Guest My Nest: Mess Hall- Tybee Island, Georgia

Every once in a while, Kev and I will get a wild hair and run off to some little place we hope will be big on inspiration.

It usually starts with a cabin fever-ish sorta feeling, and quickly leads to a slew of Google searches for “cottages for rent in Alabama, Georgia, Florida or Tennessee”.
(We’ve never been able to ju$tify going away for more than a couple of days, so the place has to be close to home. Plus, I’m not a real big fan of flying. I’ll take seven hours in our little, red car over two hours at 40,000 feet any day!)

Sometime last year, one of our late night Google “search-o-ramas” introduced us to a beach town called Tybee Island, located just off the coast of Georgia, near Savannah.

We visited for the first time this past March, and it had us at hello.

Bikes are the preferred method of transportation, and flip flops come in a close second.
Quirky, fishermans cottages dot each & every street and giant, old trees stand dripping with curly clumps of Spanish moss.
In the morning, you can witness the Sun rise up over the ocean on one side of the island- and at night, you can watch it slide down behind the low country marsh on the other.

It’s a real “go with the (ebb and) flow” kinda place.


One of cottages that really makes us feel inspired/welcome/happy/relaxed on Tybee is it’s enchanted, old Mess Hall.

We had the pleasure of re-decorating it with it’s new owner (Pam) recently, and what a thrill it was to be able to hang out there every day, for a week and a half!

Three of Pam’s four sisters came down and visited with us one day while we were there.

As you can see, they’re a gorgeous bunch, but the way they interacted with each other was absolutely magnificent!

They held each others hands, and kissed each others faces.
They spoke with graceful, Southern accents and all seemed so patient and kind.

At one point, Pam lovingly referred to one of her younger sisters as “Baby” and I got the goosebumps!


I felt like I had been transported straight into a scene from a movie like Steel Tomatoes…I mean, Fried Green Magnolias….oh- you know what I mean!

I’m sure Pam and her family will share many wonderful vacations/holidays together at the Mess Hall, and we look forward to making a trip back there to soak up some of it’s wonderful energy every now and then too.

It’s a magical place, and it was an honor to walk and work within its 80-something year old walls!

Here are some photos we took the last day we were there…

And here’s a little video we put together too…

Thanks for inviting us to Guest your Nest, Pam!
We’ll never forget it!

PS- For more information on the Mess Hall, visit

And if you’re searching for food & fun on Tybee- here’s a list of some of our favs!

AJ’s Dockside Restaurant, 1315 Chatham Avenue, ☎ (912) 786-9533. 11AM – 10PM. Great neighborhood setting on the back river. Serves seafood outside on a dock which is the setting for some spectacular sunsets.

The Crab Shack, 40 Estill Hammock Road, ☎ 866-789-2722. Laid back seafood restaurant with extravagant decorations and a super-fun nighttime atmosphere. Be sure to buy some gator food to feed the live alligators!

Sundae Cafe, 304 1st Street (at the corner of Hwy 80 & Jones Avenue), ☎ 912-786-7694. Fine dining featuring both traditional southern dishes and seafood. They seafood lasagna is to die for!

Fannies on the Beach, 1613 Strand Ave, ☎ (912) 786-6109. Large restaurant with full bar overlooking the beach; has an open-air dining area on the second floor (only open during peak season). Ask to sit in the boat if you have young kids who want to steer a ship while enjoying a meal.

Stingrays, 1403 Butler Avenue, ☎ (912) 786-0209
For a super laid back meal (paper plates and all!), check out Stingrays on Butler. Kev and I spent many a night sitting on their outdoor patio, listening to live music under the stars.

Cafe Loco, 1 E Hwy 80, ☎ (912) 786-7810
Hear the seagulls call and the voices of fishermen and shrimpers as they unload the days catch. Watch the sun set over miles of coastal wetlands sinking behind the bridge that crosses Lazaretto Creek and connects Tybee Island with one of the most fabulous scenic areas in all of Georgia.

