If, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, the one interior designer Marci Varca sent prospective clients in Fort Lauderdale spoke volumes about how perfect she was for the job. “When we interviewed Marci, I described a picture I’d seen in a magazine of a kitchen I liked,” the wife recalls. “Later, she sent me that exact picture in an e-mail. I thought, ‘She knows me. It’s meant to be.'”
For the client, the defining element of that kitchen was what it lacked. “It was open, with minimal walls,” Varca says. “The owner wanted the same open feeling for her own residence—a gourmet kitchen where she could entertain, and each of the public rooms connected through delineations and not walls. The challenge was to make the delineations flow from formal to informal spaces without jarring transitions.”
Architect Robert Tuthill’s experience with the clients began with photographic references, as well. Having been recommended by a mutual friend, they showed up at his office with photos of five houses in the area that they admired. “Three of them were ours,” Tuthill says, laughing. “So we knew that we could dial in on what sparked their interest.”
It turned out to be an interesting challenge. “The wife loves to play in paradoxes,” Tuthill says. “She told us, ‘I’m dreaming of a house in Santa Barbara with a little bit of a twist,’ and that it should be both symmetrical and unsymmetrical.” Interpreting her comments to mean she wanted something “on the edge of traditional,” he designed a modern two-story structure with Spanish-style details (think arched windows and white stucco walls) and stretched it along the 125-foot-wide waterfront site on the Intracoastal in a way that best captured views of passing boats. Landscape architect George Keen devised a clean-lined, manicured tropical oasis to complement the exterior.
Inside, the layout was driven by the open-plan concept. Entry is through a rotunda-style foyer that features a 32-foot-high ceiling and showcases the husband’s glassed-in 3,000-bottle wine cellar. Beyond that, the rooms are sized to a more livable scale. Indeed, “it’s where formal meets informal,” says Tuthill, whose designs were implemented by the late Jack Farji of Lighthouse Custom Homes. “The dining room bleeds into the family room, which bleeds into the kitchen. It’s very porous.” The interior’s clean lines are underscored by the highly finessed espresso and vanilla color scheme (another specific request from the client) that appears throughout the home’s furnishings and finishes.
To define each room, creative millwork was used, including intricate ceiling details and subtle room transitions with soffits or mahogany columns and beams. Varca utilized diamond-cut limestone with Calacatta gold marble inlays and chocolate limestone borders to create detailed flooring designs in certain areas, including the dining room, where a custom walnut and polished nickel table stands atop a tile “rug.” In this vein, the master bath features glass tile mosaic floors and walls.
Throughout the house, elegant yet comfortable furnishings, such as custom living room sofas and chairs, a leather loveseat in the upstairs study and a plush chaise in the master bedroom, soften the effect.
Accent pieces in pale ice blue lend color, as does the significant contemporary artwork curated by the husband and wife. Custom lighting, including a Swarovski crystal and polished nickel chandelier in the dining room and a four-pendant, 82-inch-long fixture over the kitchen island, adds a touch of sparkle and bling.
When all was said and done, the success of the home, which the wife attributes to the efforts of her dream team, comes from how well it works as a sanctuary for her and her husband and their two boys—and for entertaining. “When guests come, they say staying at the house is like staying at a resort,” she says. “It’s a really nice compliment.”