Good design has a sense of place. The cool linens and chintz florals that look so right in a classic Southern home likely wouldn’t stand up in a soaring Western timber frame structure, where sturdy leathers and heavy woven fabrics make a more appropriate statement. Having designed numerous homes throughout the country, Texas interior designer Joseph Minton is certainly familiar with this idea. So when a previous client contacted him about taking on a residence in Key Largo, Minton knew exactly how to approach it. “I had previously worked on their country home in Texas,” says Minton, “so when they called and asked for my assistance with a house in Florida, my team flew there to photograph it and then proceeded with a plan. I knew for that locale it was going to be important to create interiors that focused on the ocean and natural surroundings.”
Built on a corner lot in the exclusive Ocean Reef Club, the five-bedroom home was situated to take advantage of prime waterfront views. “The house was organized to look more like a village than an estate, with a lot of different rooflines, and wings oriented off of different hallways,” explains architect Robert Wade, who designed the home for its original owners. “When you walk in the front door, you look straight through the great room to the outside. The waterway was the defining element.”
Although the flow of the existing architecture was a main selling point, a Polynesian theme throughout the interior presented Minton with his primary challenge. “The overall impression was very dark, with wood beams on the ceiling and teak columns entering the dining room. The existing floors were stone, and the great room included a stacked-stone fireplace,” says the designer. “The entire scheme was a little too heavy for the new owners.”
In response, Minton suggested painting all the wood white—an idea that caught his clients off guard. “We were a little hesitant,” says the wife. “However, once we realized how bright and beautiful the house would be, we were definitely on board and loved the total transformation.” The lighter backdrop is paired with colors inspired by those found in coral and shells, and the pale pink and aqua that define the great room and bedrooms are also intentionally in tune with the beach environment. “The beauty of the Ocean Reef Club is magnified by the shades of blue in the ocean, as well as the shifting tones of pink in the sky and the surrounding landscape,” Minton says. “It may be a little trite, but we felt this color palette was appropriate for the locale.” The surroundings also informed a theme for accessorizing, particularly a meticulously curated collection of authentic coral, shell and ocean mineral pieces that appear throughout.
For the furniture planning phase, Minton headed back to Texas to design everything in his studio, where he has access to fabrics and carpet samples and the ability to pull from his own line of European-inspired furniture and antiques. “This is a vacation home, so our main goal was to keep it very neutral in style and not have any particular theme,” says Minton. In the dining room, his grouping of an 18th-century French buffet, a pair of iron cranes and a painting based on an underwater photograph of coral is representative of that idea. Continuing the laid-back look, the open-plan great room serves as a beautiful and relaxing gathering place, with seating arrangements that are intimate yet ample enough to accommodate the owners’ children, grandchildren and friends when they visit. Primary pieces, such as the Mimi London log sofa upholstered with comfortable, durable fabric and the facing traditional Kisabeth Furniture sofa, pair with versatile swivel chairs and antique country French tables. At one end, an English pine table, which Minton quips, “looks like it’s out of the kitchen of Downton Abbey,” is coupled with highback chairs and low stools for casual dining, as well as for over flow from the adjoining more formal dining room.
Four guest bedrooms at the end of two gallery-style hallways follow the central coral theme. “We found this fabulous embroidered coral-patterned fabric and used it in all four colorways in the bedrooms,” says Minton, referring to the aqua, white, pink and yellow selections. In the master bedroom, which is in a separate wing, the centerpiece is a four-poster iron bed with a chandelier fashioned from ivory Capiz shells. “It’s one of our favorite rooms,” the wife says. “The space is so inviting and has become a quiet oasis for us.”
When the time came for installation, the entire process was seamless, and according to the wife, truly remarkable, especially considering the remoteness of the Ocean Reef Club. “The team was so well prepared, right down to the very last detail,” she says. “To me, this was a monumental feat.”