Tybee Island Light Station, ☎ (912) 786-5801. 9AM – 5:30PM, Closed Tuesdays. Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse, includes a complex of historic support buildings and 187 steps to the top! $7 Adults, $5 Children and Seniors.

Tybee Island Marine Science Center, 1510 Strand Avenue (Directly in front of the Tybee pier and pavilion), ☎ (912) 786-5917. 10AM – 5PM. Part science center and part aquarium, featuring touch tanks and many kid friendly exhibits. $4 Adults, $3 Children.

Tybee Island Museum at Fort Screven’s Battery Garland (directly across from the Tybee Island Light Station). Located inside a coastal defense fort first used during the Spanish American War, this museum outlines the the history of Tybee Island as an integral part of America’s coastal defense system. Don’t miss the WWII submarine periscope located just inside the entrance.


Up next-

A “Before and After” look at all the decoratin’ we did with Pam at the Mess Hall!


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  1. says

    WOW, you guys are amazing and have worked your magic once again. Thank you for sharing you talents and giving me hope that one day my old little house could look OK too. Just LOVE all that you do.
    P.S. Layla, I am with you on the flying too – I am most happiest travelling by car as well…

    • Layla & Kevin says

      Thank you Janelle!
      Your comments are always so thoughtful and kind.
      I appreciate every word, and am glad I’m not the only scaredy cat when it comes to flying! :-)


  2. kelly says

    Absolutely beautiful – the sisters and the cottage! The colors make it look like a soothing place to restore your soul. Maybe they can adopt me…

  3. says

    L-O-V-E all the changes! It’s like you were staying on the sun! All that natural light was just pouring into the rooms. Your charming touches are JUST what the Mess Hall needed! I hope it knows how special it is to have been loved by Layla. :)

  4. says

    When I heard you guys were going to be redecorating the Mess Hall my heart sank…. Not because I don’t love the way you decorate (because I do… I Love the way you decorate) but because the mess hall was the first place my wife and I ever stayed on tybee… It was where we had our honeymoon! BUT… i am so happy to report that I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way you have redecorated the mess hall and we can’t wait to stay there again… we think of the mess hall (and tybee) as our happy place and kind of like our second home!

    • Layla & Kevin says

      I’m so glad you like it Rob!
      We pretty much worked with things Pam already had, and went with colors and fabrics that made her heart sing.
      It was such a fun project, and I’m SO glad you want to go back and stay again. That makes me feel incredibly happy! :-)


  5. says


    What a charming cottage by the sea you have created. One that soothes the soul and restores the spirit. The bedroom is beautiful. I adore the bed — headboard and bedding. I have no doubt the sisters were pleased that you gave The Mess Hall some TLC.

    Your Friend,

    • Layla & Kevin says

      There you go again, Deborah. Makin’ us feel like a million bucks!
      Thank you, friend. We appreciate your comments so much!


    • says

      I see you, Deb, you web-sneaky girl…

      Layla, your (and your hubs) sweet touch is like new life for a place. Pretty work, sweet workers – much to admire!

      I love that you mentioned the interaction of the family – one thing my husband and I vowed was we were going to be kind to each other as a family, and speak affectionately of each other and of our children, so they could hear. Sometimes, affection is inspired by practice. It’s worth it!

  6. says

    Oh what a special place, it just oozes out of this post! I went to the beach yesterday- briefly- and oh boy, I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it! I took some pics as the sun was setting. I really love everything about the beach. I would love to visit Tybee someday…but I don’t like to fly either and it’s an awful long wayyyyyyy from me…. ;-)

  7. says

    This place looks just too good to be true. You two did such a fabulous job!
    I know what you mean about flying. I’ve developed a healthy fear in the last couple years. And now I will take a road trip over a flight any day of the week!!!!
    Now if only I lived closer to these little east coast cottages!!!!

  8. says

    It looks great! I love the light, bright seaside colors you used. I always look forward to what you are designing/redoing next! Especially projects on a budget. :) Thanks!

