South Walton sees its share of celebrities. For some, it's a one-time look-see, others pass through regularly, and yet others seek a secret hideaway at the beach.
But HGTV's Vern Yip, South Walton's newest celebrity homeowner, wants to become part of the community that locals call home — and he recreated his house in miniature to prove it.
On Nov. 7 when Children's Volunteer Health Network unveiled its 2013 Cottages 4 Kids, one of the five cottages was designed by Yip. Yip's design, christened "Kid Comfort," is a miniature version of his new Rosemary Beach home.
The child's playhouse was donated to CVHN to help local children in need of dental or medical help.
When his builder, Ryan Pfneisel, approached him about designing a cottage, it was an easy "yes" for Yip.
"I am sensitive to the needs kids have," Yip told The Sun. "We have two toddlers and I am an ambassador for UNICEF. I always have a place in my heart for children. I want to give back to kids and be a part of the community. I relished the opportunity."
Yip and his partner are fathers to two young children, Gavin and Vera. Yip says with a laugh that he thought about purchasing the playhouse for the kids, but there is a lack of outdoor space for it in Rosemary and he has no easy way to transport it to his main residence in Atlanta.
Construction began on Yip's actual Rosemary Beach home last year and was completed in 10 months. Since completion, the home has been featured in a HGTV magazine shoot and for an upcoming show on HGTV — so he has yet to sleep in the home he designed.
As for the look of what he calls his “dream home,” the “Design Star” judge said he wanted the house to specifically reflect Rosemary Beach's West Indies/Cape Dutch style.
"I was impressed by Rosemary Beach's Town Hall's clean lines. I had the town hall in mind when I designed my house, and I took the essence of that," he told The Sun. "It is gorgeous and will withstand the test of time. I am not a proponent of trends. Classic is the essence of greatness."
Yip has been a fan of the Rosemary Beach style since its inception.
With an earned master's degree in architecture and a passion for New Urbanism, Yip often made the trek to Seaside in his school days during the spring and fall. He and other interns would ride bikes around the town and marvel at the architectural designs and what made New Urbanism work.
"We heard of a second new urbanism project being built called Rosemary Beach and we went to check it out. There was only a trailer and a model, but I fell in love with the project. We were all interns fresh out of school making $28,000 a year. I remember thinking I would never be able to afford this and collaborated to buy a lot with some other interns. We were basically living on Ramen noodles, but I decided then I would someday have a home in Rosemary Beach. This was maybe '94 or '95 and there was literally nothing there but maybe one swimming pool."
And almost 20 years later, Yip has now seen his dream come to fruition in South Walton.
His love for Rosemary Beach was such that when his son was born, Yip had his birth announcement picture taken on the beach at Rosemary.
"My son Gavin's birth solidified it," says Yip. "The home is a combination of personal and my love for Rosemary Beach. My first time on the property I instantly had an idea of what the plans should be. The house should be narrow and I sketched it out, leaving breathing room on three sides."
While the publicity surrounding the home will make more people aware of Rosemary Beach, Yip is looking forward to settling in outside the spotlight.
"I feel very fortunate and lucky to be at this point in my career and personal life,” he said. "I want to be part of the community, so we may not shoot any more from the house.