By Liesel Schmidt
Though a quick rise to fame at the top of the pop charts has a tendency of sending many newly shining stars on a spending spree in search of the perfect pad for living the high life, when Britney Spears banked her first bucks after the release of “(Hit Me) Baby One More Time” during the last gasp of the nineties, she did something quite unexpected, forgoing impressive ostentatiousness for something simple on the beach. It wasn’t so much size or luxury that topped Britney’s chart, but something much more down to Earth—it had to be private and homey, somewhere to escape from the mad frenzy of fame and share time with her family. “It was important to her that, wherever it was, it would be elegant without sacrificing coziness, because we want our family and friends to feel comfortable and relaxed when they spend time here with us in Destin,” explains Britney’s mom Lynne, who was tasked with finding an investment property and seaside sanctuary while her daughter was on tour. “This place really hits the mark for that, and the moment we step out of the hustle and hurry of everyday life to come back here, we feel peace, inspiration and tranquility all around us. It’s become our perfect escape,” she says. An escape that all of them have come to crave, as their lives are increasingly busy maintaining the successful music careers not only of Britney, but also of her younger sister Jamie Lynn.
Having originally been built in 1983, the condo was somewhat dated; so, when Britney purchased the 3,500 square foot condo in 2001, there were some changes to be made, as the décor was not quite in line with her vision—though the view most certainly was. It was the view, in fact, that really sold her on the condo, a million-dollar unobstructed sightline of the Gulf from the massive windows that stretch from floor to ceiling. “This area has always been one that Britney loves, having spent so many sum,mers here with her cousin when she was a child; and being able to look out at those beautiful beaches and share it with her family was really a dream for her,” Lynne goes on. A dream within a dream, one might say…
Letting the view claim the spotlight, the rest of the décor is quite understated, “Beach Shabby Chic,” as Lynne terms its aesthetic. Playing up the coastal theme, a serene spectrum of muted greens and blues offer subtle hints of color amongst the neutrality of light beiges and sand. “This is our Beach Serenity,” Lynne explains of the open, airy and light-filled condo that has been their vacation haven, “and it’s a place that feels welcoming.”
“Welcoming” could be a word applied to the Spears family itself—a tightly-knit group of siblings and their children, all under the wing of their Mama Lynne. They love to gather and entertain; and over the past 16 years, the Destin condo has provided the perfect place for both. “Looking back over the years, the time we’ve spent here with our family and friends has been some of our best, sweetest memories.”
And there are many memories to recount, as the abundance of family photos scattered throughout the condo can easily attest. They are a timeline of life, of growing and learning, of days and nights cherished and shared. Not of a pop-culture icon and a need for self-aggrandizement, but of real life and a family much like any other who comes from small town roots. The condo is lived in and enjoyed, from the kitchen where Britney’s young niece Maddie explores her budding culinary genius under the watchful eye of her grandmother to the spacious living room filled with light and air that hangs in anticipation of music and laughter. “We all love to be here together, watching the sunrises and sunsets and the fireworks, listening to the roll of the tides coming in on the sand, cooking together and eating together. Destin has so much for us to do as a family—going to the beach or to the movies—normal, everyday things that let us be us,” Lynne says. “It’s become comfortingly familiar—we have several favorite restaurants along the harbor; we love going out to Crab Island; and we like to shop at Silver Sands, City Market and Frill Seekers Gifts, which is actually owned by a friend of ours. The grandkids, of course, like to hang out at The Track and play the arcade games,” Lynne says with a smile. “We have so many, many memories here; and that’s something that no amount of money can buy.”
Hit after hit, album after album, no fanfare or applause can replace the feeling of coming home to the people you love, in a place that you love. And for Britney Spears and her family, coming to Destin feels like coming home.