Simplicity is often the key to good design, and that certainly is true of this refreshing riverfront residence. The streamlined stucco façade, with its matching white concrete tile roof, set off by palm trees, tropical climbers and textural shrubs, flows seamlessly into airy interiors basking in natural light from generous mullioned windows and doors. The classically modern architecture provides a clean canvas that caters to the owners’ love of art, antiques, music, books and plants, as well as their desire to maximize on-site views of the Indian River Lagoon. “The wife is very artistic,” says designer Ashley Olivia Waddell, who with her sister, Courtney O’Bryan Whatley, fashioned interiors with materials that are honest and furnishings that spell comfort. “A very eclectic art collection was gathered from galleries, Europe, some of her own paintings and framed children’s art.”
The design team’s challenge: take the familiar, hit the refresh button, and mix it up with modern pieces that allow everything to breathe in an essentially open plan that embraces living, dining and kitchen areas. “They wanted a style that was minimal yet traditional at the same time,” says architect Peter D. Moor of the couple, empty nesters with two grown sons. “The architecture responds to some features of the climate, as well—hip roofs, good to deflect the wind, and storm shutters mounted on poured-concrete sills. It’s mostly a concrete shell, with not much wood trim, and has large industrial steel sash windows with divided mullions. But it also features a bit of swag that cement allows, like flaring.” Working with project architect Austin Dingwall and builder Phil Barth helped Moor achieve what he set out to do.
Having collaborated on remodels with the designers and architect in the past, the couple wanted to rethink the from-scratch floor plan for this new build, and they realized how little space they actually needed. “They felt they could live in one room with space and light,” says Moor, “enjoying their art while eating, watching television, or sitting by the fire in a communal space that didn’t need to be formal.” Therefore, the core living space is compact— linked to a master suite, garage and laundry room by a foyer/gallery and separated by a breezeway from the office, library (actually an acoustically isolated piano room with a giant heavy door wide enough to wheel the piano into the larger space for entertaining) and guest bedrooms above.
A focal point of slatted whitewashed white oak anchors a wall in the living area on one side and kitchen cabinetry on the other; plus, easy-maintenance stained-concrete flooring lends a relaxed attitude. Wanting the house to look collected, not decorated, the designers had a sofa from the previous home reupholstered in a breezy white linen, slipcovered-style, to complement a pair of new cozy swivel chairs in the main living area; golden accents, seen in gilded sconces and gold frames, add sheen and warm energy. New light fixtures are modern, sometimes playful. And buttery yellow pillows and a like-minded rug inject welcome color splashes. “But so nothing gets too glaring or precious, we added greens and grays to calm,” Waddell says. A custom tufted velvet ottoman in a pale aqua, for example, dresses up the room, while a weathered French gray coffee table offers a quiet, streamlined counterpoint.
The luxury of multiple views inspired an outside-in conversation. “The wife’s dream house needed to have windows everywhere,” says Whatley. “The river is the main event, so furnishings are not overpowering.” Two sets of windows open to courtyards, and “they themselves become paintings,” Moor says. “There probably are two schools of thought about bringing nature into your house. One is to line a house with plantings; the other is to take fragments of building and wrap around fragments of nature—the transition zone is where the two are talking. Courtyards are such a great way to do that.”
One of these courtyards is an L-shaped garden that wraps around the entry/gallery and master bedroom almost like an atrium, says Sam Comer, who designed the landscape in collaboration with Moor. “Plantings are sculptural, more artistic: Christmas palms in staggered heights, with a mix of gravel and shell as ground cover, cardboard palm plants, bougainvillea and fragrant confederate jasmine. I like to keep it simple—plant palettes painted with a relatively broad brush.” Nature appears in the interiors, as well, with the only pattern stemming from artwork and fabrics in watercolor florals and abstract prints. And the design concept is fluid. On a gallery wall in the dining area, “we left her space,” says Waddell, “so if she purchases more art, it can move up and wrap over the entry.”
A his-and-hers master bath, with a shower in the middle, reinforces the wife’s desire for simplicity. “The shower is made of stucco, no joints,” says Moor. “Cabinetry is made of painted white planks, with crema marfil countertops and four big pieces of marble on the floor. She doesn’t like when design gets fussy.” And with a whisper of luxury, the team accomplished just that. “It’s not stuffy; it’s inviting,” says Whatley. “Your home is your sanctuary. It’s where you unwind. You want it to be peaceful and happy.”