By Laura McAlister
Most anyone who’s traveled Northwest Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A knows there’s just something unique about the area, and it goes beyond the beautiful sugar-white beaches. It’s also the communities and the people and their homes.
The distinctive style of those 30A communities and homes has been captured in a new coffee table book, “30A Style,” written by Lynn Nesmith with photography by Jean Allsopp.
The two met years ago while working for Southern Living and had always wanted to work together on a book. Lynn was the magazine’s architectural editor, and Jean was a photographer for Southern Living as well as Coastal Living.
Their work with the magazines took them to many of the fabulous homes of 30A and eventually led them to create the book published by design360, llc., earlier this year.
“I moved from Birmingham to here in 2001 to consult with Seaside for its 20th anniversary, and I just loved the area so much I wrote a book, ‘Seaside Style,’ that came out in 2005,” Lynn said. “In the last five years, I’ve had so many people saying, ‘We love Seaside, but why not a book on Seagrove or Grayton or Rosemary?’
“I just thought 30A has really become a cohesive community, and that a book on 30A would be good.”
Jean was quick to join in on the project, even though it would mean frequent trips to the coast for the Homewood resident and freelance photographer.
The book took almost two years to complete. Its 192 pages feature 22 homes from the 30A communities of Grayton Beach, Seagrove, Seaside, Rosemary Beach, WaterColor, WaterSound Beach, Coastal Dunes Lakes and Alys Beach.
After a brief introduction to Scenic Highway 30A, the book takes readers through the homes in chronological order of the communities, starting with Grayton Beach, the oldest community on the approximately 20-mile stretch of highway.
The pair had lots of knowledge of homes in those communities from their work with Southern Living, and also because Lynn’s home is in Seagrove and her office is in Seaside. But, Jean said, it was still hard to narrow down the selections. In the end, she said, the homes are a good representation of the communities.
“We didn’t want it to be all over-the-top decorated and real high-end,” she said. “I think that’s what’s good about the book. It’s got lots of different kinds of home. It’s a good mix of bungalows and upscale houses.”
From large beach mansions to cozy cottages, the book has a variety of home styles as well as owners. Lynn said about 70 percent of the homes featured are permanent residences, and 30 percent are vacation homes.
While Jean took care of photographing the houses both inside and out, Lynn wrote the stories behind the homes and their owners, as well as an introduction to each of the communities featured.
“I heard some great anecdotal stories,” Lynn said. “It was fun getting to hear people tell their stories. Like one house, the couple bought the land 20 years ago and just held on to it.
“Another I thought was funny, they have a daughter who just graduated from college, who is now working and living in their (Alys Beach) house. We’ve just met a lot of really great people, and it’s been really rewarding.”
The book has gone over so well that it’s already in its second printing after just being released in March.
Lynn, though, isn’t surprised by people’s attraction to the beautiful 30A communities and the homes there.
“I found this area later in life,” she said. “I grew up in North Carolina going to North Carolina beaches. I wrote a story for Southern Living once that started with something like how I didn’t think there was anything finer than North Carolina beaches.
“Then I came to 30A. It’s not just the beaches. It’s the whole community. It’s small towns, but a sophisticated community. I plan to stay here.”