A Savannah couple finds the perfect home on Herb River
Kevin Iocovozzi doesn’t just live on the water — he grew up on it.
“When we were boys, my twin brother, Kim, and I used to explore these wild islands before they were developed,” he recalls. “For five bucks, we could get a rowboat, two bologna sandwiches, two Cokes, a cast net and a cooler. We’d catch fish and by the time we got back, our mom was calling us in for dinner. It was a wonderful lifestyle.”
Kevin, who now runs an aviation services company, went from fishing in Savannah’s back creeks and rivers to renovating and living in a 1908 fishing cottage built by German immigrant George Halvorsen.
“Many German families built cottages on the Herb River bluff from the turn of the century until the 1940s, explains Kevin, who calls himself a “history nut.” “They used them as weekend escapes from the heat and humidity of Savannah.”
This cottage stayed in the Halvorsen family from 1908 until 1970, and the second owners kept it more than 40 years. The third owners made smart improvements, in the few years they spent there, before selling to the Iocovozzis in 2016, but don’t expect the house to be changing hands again any time soon. “We’ll be here the rest of our lives,” Kevin says.
Three years ago, Kevin and his wife, also named Kim, were living in a 5,500-square-foot house near the Savannah Yacht Club, where they’d raised their three kids. The time was ripe to either renovate their house or downsize. And then, Hurricane Matthew intervened. Without power, Kevin and some friends went by boat to survey the damage along the Wilmington River and then over to Herb River to check on a mutual friend who lived off Aimar Avenue.
“I knew this bluff was here, but it’s pretty hidden. It’s one of those streets,” he says knowingly. “We walked around the property, and I looked over here to this house and it had been kind of redone. I knew this is what Kim and I wanted. A little house with a view. Two days later I got a call that the owner had gotten a job with General Dynamics in Spain, and he was ready and eager to sell.”
As enthusiastic as Kevin is now, Kim was a little bit of a harder sell. After living in one house for 15 years, the idea of packing and moving from 5,500 square feet into 1,700 wasn’t hugely appealing. But once she saw the house herself, she quickly changed her mind.
“I didn’t think we should pass on it. The view and being on the water drew me to it. The price was right, and I didn’t think we’d ever have the opportunity to buy something like this on the water,” she says. The house was move-in ready, but since they knew they were in it for the long haul, they decided to customize it to their taste.
The couple turned to local interior designer Megan Abernethy to assist with renovating and decorating the house. Abernethy had previously worked as the Iocovozzi’s nanny and was already considered “a member of the family,” so she knew their personalities inside and out.
“I wanted to balance the history of the house with Kevin and Kim’s style while also honoring my instincts,” Abernethy says.
To do that, she incorporated modern elements into this historic cottage, highlighted the couple’s love of local art, and let the natural world inspire the design.
New Meets Old
Upon entering the house through modern Kolbe VistaLuxe aluminum and glass doors, guests receive an uninterrupted view of the river and marsh from a span of doors at the back — a majestic, yet practical Old World building technique that took advantage of cross-breezes when air conditioning did not exist. The front stoop and back porch are both covered with shiplap siding, a nod to the house’s original siding long ago covered with tabby stucco.
In the foyer, a Brutalist plasma-cut brass chandelier highlights the kitchen’s brass fixtures and modern brass lighting above the whopping 108-by-48 inch center Botticino marble island. An antique, lime-washed teak sideboard blends beautifully with the cottage’s original pine floors.
The master bathroom is also a stunning intersection of modernity and history. Rusted tin fleur de lis chandeliers light up a vintage pine chest, which serves as the vanity, and a poured concrete sink and black matte finish mounted sink fixtures offer a contemporary feel. Natural light floods the room tiled with off-white honed limestone, just begging to be walked on, according to Abernethy. “It’s so breezy,” she says.
Each room is punctuated by local artwork collected over decades. According to Kim, their interest in art came from Kevin’s art dealer brother, who has managed a number of shows from Savannah artists, including Marcus Kenney, Mike Williams, Myrtle Jones, Katherine Sandoz, Carolyn Dennard and Troy Wandzel, who painted portraits of the couple’s three children, Emma, Judy and Seve.
Abernethy also made sure Kevin and Kim had a way to display centrally their rotating collection of artwork and items they’re most drawn to, installing Mondrian-inspired built-in shelving in the main living area.
“Our most important pieces are from people we socialize with and who we admire,” Kevin says “Collecting art is kind of a lifestyle, and you hone it down to what you like as an expression of who you are.”
Back to Nature
Abernethy was careful to carry elements from the outdoors in, and vice versa. The rust-colored velvet sofa in the den inspired the planting of bloodgood Japanese maples, known for their red-black bark and brilliant scarlet foliage in the fall, just outside the adjacent window.
On the extended back porch floored with dark gray ceramic slate tile, the couple entertains dinner guests at a dining table that can lower into a coffee table to keep from interrupting the view. Abernethy also designed the ipe deck at a 45-degree angle to the house to mirror the movement of the river and to create more pockets for landscaping.
Guests can’t get any closer to nature than the dock house, renovated primarily to serve as a place for the grown Iocovozzi kids when they visit. With its low-heat fireplace, Kevin speculates it was originally built as a smokehouse. Today, with its bright and breezy shiplapped walls and utilitarian concrete floor, it could just as easily serve as a girls’ getaway cabin. Just as they hoped, this dock overlooking the Herb River is where the couple spends a lot of their time.
“We have our rituals,” Kevin says. “We watch the 6:30 news with our cocktails on the screened-in porch, and we like to have dinner on the dock or have guests stay in our dock house. We’re always down on the dock.”
Kim, a Savannahian by way of Baltimore, takes inventory of their 17-foot whaler, kayaks, paddle boards and even a doggy ramp down on the dock for their dog, Boo. Despite all the bells and whistles, Kim favors the simple pleasure of swimming.
“If there’s a beautiful full moon and high tide,” she says, “there’s nothing better than jumping in that water and swimming around.”
Home owners: Kevin and Kim Iocovozzi
Year built: 1908
Year purchased: 2016
Square footage: 1,700
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Time to complete renovation/remodel: 9 months
Architect/planner: Abigail Powell, Ellsworth Design Build
Interior designer: Meg Abernethy, History Loves Modern
Contractor/builder: Del Anderson
Tile/flooring: Savannah Surfaces and Floor & Decor
Paint: Sherwin-Williams; B&P Painting
Windows/doors: Kolbe Gallery Charleston
Kitchen design: Meg Abernethy
Bath design: Meg Abernethy
Lighting Design: Meg Abernethy
Landscape design: Marc Freidman
Hardscape design: Marc Freidman
Electrician: Rushing Electric
Audio/visual and security system: JP Eyes
Carpenter: Del Anderson
Plumber: Tony Pruitt
Landscaper: Tony Buttimer Landscape Services
HVAC: Witt Air
Furniture: Anthropologie, Article, Clutter, Gus Modern, Habersham Antiques, Lee Industries, Oyster Cay Collection, Picker Joe’s, West Elm
Accessories: Plumbing fixtures from Sandpiper Supply; Lighting from Circa, Rejuvination and West Elm
Art: Local artists Marcus Kenney, Troy Wandzel, Preston Orr, Katherine Sandoz, Zachariah Vincent and Wendy Foster; Kim Iocovozzi Fine Art
*all resources supplied by homeowners