For almost 30 years, anyone moving to South Walton has been familiar with the name Sugar Beach Interiors.
The interior design/decorating and furniture store has been a fixture in Miramar Beach for as long as most can recall, and has helped most in the area with decorating, design, art, home accessories, and furniture needs.
Owner Karen Waterfield was a student at Florida State University when she saw a note on the school's bulletin board saying that a design firm at Sandestin was looking for designers. Her parents came down from New Jersey to look at the area with her and thought it was lovely.
"There was not much here then and you could look out on the Gulf from 98 as this was before there were condos in the way," she said.
After graduating in 1980, Waterfield moved here knowing no one.
In 1986, she felt it was time to venture out on her own and opened Sugar Beach Interiors in the building that now houses Brocante on U.S. Highway 98 in Miramar Beach. The store remained in that location until 1990.
Waterfield built the building Sugar Beach Interiors now occupies on U.S. Highway 98, just past Seascape, and is one of the few businesses that can claim the recognition for this length of longevity in this area, surviving hurricanes, oil spills, and floods.
And at 24 years in the same location in the same building, Waterfield experienced flooding at Sugar Beach for the first time after the recent floods the area experienced.
"We had no water damage before, not even during Opal," she said. "I think the retention ponds just had so much water already in them that there was no place for it to go."
However, she only had 1 inch of water in the warehouse on the north side, and the showroom only a tad on the rugs, she said.
But, to dry things out and do some painting, she went ahead and closed for a few days. They have now reopened and business is back to normal.
Sugar Beach Interiors is a residential design firm, and Waterfield said most of her work is on 30A, at WaterColor, WaterSound, Naturewalk, and she does a lot at Sandestin.
"We are a licensed design firm, and it does make a difference," she said. "Would you want your attorney to not be licensed? We do construction, remodeling, and help clients who are doing construction. We help them hire a contractor."
As for what is in and what is not, Waterfield said, "Styles change every year to two years like a fashion industry."
Right now, she is primarily seeing lots of watercolors such as light grays, soft blues, soft aquas, oranges, yellows, and a little lavender.
What's out is gold, brown, russet, and all dark colors.
Lighter woods are in, which are coming from over seas, such as acacia wood, and bamboo.
No dark woods such as cherry or mahogany are being used.
One thing that's different in her business today from the early days, she said, is the use of the internet.
"People still want to come in to a real store and see furniture and accessories firsthand and sit on them, but they bring pictures in that they printed off the internet of what they like," she said. "I see they are watching too much HGTV and think things can be produced instantaneously. It doesn't happen overnight. Extreme House makeover is not realistic. A five-day makeover does not produce quality. It's a progression."
As more people from all walks of life discover our paradise, Waterfield declines to comment on who they might be.
"I have worked with some famous people, but the famous people who come here don't want it known they are here. A lot of people know where we are now and find us. But they don't want stalkers," she said.
Visit Sugar Beach Interiors at 11974 U.S. Highway 98W in Miramar Beach.
For more information call 837-5157.