  9. Nichole Johnson says

    Beautiful~Peaceful~Home..ful darn couldn’t think of another “ful”. Love it and now I want to visit!

  10. Sandra says

    What a beautiful place – you are so blessed to have such wonderful destinations so close to home! Yes, I know I live in a beautiful part of North America as well (west coast of BC, Canada), but there is something about Tybee Island that speaks to my inner beach-maven. I’d fear that I’d never want to leave if I were to set foot there, and doubly so if I were to visit a place decorated on the Island by The Lettered Cottage.

    Well done, you two, well done!

  11. says

    Wow, I LOVE the brown floral pillow on the white wicker chair. Where did you find it? It’s fabulous!
    And the vid was sweet. Crush is one of my all time favorite songs….who’da thunk it would mesh so nicely with a home dec vid? :) Amazing work, as always, guys.

  12. says

    I love love love the work that the 2 of you do! Ever since I’ve seen some of the work you’ve done on Tybee… I’ve wanted to visit. Not to mention, that video from your boat ride to “Sliver Island”. To die for. I grew up on a lake in northern Michigan and just want to visit water towns all over the country. I can’t get enough water, sea, etc.

    I even believe I almost have my husband convinced to go on a trip to Tybee. That is a large feat considering he’s a pilot and doesn’t love to travel on his days off. I hope to visit Tybee and soak up some positive energy that you speak of… can’t wait. :) I also hope to maybe stay at the Screened Inn or the Mess Hall. Love them both.

  13. says

    Love what you’ve achieved and what a fabulous video took my breath away track that’s playing too
    WONDEFFUL……Love it all x

  14. says

    Love your introducing me to a place I would never have heard of otherwise.
    Hope I can get there one day.
    Such a great post.Thanks
    I x

  15. says

    What a lovely retreat. Memories in the making, I tell ye!
    Oh guys I was wondering. Is is intentional that the pictures in your post don’t show up in google reader anymore? Not that I mind coming over to your great new home here, but well heck I don’t always have the time for a leisurely visit but still want to know what you guys are up to.

    • Layla & Kevin says

      Hmmmm….I’ll have to check with our blog designer when she gets back in 2 weeks.
      Thanks for the heads up!


  16. says

    Hey Layla and Kevin,

    I was just wondering, if you don’t mind sharing, where you got the bedding for the first bedroom you featured? I have been looking for a duvet or comforter with the reds, greens, and blues for sometime now, and just haven’t found one I am crazy about. But, this one is gorgeous! As is the whole mess hall. You two did a wonderful job! I love it!!


  17. Denise says

    No one does Southern Coastal like Layla and Kevin. Your simplicity and special touches make for great flow ~ just like a gentle tide. Can’t wait to see the wicker chair makeover details. Love the pillow!

  18. Heather Richter says

    Being a military spouse…I’m a little partial to showing the history of the place. I love that you put up the old Army ads. Cute! I’m hoping we get stationed near there soon to check it out. So inviting. Great job, Layla. Never figured any less, though. ;)

  19. Beverly says

    I’ve been looking forward to this post and was not disappointed! It’s absolutely beautiful, charming, and in TLC sytle. I LOVE all the colors and the clean freshness that surrounds every room. Hats off to you again! I can’t wait for the before and afters.

  20. Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. says

    So lovely and charming! I need to watch the video again just to take in all the details. Just perfect!

  21. says

    I am absolutely in love with this transformation! I just finished showing my hubby the photos from this post and saying, “THIS is the feel I’m going for at the house in Sta. Rosa” and I think for the first time, he GOT it :) His family built a cottage in the Calamuchita Valley close to 50 years ago. We’re the only ones here now so we’ve begun the long process of fixing it up after many years of neglect (none of the family lived in Argentina for over 20 years and the caretakers didn’t have the time nor resources to do what needed to be done). The cottage is two hours from where we live and we don’t have the opportunity to get out there very often but we do go whenever we get the chance. There’s SO much to be done that I admit it’s sometimes overwhelming but it’s also a labor of love. We just finished painting the kitchen cupboards and doing some tiling, and I am SOOOOO anxious to get back and paint the walls in the main living area :) But that will have to wait until next year because we leave in a few weeks for a trip to the states (our daughter is getting married in December).

