A Spanish Colonial-Style Fort Lauderdale Home with Striking Water Views


Traditional White Foyer with Hand-Painted Willow Motif

The limestone-clad entry boasts a new stairway railing conceived by designers Greg Dufner and Daniel Heighes Wismer. The de Gournay wallpaper features a hand-painted willow motif that seems to branch out from an antique chest acquired through Parc Monceau in Atlanta.

Spanish Colonial Front Elevation with Burbling Fountain

Framed by pineapple palm trees, the tropical, verdant entry courtyard is paved with local coral stone and features a burbling fountain. Through the front door, the living room and Intracoastal Waterway beyond can be seen.

Traditional White Living Room with Arched Picture Windows

Opening out to the pool terrace, the clubroom includes a leather sofa by Jean de Merry, an upholstered sofa from Holly Hunt, and Roman Thomas stools. The rug is from ABC Carpet & Home, and the light fixture is also by Jean de Merry. Gene DeBartolo’s ink drawing, titled Elephant, is from Tucker Robbins.

Traditional White Kitchen Decorative Tile Backsplash

The kitchen’s original cabinetry received a dose of color with a backsplash of decorative tiles from Solar Antique Tiles in New York. An existing Wolf range lends a modern lean, and pendants from Roman Thomas light the space.

Traditional White Breakfast Area with Arched Windows

T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings chairs from Dennis Miller Associates, in an Edelman Leather textile, hug a table from Holly Hunt in the breakfast area beneath a Roman Thomas pendant. Blonde Siberian wood flooring runs underfoot, and the space opens up to an added integrated grilling area.

Traditional White Loggia with Teal Accent Seating

A loggia runs along the entire length of the house. Sutherland chairs add a jolt of color with Perennials outdoor fabric in vibrant teal; they are from David Sutherland along with the occasional table.

Spanish Colonial Rear Elevation with Palm Trees

Surrounded by swaying palm trees, the classic Spanish Colonial-style home sits naturally on the ample site. A carpet of fresh grass provides a cooling effect, while the newly added arch of bougainvillea softens the architecture and lends a touch of romance.

Traditional Spanish Colonial-Style Pool Area with Scenic Views

At the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway, Richard Schultz chaises from Knoll bask in the sun beside a swimming pool that was refinished with glass mosaic tiles by Walker Zanger. The adjacent covered terrace houses an outdoor dining area. Palms and native sea grape trees offer shading.

Traditional White Hallway With Hand-Painted Willow Motif

A hallway at the top of the stairs connects the guest bedrooms and features more of the de Gournay wallpaper, starburst pendants by Jean de Merry and sconces from Roman Thomas. A bench, also from Roman Thomas, with Edelman Leather fabric on the cushion, rests on a runner from Tai Ping made of hand-tufted wool and silk.

Traditional Cream Bedroom with Hints of Green

In a guest room, a quilt and pillows by John Robshaw Textiles from ABC Carpet & Home dress the bed from Holly Hunt, while Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams ottomans share color cues with draperies fashioned from Lee Jofa fabric. A rug from Tai Ping grounds the setting, and a Gracie lamp offers light for bedside reading.

Setting out to renovate a Spanish Colonial vacation home in Fort Lauderdale for a couple with four teenagers, New York-based designers Daniel Heighes Wismer and Gregory Dufner knew exactly what they were in for. “We’d worked with them on eight or nine homes over the past 15 years, in California, Northern Michigan, Chicago, and New York,” recalls Wismer. “This is their Florida incarnation.”

Situated on a tranquil peninsula along the Intracoastal Waterway, the house already had some appealing features, including striking water views on three sides and established landscaping. But although the architecture fit in nicely with its surroundings (an important distinction for the homeowners) and the structure had good bones, the interiors left something to be desired.

“The interior didn’t meet the owners’ aesthetics,” explains Wismer. “It became a project of stripping away layers and very carefully and selectively putting back elements of character that were in keeping with what had been done architecturally.” In addition to cleaning up the flow of the floor plan, more significant changes included relocating the master suite downstairs, which required an expansion that allowed for a new upper-level guest bedroom and gym.

Room by room, Wismer and Dufner brought every element up to par. Within the entry, new limestone floors were laid, a sculptural staircase was reconceptualized with a rearranged landing and a custom-designed handrail, and hand-painted wallpaper with a willow tree motif was applied to the double-height walls. A reclaimed New England hemlock plank ceiling and white painted beams were incorporated into the clubroom, one of three living areas, where the family often gathers to read or catch a game. The addition of double-vaulted Venetian plaster ceilings transformed the dining room and adjacent formal living room from plain white boxes to graceful, light-filled spaces with framed-in water views.

Throughout the home, contemporary furnishings are set against a clean white backdrop and are accented with soft, subtly textured pillows, throws, rugs, and draperies in subdued colors such as seafoam green and gold. “It’s a palette of restraint,” says Wismer. “We didn’t want anything to stand out or look like it doesn’t belong.” All of the furnishings were either custom designed or selected, except in the kitchen, where the existing cabinetry was pulled out to make way for new Siberian oak flooring and then replaced. “Each room has its own personality and detail,” says Dufner.

Attention to detail is what builder Rodney Sarkela, who oversaw construction for this renovation and was involved in the original build with the previous owners, attributes to its splendid result. “It was very creative,” he shares. “The drawing details and design were so incredible in terms of the level of finishes and the selection of everything from flooring to cabinetry to lighting systems. We went back down to the basics and brought it up again in a new design. It’s truly unique for this client.”

To finish off the project, Wismer and Dufner also completed slight modifications to the exterior, including removing extraneous ornamentation. Along with Big Orange Landscaping, the duo tweaked the existing landscape, keeping it as minimal and natural as possible. “We cleared out the excess foliage and amplified the volume of the healthiest, most vibrant plants,” Dufner says. They also refreshed the courtyard with more uniform stonework and decorative tiles, specified an arch of bougainvillea at the back of the house to soften the loggia, refinished the swimming pool with Italian glass mosaic tile, and added a companion spa.

Overall, the home reflects the owners’ waterside lifestyle as well as the purity of their taste. “The house is a family affair,” says Wismer. “The indoor-outdoor connection is important. It’s contemporary without being a cliché.”

—Linda Hayes