Photo by Kansas B. PittsLynn Nesmith at the Bermudan-inspired Deco Moderne Alys Beach home of Maureen and John Fiacco designed by architect Gary Justiss. Photo by Kansas B. Pitts

After she moved to Birmingham in 1994 to join Southern Living magazine, where she advanced up to architecture editor, she continued to return to the area often. In 2000, Seaside hired her as a consultant for its 25th anniversary, which drew Nesmith even further into the community. Ready for a career change, she moved to “a little beach house” on 30A in Seagrove the following year. Her freelance writing for prestigious national publications such as Better Homes & Gardens, House Beautiful, Traditional Home and Coastal Living continued, and her public relations clients grew to include projects for The St. Joe Company and Alys Beach, as did her love for the area.

While working with Seaside, Nesmith met internationally-renowned architectural photographer Steven Brooke, who pitched the writer on the idea of authoring her second book, “Seaside Style” in 2004. (Her first book is “Instant Architect.”) “Seaside Style” was produced with the support of a publisher. “I sent it to New York, and nine months later it appeared. I didn’t know how it happened,” she jokes.

With the success of “Seaside Style,” it was just a matter of time before Nesmith would be wooed to write about the “place unlike any other” she now calls home. “For years people said, ‘You need to write a book about 30A,’” she says. When Jean Allsopp, a friend and colleague Nesmith knew from her Southern Progress magazine days, said she was ready to take on a project, Nesmith eagerly launched into what she says was a “fun, two-year collaboration.” With Nesmith’s writing chops for architecture and Allsopp’s artful eye, they were a perfect creative team. Rounding out the publishing group is Keri Atchley with Design 360, who oversaw the design and printing. The result: a beautiful, 192-page hardcover “coffee table” book with more than 230 stunning photos.

With so many beautiful homes on 30A, the task of selecting just two dozen may seem daunting. Not for this editor. She immediately eliminated rental homes and narrowed the list of potentials to local residents. “I knew going into it, every house was going to have real people, who have a real story to tell,” she says. One such person is Lori Hadley, whose great grandparents started Staff’s Restaurant in Fort Walton Beach in 1913. The house that Hadley and her husband, Mark, fondly named The Retreat, is “cradled amid native scrub and dunes overlooking Draper Lake.” In her book, Nesmith writes, “This house possesses elegance and sophistication, yet its appeal lies in an almost unexplainable emotional force.”

Nesmith deliberately featured homes that differ from one another. “I wanted to show the diversity of 30A from its old, funky cottages to its new, upscale homes. I wanted to reflect a mix of architecture and designers,” she explains. Though she doesn’t claim to have a favorite architectural style, Nesmith is drawn to “a home that is contextual, in scale, comfortable. Those intangible aesthetics that make a house feel good.”

“Writing this book reminded me there are so many sides to 30A. Living here, we forget how unique our architecture is and how particular our landscaping is. We give much more attention to detail than most parts of the world. I hope people see this book as a story, not just a collection of 22 houses,” she says.

Since the project was self-funded, Nesmith was hands-on in many aspects. In addition to writing it, she styled each photo herself. And with no budget for flowers, she admits she resorted to snipping clippings from local gardens and even her neighborhood bank. “We asked permission, of course,” she says blushing.

Though she is happily deluged with promotional events, book signings and recruiting book shops and merchants to sell her book, she beams at the thought of a follow up edition. “I think every community should have one of these books,” she says. Hmm. “Emerald Coast Style” does have a ring to it. ec

“30A Style” is available for purchase online at and at Books-A-Million.