    Anyway, just wanted you to know that I greatly appreciate you sharing your work at the Men’s Mess Hall, complete with inspirational photos and explanations of “how to” achieve it.

  22. says

    Wow! we visited Tybee this summer and viewing this place makes me want to go back! you both seem to work so well together, and do amazing interior design. check out my blog
    I’m in Atlanta, so not too far if you ever see anything on my blog you want, I can meet you half way!

  23. says

    Hi Layla & Kevin!
    You guys are awesome…I love what you did with the Mess Hall. Tybee Island is one of my favorite places, although I haven’t been there in sometime – after seeing this cottage and the video I’ve gotta make some travel plans…SOON!
    Great Great Great job…loved every little detail!!
    You guys rock!!
    Tammy :-)

  24. Kim says

    Wow! Everything looks beautiful (as usual) you guys are amazing. Love everything you did. Wondering where you got the brown throw pillow on the wicker chair. Love it. Great job!

  25. says

    Gorgeous. So light and airy. A place that would certainly soothe the soul. Now, if I can just find it in my schedule and budget to make a trip there. I have always wanted to visit Tybee Island and you just make it worse and worse.

  26. April in CT says

    This is just amazing, absolutely amazing. You make me want to stay and never leave! This is giving me such inspiration for changes around our house, I am falling more and more in love with this look. You two are so beyond talented and I’m always in awe of your work.

  27. says

    Layla… it’s gorgeous. All of it. I. WANT. TO. GO. THERE! :-)

    I’ve always loved how you put the bedding together in the rooms you design. I have tried and tried to get the bedding right in our house and just can’t do it. How do you find mismatched pieces and make them fit so well together? I would love to see a post on this some day. (you’re probably laughing right now because this all seems so obvious to you. I admit. I am decorationally challenged. Sad. But true).

    • Layla & Kevin says

      Hey Naomi!

      First, THANK YOU! :-)
      Second, what a great idea for a blog post!
      I would definitely enjoy writing about that…thanks for the idea!

      Layla :-)

  28. says

    I can’t figure out which I love more… the vintage table cloth or the adorable painted desk! I love your choice in bed linens too. Actually, I just love everything about this place! Fantastic job :)

  29. says

    Loved everything about this do-over. You two did a fantastic job with space, color and capturing everything magical about a beach retreat. Bravo!

  30. Cortney Lovelace says

    My fiance and I are staying in Savannah for our honeymoon and after all your talk about Tybee, we are going to make a day of visiting the island. Can’t wait! I appreciated the list of local resturants, etc. I’ll save those for when we got down!

  31. says

    I love what you did with this cottage. What an honor it must have been to decorate such a historical place. I absolutely L.O.V.E. Tybee Island. I’m a born and raised Georgia girl, but live in Virginia now. I’m seriously thinking of moving to Tybee after my youngest graduates from high school here. We were there in August (Lord it was HOT) and I fell in love with it all over again. Seeing your pictures just pulls me back there.

  32. says

    I absolutely adore what you’ve done with the mess hall. Everytime I see the way you transform a space, I am always so floored by your talent. You have so much talent, and such an amazing eye for detail. I just want you to know that you are (quite honestly) a source of constant inspiration to me.

    Thanks to both of you for chronicling all your decorating adventures!! I look forward to each and every one!

  33. says

    You are incredible~! There is so much sunshine in each of those room. All the whites and clean colors were perfect! I would love to stay there! I can’t believe you can do that by simply using/reworking a lot of their previous things. Do you find one inspirational item and base everything off of that? Or how do you start?

    • Layla & Kevin says

      And now there is so much sunshine in our comments section!
      Thank you (and everyone here!) for saying such sweet things about the Mess Hall!

      PS-You’ve inspired me to write a post about how we approach the re-do process. Thanks for the idea!

