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A Timeless 30A Retreat: Creating An Unmatched Legacy Home

Simply Unmatched  |  171 W. Bermuda Drive in the Retreat

Witness the Creative Vision Behind This Legacy Coastal Residence Along Florida’s Gulf Coast

A renowned group of well-established talent joined to collaborate on the design and build of a timeless legacy residence at 171 W. Bermuda Drive in the quiet and ultra-private gated community of The Retreat along Northwest Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A corridor. Architect Matthew Savoie, builder Buster Woodruff, and interior designer Georgia Carlee came together with the property owners to create a dream team and bring to life a truly unmatched legacy residence.

Matthew C. Savoie, founder and president of Savoie Architects, P.A., holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Louisiana State University. He is licensed in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana and has been in the architectural field since 1992. As a native of south Louisiana, he was exposed to the richness of architecture that is a large part of the state’s heritage. With knowledge derived from experience, Matthew provides the highest level of service, from initial design through construction.

Michael “Buster” Woodruff has been in the construction business and building homes along Scenic 30A for over 40 years. He brings with him an unmatched level of experience and knowledge. Known for his expert craftsmanship and attention to detail, Buster maintains a hands-on approach to each of his projects. He enjoys working one-on-one with homeowners to bring dream homes to life.

A nationally recognized ASID interior designer, Georgia Carlee founded GCI Design in 2002. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Interior Design from the University of Alabama and a background in commercial design. As the head of a high-end, residential, full-service design firm, Georgia enjoys the challenge of working on complete renovation projects and new construction while carefully incorporating the client’s personal lifestyle to create unique interiors that are reflective of the client’s sensibilities.

How did you discover 30A? Tell us about your first visit to 30A?

MATTHEW SAVOIE: It was summer of 1992, I had an interview with, and ultimately accepted a job with, an architecture firm in Panama City Beach. A member in the firm recommended that I drive 30A on my way back to Sandestin where I was staying. I did. At that time there was far less development and almost nothing but tall scrub beachside of road between the east end of 30A to Seagrove. The only TND (traditional neighborhood development) at that time was Seaside, and it was pretty much vacant in the offseason. The natural beauty, with glimpses of the Gulf and coastal dune lakes, was amazing.

BUSTER WOODRUFF: I moved down here in 1975 from North Carolina. Back then, 30A had just a few stop signs and
no traffic lights. However, land was readily available, and people were building. In 1980, I got my contractor’s license and went to work. I learned all aspects of construction — from small to big jobs, start to finish. I’ve been fortunate to love what I do and be able to do it by the beach.

GEORGIA CARLEE: I moved to 30A in 1998, and I have had the unique opportunity to watch the area grow and expand. I absolutely love the various architectural styles and different communities that are charming and conducive to spending quality time with family.


Each of you has a broad background in designing and building along all of the areas of Scenic 30A. Tell us about your experiences in the community of The Retreat and why The Retreat presents such a special and unique location for designing and building a luxury legacy residence.

MATTHEW SAVOIE: It’s a one-of-a-kind location with Gulf beachfront and coastal dune lake access, as well as natural buffers that create an ideally isolated setting.

BUSTER WOODRUFF: The Retreat is such a premiere neighborhood because it provides great privacy to homeowners, along with being a Gulf-front community that also borders a coastal dune lake. What really makes this location stand out, however, is that it also sits on one of the highest elevations along 30A. That allows for prime vantage viewpoints throughout the community.

GEORGIA CARLEE: I have had the pleasure to be involved in designing numerous homes in The Retreat. It is
a special place because it is private and captures the views of the natural dune lakes — all while providing direct beach access and the most amazing sunlight throughout the day and sunsets in the evening. The quality of the residences in The Retreat are legacy homes that hold special meaning for each client. I have had the opportunity to work with the most amazing people who have trusted me to ensure their dreams become a reality.


What were the original visionary elements and features that you wanted to bring to life in this project? What are the unique highlights of this exceptional residence at 171 W. Bermuda Drive?

MATTHEW SAVOIE: The challenge is always to understand the owners’ goals and the limitations present, whether those be site, community design code, etc., and to try and balance those while creating a pleasing design that is worthy of its location. It was a design goal to incorporate traditional design elements with more contemporary influences that are popular today, such as the floor-to-ceiling glass in the southwest corner of the home.
It can sometime be a challenge, but with
a builder like Buster and the talents of an interior designer like Georgia, I knew that the end result would be exceptional.

BUSTER WOODRUFF: The owner really wanted to build a home to host the entire family, with one floor dedicated
to a recreational space for children and grandchildren. This homesite was ideal to do a four-story home that allows for that additional living space. This homesite also sits overlooking the coastal dune lake and the Gulf. The house was designed to capitalize on the position on which it
sits and capture those spectacular views.

GEORGIA CARLEE: My clients had a clear, uncompromising vision for the direction and style of this home. They have extraordinary taste and knew they wanted to capitalize on the scale of the general living spaces in the main living area and the views beyond. Their discerning eye for quality materials, clean lines and restrained details directed each decision that was made. It is because of their involvement and appreciation for fine materials and fixtures that this residence is truly unique.


This home sits on a particularly special and rare homesite, overlooking a coastal dune lake and the Gulf. How did each of you focus the architectural, interior and exterior design processes to capitalize on the exquisite view corridors?

MATTHEW SAVOIE: The setting and location provided the opportunity for capturing the views across the lake to the Gulf and shoreline as well as the sunset. Being able to see all of these from most any room in the home was the main goal for me.

BUSTER WOODRUFF: The entire south side of the home features over 3,000 square feet of expansive decks and covered porches to entertain and enjoy the outdoor space as a living space, all while continuously showcasing the incredible view.

GEORGIA CARLEE: Matthew Savoie achieved the views, I just had the opportunity to let them speak for themselves. By using restraint with the materials and finishes, the views remained the focal point and did not compete with the design
of the interiors.


What tidbits do you have to share with the future owners of the 171 W. Bermuda Drive?

MATTHEW SAVOIE: I hope that you enjoy your new home.

BUSTER WOODRUFF: This home is a fortified concrete structure, so the basement is essentially a storm shelter. This residence is meant to entertain the whole family, a place for everyone to come together to relax and feel at ease.

GEORGIA CARLEE: This home is built extremely well and is solid construction. Buster Woodruff is truly a builder who has the knowledge and capability to meet and exceed the construction codes in this industry. If I were speaking to the future owners, I would let them know the time and careful consideration that was incorporated into every detail of this home. It is rare.

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Written by Erin Oden
Erin Oden is the principal
broker and owner of COASTAL LUXURY, a real estate firm that maintains a strong emphasis on intimate market knowledge and expertise in the luxury and Gulf-front market. Erin can be reached at 850.502.1220 or Or

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