Imagine two grandparents (he’s a doctor and she’s a music conductor), their two sons and daughters-in-law (three doctors and one lawyer among them) and eight grandchildren (ages 3-12) all living on the same block in Weston and sharing not one but two vacation homes to which they routinely travel en masse. No, this is not the elevator pitch for a new sitcom but the very real-life version of how three generations of one family live and spend time together.
Now envision what it would be like to be the person given the task of creating a home suitable for those 14 people. That was the position Colorado-based interior designer Tracie Schumacher found herself in eight years ago when she was tapped to assist with the family’s first multigenerational attempt—a ski retreat in Vail, Colorado. “I had never done a project involving this many people before, and establishing a trust level while deciphering everyone’s needs were critical parts of the job,” she says.
Clearly Schumacher succeeded, because when the families decided to expand their vacation holdings to include a beach house in Key Largo’s private Ocean Reef community, they again turned to their trusted designer. “They felt I had a real understanding of how they like to live,” she says. “But I’ve spent most of my career referencing the mountains, so working on a seaside residence offered a whole new set of challenges, especially when it came to the construction.”
First, the domicile was woefully short on bedrooms. According to one of the daughters-in-law, the original intent was to do just a modest remodel. “Before long, we thought if we’re going to do this, we should do it right, and pretty soon we were knocking down walls and gutting the kitchen,” she says. The result was the perfect balance of three master suites (two on the upper level and one on the main floor), adequate sleeping quarters for all eight children, including a bunkroom to accommodate sleepovers, the addition of a family office and a kitchen renovation that now provides enough space to seat everyone at once.
But despite its expanded floor plan and enviable water locale that includes canals on two sides, the house still suffered from a lack of personality and character. In response, Schumacher worked with architect Robert A. Richard and general contractor James Gregory to add stone cladding to the exterior stucco walls and fish-scale shingle siding over the garage to introduce texture. To further break up the stark white façade and add some visual oomph, the eaves were painted a soothing teal. “The fresh and clean look with a shot of color outside prepares you for the beachy feel inside,” she says.
To elevate the overall look of the interiors, Schumacher, who also has a background in interior architecture, again collaborated with Richard and Gregory on the home’s millwork. In the entry and main-level living spaces, for example, new trusses and ceiling beams stained a driftwood color add warmth and depth. “When you look down to the kitchen and see the rafters, it looks like the hull of a ship,” Schumacher says. The introduction of vaulted ceilings in the second-story bedrooms proved equally transformative. As Richard explains, “The rooms were relatively small, and they all had flat ceilings, so changing the height and shape really had a dramatic effect.”
The now nine-bedroom house stood ready to be appointed. “I was excited to explore hues and textiles I rarely get to use in the mountains, but I also had to learn about what worked here in South Florida, which is usually more color,” says Schumacher, whose immediate thought was blue, red and yellow. “But, because the owners live in the area full time, they didn’t want the same old beach shades. They threw out the idea of adding purple, and I took it from there.”
The royal hue emerged as a background player, making appearances on the dining room chairs and on rugs and accessories in the grandparents’ master suite. But it is shades of blue, an inevitable response to the water, that dominate. In the living room, a commodious Belgian linen sectional topped with an assortment of turquoise, navy and cerulean pillows offsets a pair of Thos. Moser recliners reminiscent of deck chairs. The navy leather on the chairs ties to the stripe in the room’s indoor-outdoor rug, which in turn connects to the stained aqua panels that wrap the staircase and the shimmery pastel blue backsplash reminiscent of shells in the kitchen.
Nautical accents provide another layer of connective tissue with boat-cleat towel hangers in the bunk bathroom and a papier-mâché light fixture resembling a fishing basket with little oars in the living room. The theme continues with a rope light fixture in the dining room, blown-glass orbs encased in what looks like fishing net in one of the guest quarters and healthy doses of art depicting all manner of
sea life seen throughout.
According to Schumacher, both the multigenerational concept and design theme work because everyone has a space of his or her own but everything functions as a cohesive whole. “It doesn’t feel like nine distinct bedrooms because all the spaces talk to each other,” the designer says. “The beams and ceiling treatments give the house a sense of history, but it’s the pops of color that make it fresh and modern and tie everything together.”