  34. says

    You two are fabulous! I love small Islands with super cute cottages too! We live in Sarasota, Florida so we have Boca Grande & Fort Myers & Sanibel… you should try those places if you like quaint beaches! Or you could just come by and visit Siesta Key (our beach) if you like ;)

    Love the new blog girl!

  35. KK says

    It’s awesome but no surprise there! Looking forward to the next addition of your e-zine. Update on Max? I’m sure I’m not alone in worrying about your little guy. Hope all is well.

  36. says

    So pretty with a fresh vintage feel! I love the bedroom with the panel door headboard. Cute idea. Great color scheme too.

    If you are looking for places to rent again one day have you ever checked out We use it here in Colorado all the time and I know they have listings nationwide. It’s a great way to bypass the management companies and rent directly from home/condo owners. We have pets and it is a great resource to find a place for rent where pups are welcome too.

  37. says

    Oh my word. What I wouldn’t give to have you come and “GMN” at my home! You both have a true gift, and I look forward to each and every post you publish to see the fun and creative ways you decorate. If you are ever interested in “wee roadtrip” up to Huntington Indiana let me know! (:

  38. Dori says

    You guys never fail to make my day brighter. I appreciate you sharing your creative gifts! You’re the best!

  39. Susann says

    hey, looks great. i always enjoy watching the videos. but this one won’t run for me. i am from outside the US. when i want to start the video, there comes a message saying that since this video has sony content, it is not allowed to play in my country. :(
    i hope that won’t happen to all of your videos from now on…

  40. says

    Layla & Kevin,

    You guys are amazing—I love the Mess Hall and the other cottages you’ve transformed. I wish you had a book of photos of before and after that I could buy and refer to…you guys come up with such amazing ideas.

    Was Tybee Island a military installment at one time? Was the song on the video Kevin’s band?

  41. says

    So beautiful! It just looks so peaceful and calm, a great place to spend a vacation. You two always amaze me. Just when I thought I have seen it all, you do something even more fabulous!!

    If you like Tybee Island and its relaxed feel, you should visit Nantucket! It is quaint and laid back like that and intertwined with history. Bikes are ridden all over the island as well. And, you don’t have to fly, you can take the ferry over there! :)

    • says

      Is that Kevin’s music in the background? Don’t usually like the current stuff but the enunciation was so good I could ACTUALLY HEAR THE WORDS! Great song. Love the work on the Mess Hall; Goldilocks would be happy because it is “just right!”

      Suzanne on St. Simons

  42. says

    I love the changes you made to The Mess Hall. It’s gorgeous and so full of CHARM! I’ve been following along with the transformation and I just adore what you guys did. Thanks for sharing such great ideas with us all. I myself, am a fan of old things, so everytime you repurpose, repaint and reclaim it’s so fun to see the transformation.

    Beautiful work!

  43. says

    Howdy Layla! Well, you guys did it again, but unlike Brittanie Spears, your again didn’t have an oops in it! :) I LOVE the feel of the place…not just any one thing, but the whole feel of it. I imagine the sisters were simply thrilled at everything you guys did for them. Looking at this post makes me want to go stick my toes in the sand somewhere! (and go decorate something too) Love everything!
    Have a GREAT week, and I’m so glad Max is ok!

    • Layla & Kevin says

      Love me some Britney!! LOL!

      And thanks for asking about my Maximus…he’s doing a lot better. Whew!

      Layla :-)

  44. says

    Beautiful job once again. Reminds me of Nantucket. Would love for you to go there and redo a room in one of my favorite B&B’s. But that would probably require you to get on a plane, Layla. You could drive, though.

  45. Kellie says

    I LOVE Tybee! It’s one of my favorite places to be, such a quaint and quiet beach town! Love what you did with the mess hall! Everything looks fantastic!

  46. geri says

    Hi Layla & Kevin.
    My nest would jump for joy if you were ever my guest.
    Boy could my cute house use some “Layla & Kevin Magic”. I could surely
    keep you guys busy and quite pooped. hehe
    I show my friends your blog and sing your praises everytime
    they like something I have done.
    After seeing your beautiful redo’s they kinda get my “beachy”
    white/blue fasination. yea and thank you.
    love your new blog format & all the fun and joy that comes with it.
    Have a restful weekend after the beautiful job you did at the Mess Hall. geri.

  47. Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. says

    Love it so much, I had to come back for another look! … Yup, still fabulous!

  48. Larissa says

    The place looks great and so much more cohesive than before! Great job!

    I’m with you on the flying. I’m in my mid twenties and recently had to fly by myself for the first time and was a total baby about it!

    • Layla & Kevin says

      Oh my goodness Larissa! I would have bawled like a baby if I had to fly by myself!
      You’re so brave! :-)


  49. says

    Layla and Kevin, you guys did an awesome job again. The mess hall looks amazing!!! I love both of the headboards that you used. I need a new headboard for my guest room and these gave me some good ideas. The old suitcases by the bed make the most adorable nightstand. I have never been to Tybee, but would love to go down and stay in one of the cute cottages. I just got back from the beach in NC this past weekend. I had a fun time with my own sister and girl cousins. Love me some “girl time”. Enjoyed the video. Love & blessings from NC!

  50. Lili says

    Hats off to you both. Ya did it again. The color flow is perfect, you guys have created a BEaUtiful place for people to enjoy. Thanks a bunch.

  51. Ginger says

    Love what youve done with the place! I love to come to your site and just stare at the pictures of the beautiful, airy, uncluttered rooms. :) My dream is to have a house like that one day, but I dont think it will ever happen.. I seem to be a packrat LOL
    and I always wonder.. where do people that live in such nice houses put all their paper stuff?? bills/notes/kids schoolwork… the day to day junk.

    oh.. on a side note.. did you guys ever pick a scentsy winner? I didnt see it and was just wondering :)

  52. says

    Haven’t been here in a while. LOVE what you guys have done with the blog.

    The mess hall looks fabulous, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from you guys. Fantastic job!

    Y’all sure are spending a lot of time in Savannah these days. Can I expect y’all to move on over to my old stompin grounds and setting up TheLetteredBeachCottage?

  53. says

    You two constantly leave me speechless. Seriously speechless. I love everything you create and move and recover and hang and paint and design. It always ends up in complete perfection. Sigh…..! I sure wish you could come and do a little magic here at Heaven’s Walk….. :)

    Looking forward to seeing your next redo!

    xoxo laurie

  54. Megan says

    Hey Y’all! I absolutely adore your entire website and you give such a great perspective on decorating and keeping things fabulously beautiful and homey! =) OH and you are the reason my fiancee’ and I are going to Tybee Island for our honeymoon next month! We are SOOOOOOO excited!!!!!!

    Love the new site by the way!!!! =D

  55. Bethany says

    Wow! I have just recently found your blog…your work is AMAZING! So wishing that you could make the short trip to our house to help…We live in Montgomery :) I, too, seem challenged when it comes to the bedding. Especially in our little boy’s rooms…

  56. Lida E. says

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Tybee Island. My family lives nearby – just south of Savannah. We’ve had weddings, reunions, and artist’s retreats there. Your style DEFINITELY fits in, your pictures feel just like lots of the cottages on the island.

    Also, next time you’re there, try the Sugar Shack for an icecream cone, and try to find all of the painted turtles on the island!

    • Lida E. says

      Also, just to mention, have you met/heard of/worked with Jane Coslick? She’s done most of the cottages my family visits. Love her style, and yours too!

      • Layla & Kevin says

        Yes! LOVE me some Janie Lane! (That’s what I call her) :-) We’re dear friends, and I miss her so much! She may come to Alabama to go junkin with me- just gotta talk her into making the 7 hour drive!


  57. kristy says

    WOW – TYBEE TIME! I just happened to come across your blog 2 days ago and I LOVE it! Tybee is where my hubby and I married – Great place, blog!

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